Thursday Doors–Big Plans, Sad Story

Society for Savings
Excuse the distortion but this is the only way to get a photo of the door without a car in front of it.

Society for Savings was the first mutual savings bank in the state of Connecticut. Incorporated in 1819, it operated in Hartford until it “merged” with Bank of Boston under the weight of a failed commercial real estate loan portfolio. Lots of savings banks in New England followed that same tortured route.

Savings banks were under a lot of pressure in the 1980s. For over 150 years, they were considered slow, simple, albeit successful institutions. One disparaging adage was:

Running a savings bank is as easy as 3, 4, 5. Pay 3% on deposits, charge 4% on loans and be on the golf course at 5:00.

In the early 80s, savings banks felt that they had to compete with commercial banks. They began by offering Demand Deposit Accounts (DDA) a.k.a. checking accounts. Those accounts were attractive because savings banks paid a little bit of interest on the average monthly balance. The strategy helped them make inroads on the commercial banks. That small success inspired a lot of these small local savings banks to start commercial lending operations and commercial mortgage operations. To go for the big money. Hey, a mortgage is a mortgage is a mortgage…right? Well, so it seemed.

By the mid-80s, Society for Savings was doing well, so well that they started making big plans. They decided to get into the commercial real estate market in Hartford in a significant way. In the most significant way. They decided to build a skyscraper of their own.

They bought all the small businesses next to their main branch office, including my favorite hardware store – Greenspons Hardware (that had been in Hartford since 1919). They tore all those buildings down in order to build a high rise office tower that was to incorporate the façade of the original branch, including the doors featured today. Just about the time that they finished creating a sprawling vacant dirt lot, they started losing money. They soon realized that commercial lending, commercial mortgages or commercial anything is nothing like guarding the life savings of little old ladies.

Society for Savings moved quickly from losing money to bleeding money. Their construction plans never came to fruition. Bank of Boston bought the assets of the savings band and absorbed it into their network the way you and I might swallow a handful of peanuts.

Bank Fish
“Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

In the late 90s, Fleet Bank (a bigger Borg) came along and bought Bank of Boston. In 2005, Bank of America bought Fleet. The grand lobby of Society for Savings’ main branch is now the Society Room, a place to hold political fundraisers and fancy functions. The land where the small businesses used to thrive is a parking lot. Hartford lost a great hardware store.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors series. It’s a great series and you are invited to share your doors with us as well.


  1. Great post. Many of the Indian banks today are facing tough competition from the private banks that offer so much to their customers. Business today is all about taking out the competition, or just get out from the race.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Well, I think its good for customers. Indian banks were literally ruling the market. Now with more private banks and their services, customers get better facilities. If Indian banks want customers they better pull up their socks.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I long for the days when our banking system was better regulated. Deregulation has done nothing but make large corporations rich and life difficult for small businesses and individuals. Particularly individuals with limited funds. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. My favorite bank went the same way sadly. A year or two back our Credit Union wanted to stop being a Credit Union and “Go BIG”. Them members voted that down. We’ll see how long that lasts.
    Neither ever had doors like these. They are grand!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know why there’s always a push to be bigger when you’re serving the community you agreed to serve. I always feel like saying “not with my money” but nobody is really listening any longer.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Indiana has terrible interstate banking policies. Our banks are constantly bought out by bigger banks. I can remember so many small local banks, and when we drive by them, I recall. We have a friend who’s worked in the same bank building for 25 years, but under at least 4 names. Chase is eating the banks here, like peanuts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Connecticut had terrible policies. When the “fixed” them, the big guys swooped in and started munching. Chase isn’t as big a presence here as BoA so I don’t know much about them. I can’t imagine any of the big guys being really customer friendly.


  4. Oh, this is sad, Dan. We had a BOA here in Florida but there have been so many mergers, I don’t even know what it is now. Several banks have banners over the original name b/c it is easier to swap out the banner than go through all the trouble of a major new sign. Almost makes you want to go back to stuffing your money in your mattress!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I really lile this bank’s door. It has a beautful stain and is in excellent condition, Dan.
    This was a really sad story due to the loss of a good hardware store and also, a bank. I am sure I have already mentioned this but my Mom was in Hartford during her elementary years. Her father went to high school in Rockport, MA. He then moved to NYC to attend a technical school and studied engineering. He met my grandma in New York. Once he graduated, his first job took him to Hartford. My Mom loved Connecticut and has fond memoriesof the area.
    When Mom turned 85 we went to Friendly’s to have clam boats and ice cream. Turned out she told the manager her first ice cream cone was in Hartford. The Friendly’s in Connecticut was opened close to the “right” age and it celebrated as many years of being open as Mom has been around. Grandpa’s job was with a heater company, they later moved to Middletown, Ohio for his work with Armco Steel. Small world with our lives circling closely. . . :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have memories of taking Faith to Friendly’s. They’ve been struggling lately and are now trying to take remaining stores back to basics. New England and western PA / Ohio are quite different. It’s neat to find someone who understands both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did I tell you when I worked in Rockport (16th summer) a linguistics professor from New England listened to my suggestions for my favorite candies made by me cousin Roger Tuck, he took my choices and ordered a pound of candy. As I placed the candies into the Tuck’s box, he exclaimed, “You are from the big city of Cleveland, Ohio?” Then, my next summer I was in Ohio at Cedar Point working. I must have had a Boston softening of my “R’s” and a language expert told me I had Massachusetts mixed into my Ohio accent. LOL


        • That’s funny. The idea of mixing a Boston accent with Ohio seems like something that shouldn’t happen. BTW, in Pittsburgh, Ohio would be “a-hi-ah”. We never gave you guys your Os


  6. Great post.
    Love the history (as always)
    Are you the artist for the fish illustration? Cute! :)
    Nice to know Star Trek has meaning outside of TV. I used the ” resistance is futile” line on someone the other day…not sure they ‘got it’. Also used “the good of the many outweighs the good of the few” line in a college class once and though my fellow classmates understood the professor wasn’t on board/aware/ amused. Oh well, we ‘Trekkies’ can be misunderstood (lol).

    Now about that awesome door… that one certainly belongs in a museum…love the craftsmanship.

    Always a great read…have a nice weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I figured the Trekkies would get the reference. Yes, I do my own “illustrations” such as they are. The door is a beautiful bit of craftsmanship, likely made with a lot of hand work. I hope they can preserve them. The inside of the bank is similarly beautiful. I’ll get pictures if I ever get invited to something fancy :)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Although I know it’s a bank because you say so, the door reminds me of a men’s social club, the kind that aren’t around anymore because the women would have such a fit. Don’t they realize that they’re cutting of their noses to spite their faces?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll have to see if I can get a picture of the doors to The Hartford Club. It is the kind of club you describe, and the wheeler-dealer-wanna-bes that ran this bank into the ground were prominent members of that club. I can picture them sitting in the bar or the cigar room, talking themselves into building that skyscraper.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My first job was with Society For Savings in 1966 as an electronics tech on their Bunker Ramo mainframe. These beautiful doors on 31 Pratt St and the brass placks on either side were the first things saw on my first day at work. Never forgot that day or the people I knew at the bank who went in and out those same doors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, “Bunker Ramo” there’s a term I haven’t heard in a long time. I started working for Burroughs in the mid-70s. At their corporate headquarters in Detroit, they had a “Hall of Products” that included a lot of banking specific machines. I was always fascinated by those early machines, and the early computers that replaced them. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


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