AACFCU Embraces Banker Roots of 'New' Downtown Branch
MOBILE, Ala. -- Members stepping into Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union new downtown branch often do a double take as they walk through the Bank of Mobile glass doors.
"It certainly gives people pause but when we explain to them why we kept these elements the reaction is always so positive and supportive. Our members think it's pretty neat and unexpected given the bank/credit union adversarial relationship," said AACFCU Business Development Officer David Lenoir. "It is a great way to transcend that and send the message of choice. Banks, credit unions, both are necessary as is people's ability to choose."
The "new" facility not only has historical significance as it was originally built in the 1850s to house nine cotton brokers, but has the distinction of housing the first federal depository some 25 years after the Civil War Reconstruction period--The Bank of Mobile, National Banking Association. In 1903, the building was acquired for use by the newly formed bank.
After extensive renovations, by noted local architect George B. Rogers, the bank opened for business on April 4, 1904. Rogers was the architect who also designed the famous and popular tourist attraction Bellingrath Gardens.
"The moment I learned it was available I went straight to our President/CEO and said this was our downtown site," said Lenoir. "At the time we were looking at 15 other locations but when we realized it was the Bank of Mobile we knew this was an opportunity to pay tribute to the area's history and create a member destination."
Lenoir said the interior of the building was richly decorated with solid bronze ventilation grates, inlaid mosaic floors featuring the bank's name, and Italian marble wainscoting on the walls. Along with these features, the bank also featured double Mahogany leaded-glass doors, etched with the bank name, and a three-story hanging staircase.
"We knew that we wanted to keep the historic feel so it was never an option to take this over 100 year old building and make it modern," said Lenoir. "Over the years previous owners had done that so during our renovations we wanted to maintain as much of the building's historic significance as we could."
He adds that recognizing the historical significance The Bank of Mobile had in the city, AACFCU President/CEO Jim Mitchell decided against covering up the etched glass doors and beautiful mosaic floors and opted to incorporate the features instead.
"The location itself is literally in the heart of the financial business district and it is strictly pedestrian traffic," said Lenoir. "The convenience of having a credit union branch within just a few blocks has made this one of our busiest branches."