Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Girard Bank

Girard Bank
Broad and Chesnut Streets
Philadelphia, PA
 Some dates in the past always trigger memories.  Today, March 1st is one of those days. Forty six years ago today I began working at Girard Bank in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to work at a bank.  I grew up in a small town (Downingtown, PA) and always dreamed of someday working at the Downingtown National Bank.  However, when I graduated from high school they wouldn't even let me in the door.  I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  No 'Tiptons' here please.  Ironically, many years later I would work at Downingtown National Bank but that is a story for another whole blog posting.

Today I want to briefly mark my anniversary of one of the most life changing times of my life, and that was the day I began work at THEE bank in Philadelphia, Girard Bank.  
The lobby of Girard Bank

I worked at Girard Bank for twenty-two years until Mellon Bank took over in 1982.  I lasted another four years after Mellon "merged" with Girard Bank (the Harvard Business Review said "Mellon Bank took 'merged' with Girard bank with all the grace of Russian troops entering a Polish village at the end of World War II" - some quotes you never forget.)
Me in banker drag at my desk as manager - yes, my plants

I had quite the plant collection.  At one time I had over a hundred plants I was taking care of on the floor.

Me transplanting plants on company time

I left Girard Bank, then Mellon Bank on December 1st 1986 and went up Broad Street to work at the Fidelity Bank.  Again, a story for another blog posting.

The Trust Remittance Unit - where I started my job
Today I'm taking a trip down Memory Lane again.  

My first job was in the Trust Department as a remittance clerk.  I eventually worked my way up to manager of the Trust Information Unit which was a combination of five different operations units.

Calculating remittance payments in the day before digital calculators

Below are some pictures that I took that bring back fond memories.  Yes, these days were some of the best of my life.  And I am happy to say, I still remain friends with my former boss (Bill P.) and one of my former co-workers (Penney P.)  Unfortunately, so many others have passed on but I will always have them in my memory.  

When I 'retired' I had a wonderful sendoff luncheon at the Bellevue Stratford.  All my friends were there.  I will always remember them and these times as some of the best of my adult life.  I had the best boss (Bill B) that one could want.  I was very lucky.
That's me on the left with the serious mien with my fellow managers and supervisors.  All great folks!  This was when I was 'somebody.'

Thus it is with some irony today that I inform you that the grand bank where I used to work at in center city Philadelphia is now a (are you sitting down?)...HOTEL!  That's right, Mellon Bank sold off the original Dome Building where Stephen Girard started his bank and the building was converted into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.  The irony is that I work at a hotel now, a high end hotel in downtown Lewes, DE.  Pure coincidence.  

My goal this year is to book a stay at my former place of employment, now the Ritz-Carlton Hotel...if I can afford it.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Philadelphia, PA


  1. How interesting. I'm enjoying your retelling of your life. I just happened to be sitting with a friend from Philly when this came in. She used to bank at the Girard Bank!

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Hi Ron,

    I too started my work history at a bank. I was hired as a posting clerk & within 2 years I was promoted to head bookkeeper. I held that job for 8 yrs. Just before I left to have my second son we had made the switch from the old, clanky posting machines to the computer age. I knew life in banking was going to be so much easier than my years before. I returned to the outside work force 6 years later & from then on worked as head of the accounting departments in the medical field. I was I had taken some photos along the way.

    As beautiful as that lobby was where you worked I can see that being a lovely hotel. I hope you do get to stay there as that will have made you come full circle.

    Have a great week!


  3. I love the pic of your sendoff lunch. That sure is a tall glass of milk you have in front of you, and a tall glass of something HOT you have sitting across from you! Man!

    I agree with Don -- I'm enjoying the retelling of your life very much too.

  4. anne marie in philly6:29 PM

    I too used to have an account with girard bank; and pnb; and psfs; and (insert name of long-lost bank here).

    at least the city didn't knock this gorgeous piece of architecture down to make the hotel; they attached the hotel to the back of the building. and unless you want to pay $500 a night, fuhgettaboutit!

  5. Cubby,

    I'm glad you're enjoying me telling my life story. That's what someone of my age does at this time of my life. I enjoy retelling the stories too. So you like the mustachioed gentleman sitting across from me. HIs name was Reno. I hired him and I will admit that the way he looked didn't hurt his chances of being hired by me.

  6. Anne Marie,

    I agree with you! I'm glad Mellon didn't tear down the old Girard Dome Building to make way for a parking lot like what was done with the Gimbels building on Market Street. Mellon also saved the old Lit Brother's building on Market Street. that was their operations center.

    By the way, my friend and I will be at the Philadelphia Flower Show next week (March 8th). If you're in the area give me your cell phone number (or I'll give you mine) and we can meet up and say "Hi!"

  7. Fran,
    You remember those old clanky adding machines too? We've come a long way haven't we?
    I am glad that the old bank building was saved and now is a beautiful hotel. I was planning on staying there at least one night until I found out the average stay is $500 a night! Wow. I'll have to take a pass on that one and just rely on my memory of what it was like to work in that building. I had many a good time there.

  8. Ron,

    Brings back a lot of memories. Especially seeing that long adding machine tape unrolling down the desk and across the floor. Wish I had pictures of the places I worked in those same years.


  9. Lar,

    Those were really the 'good old days' weren't they? We ran through so much adding machine tape paper. I remember when the first digital calculator arrived in the department. The most senior clerk got it. Everyone gathered around him and watched him bring up the digital displays of numbers. Lots of 'oohing' and 'ahhing.' Time have really changed for the better (I think).

  10. Ron , a fun stroll. I particularly liked you tending to your plants on company time. Stick it to the man!

  11. Keith A4:59 PM

    Ron: I worked for Girard Bank after graduating from college. I was there from 1974 to 1978. While I worked mostly out in the Main Line region, I remember very fondly spending some time at the headquarters office. What a great building! It was almost spiritual walking through the old Main Office lobby. I left Girard to work at Industrial Valley Bank then moved to New England in 1984. I'm still in banking in the Boston area. I found your blog by Googling "Girard Bank". I love the old pictures you have posted. Great memories.

  12. Keith,

    So good to hear from an old Girard alumni! I have very fond memories of working at Girard bank from 1965 to 1986, all in the Trust Department. I never got out of the main office. It was great working in Center City, especially for a young man as I was at that time.

    I have more pictures of Girard Bank which I will have to post to future blogs. Stay in touch!

  13. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Ron: Wow.....liked your story and enjoyed the pictures. I also worked at Girard Bank from 1973 to 1978. I started out in the Commerical Installment Loans Department (main building)...then moved into the Credit Card division on 2nd street. I can honestly say that they were the best times of my life.....loved working there, loved the city.
    I tell people today....that if you had to deliver documents to another department, it could take me 4 hours. You could go from floor to floor...building to building...just visiting people. My boss was never happy with me...but it was fun...LOL.

  14. Anonymous7:30 AM

    I also worked at Girard Bank started in 1968 and was there until 1996, I worked at various branches starting at the Blvd Office in the branch loan center then became an Asst Mgr and was at the Mayfair Office, Burhlome, Wissinoming and Robbins. I also did the conversion when Mellon took us over that took about 1 1/2 years to do, converting all of our branches, it was about 12 of us that did that. Was let go at Mellon after 24 yrs along with many others through out Girard Bank .