Tuesday, October 15, 2013

19th century Charlotte banker to be inducted in hall of fame

This year's class to be inducted into the North Carolina Banking Hall of Fame will have a historical bent. Among the contemporary bank executives slated to be honored this year is a 19th century Charlotte businessman who was called
the "building and loan king of North Carolina" by the newspapers of his day.

Samuel Wittkowsky was born in 1835 in Prussia, and came to the United States in his late teens. He lived in New York before ultimately settling in Charlotte. He worked as a store clerk, opened several dry good stores and manufactured hats in Statesville. In 1879, he became the first president of the Charlotte chamber of commerce -- known as the Board of Trade at that time.

A few years later, he founded the Mechanics Perpetual Building & Loan Association, where he would serve as president until his death in 1911. The lender was one of the first in the state to offer home mortgages to allow middle-class people to own their own houses.

The institution later became the Home Federal Savings and Loan Association, and built a headquarters on Tryon Street in 1967. The uptown building is now home to Chima Brazilian Steakhouse.

The savings and loan was ultimately bought by First Charter Bank in the late 1990s. The Charlotte community bank would ultimately be merged into Fifth Third Bank.

The hall of famers are selected by the N.C. Bankers Association, the state's main industry group. Seven in all will be inducted into the hall at a Sunday event in Pinehurst.

The others include one more historical figure: Thomas Battle, the founder of Rocky Mount and president of its first bank. He was the first elected chairman of the state bankers association.

The rest: