Bank of Tustin

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

The Bank of Tustin and its successor, the First National Bank of Tustin, were the community’s only financial institutions for over 70 years in sharp comparison to the dozen or more now serving the area.

A. Guy Smith served as president of the Bank of Tustin. Other directors were Noah Palmer, vice president; Edwin D. Buss, cashier; Charles W. Wilson, W. S. Bartlett, H. F. Kendall, Sam W. Preble, W. W. Martin and C. E. Utt. They built a handsome, two-story building in the Richardson Romanesque style of architecture on the northwest corner of Main and D (el Camino Real) and opened for business about Aug. 1, 1888.

The bank survived the Panic of 1893 only to close its doors in 1902 due to what the former cashier called three mistakes. First, they spent too much money on their elaborate headquarters. Second, the small amount of authorized capital was not paid up, and three, they loaned a large sum of money to the Tustin Hotel which failed when its owner, Sanford Johnson, died unexpectedly.

In direct contrast, the First National Bank of Tustin was successful from the day it opened, Dec. 20, 1911. Organized as a member of the Federal Reserve Board, its volume of business grew from its inception and judicious management soon increased its capital to $50,000, with deposits of over $400,000.

W. C. Crawford was the first president. John Dunstan was vice president. The board included Sherman Stevens, C. E. Utt, Victor Tubbs and Rufus Sandborn. C. J. Cranston was the first cashier.

The bank prospered under Cranston. In 1917 he sold his shares and position, as well as his house, to C. A. Vance, a newcomer to Tustin. A native of Kansas, he had owned a bank there which he sold in 1912, and moved to Chula Vista, CA, where he organized the Chula Vista State Bank. He sold this bank in August, 1916, and on Jan. 1, 1917, relocated to Tustin with his family, settling into a large Victorian house on Main a few blocks west of the business area.

William S. Leinberger, who came to California in 1910 from Nebraska and worked at the Alhambra Savings Bank, was hired as assistant cashier about the same time. He also bought a home on Main Street. These two men were said to “display their knowledge of the banking business in a creditable manner.”

In 1933 when Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a Bank Holiday to end a run on banks by the depositors, Vance closed the front doors in compliance with the President’s edict. However, he continued to do business from the back door in the alley and the community was able to brag that the First National Bank of Tustin never closed during the dark days of the depression.

Vance and Leinberger with the help of Frances Logan, who joined the bank as a teller shortly after they were hired, and Vance's son-in-law, G. O. Bixler, who was hired later, ran the bank successfully. The building lost its turret and other architectural features in the 1936 earthquake and the employees survived at least three robberies including the last one in which Bixler shot the culprit, but little else changed.

The First National Bank of Tustin was a successful and important part of the community until it was purchased by First Western in 1959.


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