A prominent brick building in Warrensburg has not only stood as an icon of local architecture for decades, but it has served as a symbol of the prominent and formative role the town played in regional commerce.
That building is the Emerson National Bank building at 3853 Main St., now owned and occupied by the Glens Falls National Bank.
The building was the first permanent headquarters for Emerson & Co. Bankers, after this seminal financial institution in the North Country was founded in 1883 by Albert C. Emerson and his son Louis.
Historians say the bank was a key element in the development of successful enterprises and industry in Warrensburg from the late 1800s, well into the middle of the 20th century.
At the time of its founding, the bank was the only one in the vicinity, with the closest bank in Glens Falls.
The land on which the bank now sits was acquired in the mid-1920s from Louis Reoux, at that time a bank president, who used the plot for tennis courts beside his home, which was in more recent years turned into the Warrensburg Senior Center.
The bank, first known as Emerson & Co. Bankers, was housed in the stone building at the corner of Main and Hudson streets. Later, it moved to the Adirondack Hotel, then into the Colonial Arms Hotel at the present Rite Aid site.
Albert C. Emerson was a prominent businessman at the time he launched the bank. To do so, he sent elder son Louis W. Emerson to a bank in Fort Ann to learn the business. Albert, Louis and James A. Emerson started the bank in the stone building at the intersection of Main and Hudson streets. The bank opened its doors Jan. 7 1884, and grew steadily in assets as merchants and families depended on it for deposits, loans and other vital services.
Upon Albert C. Emerson's death in 1888 - reportedly after a contentious school board meeting - Louis W. Emerson, known as "L.W," succeeded him, and James A. became vice president and cashier.
In 1908, the bank was issued a national bank charter, and the name was changed to Emerson National Bank.
Construction started on the present bank in 1926, and the bank moved into the building in 1927. Delbert E. Pasco was the bank's first customer in the new building.
Albert L. Emerson, director and cashier of the bank since 1924, became president in 1936, a post held until his death in 1963.
The son of James A. and Margaret Emerson, he was a native of Warrensburg and he attended the local schools. After graduating from Warrensburgh High School, he attended Dartmouth College, returned to Warrensburg and became influential regionally in commerce.
He was associated with the Leland House, a resort on Schroon Lake, and was later owner of the Colonial Arms Hotel, as well as serving as director and vice president of Imperial Color Chemical & Paper Corp., for many years a leading industrial enterprise in Glens Falls.
Albert L. Emerson was also a principal of the firm A.C. Emerson & Co., leading regional distributors of gasoline and fuel oil, and dealers in lumber and building supplies.
After Albert L. died in 1963, Howard Savage of Johnsburg, then vice president, was elected to as president to succeed Emerson.
Emerson's widow, Zenna Bonnie Emerson, was elected to her late husband's position as a bank director, a post she served for 16 years. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, she owned and operated the Bonnie View Resort on Lake George, and served on the advisory board of the State Bank of Albany, which in 1967 acquired the Emerson National Bank. At that time, the Emerson bank was two branches, its headquarters in Warrensburg, and its Luzerne branch, which it had acquired in 1958 when it bought the Luzerne-Hadley Bank. Bonnie Emerson died in 2005.
One interesting artifact coming to light recently was a $5 ban note issued by the Emerson National Bank in 1902 as currency. Bearing the bank's name, the note drew an initial bid of $350 on e-Bay. The seller noted the Emerson bank note was a "very tough national note to find" on the auction Web page.
In the 1990s, the State Bank of Albany was acquired several times by out-of-state banks purchasing the local branches, but the original Emerson Bank ended up again in local hands in 1997 when the Warrensburg branch was purchased with four other satellite offices by the Glens Falls National Bank & Trust Co. - and it has achieved ever-greater prosperity to date under this local management which has guided their firm with conservative fiscal stewardship through often difficult times, leading to the substantial benefit of its depositors, customers and stockholders.