OGDEN -- The afflictions of the 1920s, followed by the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, seemed to have little impact on what was to become Ogden's oldest and most successful bank.
First Security Bank was just laying its foundations in Ogden before the Depression. In 1928, Marriner Eccles, George Eccles and Marriner Browning merged First National Bank of Ogden and Ogden Savings Bank along with 15 additional banks in Utah and Idaho and created a new company, First Security Corporation.
Its headquarters would be at 24th Street and Washington Boulevard. The 12-story building erected in 1889 for $25,000 was already home to First National Bank.
The building, which is now vacant, had a grandiose entrance with marble walls and pillars. "First Security Bank occupied the first two or three stories," said Jack Lampros, former vice president and trust officer.
The building was also home to doctors, dentists, lawyers and real estate companies in later years, Lampros said. "At one time, it was headquarters to Amalgamated Sugar and Thiokol. It was a very lively building. That's why it's so sad to see it sitting empty now."
The roots of First Security bank go back to 1863 when David Eccles arrived in Utah with his parents after emigrating from Scotland. By the time he died in 1912, Eccles had built a small fortune through investments that included Amalgamated Sugar, Utah International and two small banks. His investments were handed down to his children.
The oldest, Marriner, who was 22 at the time, began overseeing the family's business interests. Over the next 13 years, Marriner took an interest in Thatcher Brothers Bank in Logan and two smaller banks, Richmond State and Hyrum State banks. He also started two small banks in Preston and Blackfoot, both in Idaho.
By 1920, under Marriner's direction, the Eccles investment company had gained control over the First National Bank of Ogden and Ogden Savings Bank, which got their start in 1875. In 1928, Marriner and his brother George, along with Marriner Browning, created The First Security Corporation through mergers.
The Great Depression was claiming scores of businesses. During the first four years, nearly 11,000 banks collapsed, but First Security survived.
"Those men were what you called bankers," Lampros said. "They were brilliant men. Financial geniuses. They knew the financial business and established a bank that was people friendly. The customer was first.
"George always thought of his employees as family, and I think that feeling of family coming down from the top carried over from the employees to the customers. I think that was really the reason for the success of First Security."
Marriner Eccles served as First Security Bank's chairman and CEO and was responsible for guiding the bank through the Depression. His achievements caught the attention of federal officials, who offered him the temporary appointment of special assistant to the secretary of the Treasury.
He accepted the position and was later appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve Board under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The responsibilities of First Security Bank fell to George Eccles, who transformed the bank into a network of branches and earned his employees' respect.
Eccles paid his employees well. Tellers at the bank usually earned $100 to $125 per month. Bookkeepers earned around $85 per month. All of the books were posted in pen and ink. The only machines inside the bank were an adding machine and a typewriter.
"You didn't have all of these fancy electronics back then," said Ed Kleyn, former president of Wells Fargo's Northern Utah division.
"Everything was done on paper. I remember going down in the old vaults and seeing all of those musty books. I would sit there and read for hours. Money was much more physical back then, too. The bills. The coins. Now everything is wired electronically."
Kleyn said the bank discussed a redesign and a new vision in 2000 and talked about merging with Zions National Bank. That plan fell through. Wells Fargo ended up buying First Security Bank, and in 2007, employees moved into a new building across the street, leaving the historic building vacant.
"We sold the building, and it was sold again, and some investors bought it and were going to redo the whole building," Kleyn said. "But I guess with the economics of ... the last few years, their efforts were stopped."
City Planner Greg Montgomery said Ogden has no plans for the building.
"I'm not sure who owns it right now, but I know it's a private ownership," he said. "There have been talks about maybe turning the building into housing or using the first floor as a restaurant, but those ideas were tossed around a couple of years ago.
"Since then, we haven't heard of any plans, and the city has no plans as of now."
"First Security Bank: Challenge and Response: The First Security Corporation First Fifty Years" by Sidney Hyman was a source for this story.