Archive for the ‘Banks’ Category


September 25, 2016

While in Minneapolis recently, we turned the corner and this building sprang into view–and it looked very familiar.


In doing a bit of research, I discovered that it was designed by Minoru Yamasaki for Northwestern National Life.  It opened in 1965 and was later known as the ReliaStar Building, followed by the ING 20 Washington and is now the Voya Financial 20 Washington building.  Mr. Yamasaki is well known for also designing the World Trade Center.

But, what struck me most is that it immediately reminded me of this building with its tall white arching colonnades on each side…


This building is today BMO Harris Bank at 1400 N. Gannon Drive in Hoffman Estates and is across from Hoffman Estates High School along Higgins Road.  It was originally built for Lincoln Federal Savings & Loan and designed by Godfrey L. Duke, a Wheeling architect.

Lincoln Federal was based in Berwyn in 1973 when they announced that they would be building a new branch on five acres of land, just north of the Hoffman Estates Village Hall.  It was originally a two building design, with the bank connecting to a six story commercial building via a one-story cultural mall.  Because the area was not zoned for such high buildings, it was necessary to pursue a variance.  However, for whatever reason, the six story structure nor the cultural mall was ever completed.



The bank, though, opened in June 1975 and is postmodern in style like the Northwestern National Life building.   It came complete with “a pre-cast concrete colonnade of white quartz aggregate supporting a wide roof overhang.”  [The Herald, May 23, 1974, Section 3]  There were also eight drive in lanes covered by illuminated glass dome canopies, community meeting rooms and beautiful round fountains gracing the exterior at the Higgins/Gannon corner of the building.  A berm was also created on the west side of the property to provide some separation with the adjacent housing.

In a nod to the ongoing struggle by Hoffman Estates officials to convince the U.S. Postal Service of the need for a post office, an automated, 24-hour self-service postal facility was opened in the building.  Vending machines for stamps, post cards, stamped envelopes, etc. were available as well as a coin change machine and scales for weighing packages.  (The village had another facility of this sort at 1001 N. Roselle Road in Hoffman Plaza.)  [The Herald, June 27, 1975, Section 1]

A few years later in 1980, Lincoln Federal changed from a federally chartered savings and loan to a state chartered savings and loan and took on the name of Land of Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.  They subsequently merged with Household Bank in 1989.  Household then merged with Harris Bank in the late 1990s.  The bank is currently part of the BMO Harris Bank operation.

The neat thing is that when District 211 redesigned the facades of their high schools a few years back, they took their cue for Hoffman Estates High School from the iconic structure across the street and created this:



Take a drive down Higgins and recognize the similarities.  It’s nice to honor the architects who designed these spaces–whether they’re in Minneapolis or Hoffman Estates!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

Thank you to Ginny Roncoli, Branch Manager of BMO Harris Bank, for assisting me in some of the details for this blog posting.  It is much appreciated.



March 8, 2015








Last week the tale was told of Frank Henning, a bank teller at the Farmers Bank of Schaumburg, who confessed in a letter to bank stockholders, that he embezzled $40,000 to speculate in the stock market.  Hoping to earn it back, he escaped to New York City on New Year’s day but, within a couple of weeks, was tracked down by the Burns Detective Agency.  The year was 1914 and Mr. Henning would not stay in New York for long.

In fact, as reported in the Rock Island Argus on January 17, Governor Edward Dunne “issued a requisition for the return from New York city of Cashier Henning.”  By the 22nd, Henning was on his way back to Chicago to await his trial.  And the next time we hear of him?  It is the end of May.  And who has he hired as his attorney?  None other than a defense attorney named Clarence Darrow.


In his review in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society of the book, In the Clutches of the Law:  Clarence Darrow’s Letters, John Lupton, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission, states that “Clarence Darrow is arguably the most famous attorney in American history… Darrow classified himself as a general practice attorney who had a substantial criminal caseload.”

And for this particular criminal case, the 57-year-old Darrow ingeniously supported his client by basing his defense on the fact that the Farmers Bank was a private institution and not legally incorporated. This would prove to be the crucial point in the trial.

In a cross examination by Mr. Darrow, one of the stockholders admitted the statement about the legal status of the bank was correct. In a May 28, 1914 article from the Chicago Tribune, it is mentioned that the stockholder also “admitted Henning was a partner and had an interest at the time he left.  Then Darrow made the startling announcement that Henning could not be touched under the law.  A partner cannot be found guilty of embezzling funds from a partner.  The state had ‘not a leg to stand on’ he asserted.”

Realizing Darrow was correct in this statement, W. W. Witty, the Assistant State’s Attorney, then proceeded to make an additional accusation, declaring Henning guilty of embezzlement of $835 in January 1911.  At this point in time,  Henning was a cashier but not yet a partner.  Darrow admitted this was correct, that Henning was not a partner, but there was yet another caveat–by law, the statute of limitations had already expired on such a charge.  The defense then moved that the “court direct a verdict of not guilty.”

In response, Judge McKinley, sustained this contention and took the case away from the jury and the court convened for the day.  On the following day, Thursday, May 28, 1914, Frank Henning walked out of the courtroom a free man.  Mr. Darrow had done his job.

Ten years later, in 1924, Mr. Darrow would rivet the world with his 12-hour long closing argument in the Leopold and Loeb trial.  One year later in 1925, Mr. Darrow’s defense of John Thomas Scopes in the Scopes Monkey trial would truly establish his worldwide fame in a trial that focused on the right to teach evolution in public schools.  Taking on cases such as Frank Henning vs. Farmers Bank of Schaumburg in 1914 was a step in his rise to legal greatness.

Farmers Bank of Schaumburg bounced back from the embezzlement and even survived an attempted robbery in 1921 when Herman Freise, president of the bank, personally thwarted the robbers.  It would not outlast the Great Depression though, and eventually closed in 1933.  Very few banks were immune during those harrowing years, and private banks and the banking system as a whole struggled.  New regulations and protective practices such as the FDIC were put in place to protect both the institution and the investors.  Unfortunately, it was a little too late for a small bank in Schaumburg Township.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

I discovered this incident serendipitously as I do with a number of pieces of our history.  I was doing a brief search of the University of Illinois’ Digital Newspaper Collections and stumbled across mentions of the trial in a newspaper called The Day Book.  This was a newspaper that was published between 1911 and 1917 in Chicago–fortuitously for us.  It was designed as an experimental, ad-free daily and begun by E. W. Scripps, founder of both the media conglomerate by the same name and the United Press.  Mentions of the trial were brief but enough to pique my interest.  It wasn’t until I dug deeper into the Chicago Tribune’s database that I discovered the wonderful details about Clarence Darrow.  All of the articles used to write this blog posting are listed below:


  • Chicago Daily Tribune.  January 4, 1914
  • Chicago Daily Tribune.  January 5, 1914
  • Cook County Herald.  January 9, 1914
  • Cook County Herald.  January 16, 1914
  • Rock Island Argus.  January 17, 1914
  • Chicago Daily Tribune.  January 22, 1914
  • Chicago Daily Tribune.  May 28, 1914
  • Cook County Herald.  May 29, 1914
  • Chicago Daily Tribune.  May 29, 1914
  • Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society; Volume 107, Number 2, Summer 2014; p. 243.


Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library




March 1, 2015

On Friday morning, January 2, 1914 the head cashier of the Farmers Bank of Schaumburg, walked through the bank’s front door and was greeted by a letter addressed to the directors.  Written by Frank Henning, the assistant cashier, the letter told the story of how he had embezzled $40,000 from the bank so that he might speculate in the stock market.  He’d lost all of it–every single penny–and he begged to please, give him a chance, and he’d repay it.  Then he left town leaving only the letter to answer for his crime.Bank

The bank had opened in 1910 on the northeast corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads with a first day’s deposit of $21,000.  The bank was a source of pride for the hard working German farmers of Schaumburg Township who were pleased to have their own local institution to hold their savings.

Fast forward three years later and the 22 stockholders were holding a hurried meeting on Saturday, January 3, 1914 to discuss the details of the crime and figure a way to keep the bank solvent.  It seemed that Mr Henning, who had been with the bank since its beginning, left his home on New Year’s Day, telling his wife and 2 year-old daughter that he was going to attend a theatre party in Chicago that evening. Instead, he posted one letter to the bank and one to his wife confessing his crime.

The bank’s letter contained a $1000 bond and Mr. Henning’s $1000 certificate of stock in the bank.  It was all that was left of his tenure and he probably would have raised a red flag had he earlier tried to cash in the bond. He also left promissory notes made out to the stockholders that were due over a period of six months to five years in the future, with his guarantee that he would return the money.  In addition, he told them he was travelling to Omaha to begin working on that process.

In an immediate response, the stockholders raised the capital stock from $25,000 to $50,000 with each of them putting up close to $1500 to cover the loss.  They also hired a clerk from the First National Bank of Elgin to do an audit of the books.  Lastly, they hired the Burns Detective Agency, led by William J. Burns whose photo is shown below, to find Mr. Henning so that he might be brought to justice.  Warrants for his arrest were placed on the following Monday.  Burns Detective Agency

His wife was just as upset and puzzled as the stockholders.  The family lived on the second floor of the bank and after the embezzlement returned to a nearby town to live with their immediate relatives.

Mr. Henning, however, wasn’t on the lam for long before he made a crucial mistake.  He sent a letter to a friend asking about his wife and daughter and must have included his whereabouts in the text.  Either the friend turned it over to his wife or to the Burns Detective Agency, because it didn’t take them long to determine that Mr. Henning was not in Omaha but in New York City.  By January 13 they had tracked him down in the Woolworth building [shown below] and taken him into custody.  Woolworth Building

Shortly after, he spilled the whole story.  In an article from the Cook County Herald dated January 16, 1914, it states, “He talked freely with the detectives who took him—mainly talking about his wife.  He told them how he worked his way through a business college, worked in a country store and saved his money, and during the panic of 1907 speculated with his employer and made $1800.  He dabbled in stocks from then until he left Schaumburg and always lost.  Henning said he had an opportunity in 1910 to purchase stock in the Farmers bank of Schaumburg… He had no money, but borrowed $1000 from his father, an ironworker, and after buying an interest in the bank, became bookkeeper.  The money he had borrowed was all the savings of his father, and in the hope of paying it back he filled out signed drafts on the bank’s correspondents in Chicago.  With the money thus obtained, he resumed speculating in the Chicago stock market.  Henning said he always lost but by skillfully covering up his speculations he managed to avoid suspicion until late in last December.  Then he realized the game was up.”

In the same article he mentions how he arrived in New York with $2500 that he had on account with a Chicago broker.  Thinking he might get a law degree and make the money back more quickly, he talked to a number of law schools—including Fordham—and discovered that none of them “would graduate him in six months.”  Shortly after, the detectives tracked him down.

And this is where the story gets more interesting.  Next week we meet the gentleman who enters the scene and gives Schaumburg Township a small touch of early fame, albeit unasked for…   

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library