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Packers

Packers National Bank in South Omaha is shown in 2015 after the bank itself had moved to a new building and was being renovated as offices.

The independent city of South Omaha only existed for three decades and with its ultimate population of over 26,000, might have expected to support one or two banks at the beginning of the 20th century. Thanks to interlocking ownership and boards, coupled with the extremely successful meat packing business however, South Omaha had six or seven profitable banks, depending on how you count them.

In 1883 Alexander Swan began buying what soon amounted to 400 acres of land from the Union Pacific Railroad for his Union Stockyards “four miles from the Omaha Postoffice.” As the stockyards developed and expanded, Albert Uriah Wyman established and became the president of the South Omaha National Bank, the 3,611th National Bank in the United States in 1886. Wyman went on to become the treasurer of the U.S. under presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Chester A. Arthur.

South Omaha expanded rapidly and in 1887 was considered No. 3 of “meat-making cities in the country” after Chicago and Kansas City but expected to challenge Kansas City for the No. 2 spot within a year. South Omaha, the city, continued to grow and, with a population of 12,000 was incorporated as a city of second class. The Union Pacific built a passenger depot on the site as Albright while the most impressive building was the Stock Exchange,  which had “20 rooms for offices, besides the bank and 466 spacious hotel rooms.”

In 1888 the South Omaha Savings Bank opened, followed by Packers National Bank (No. 4,589) in 1891, which succeeded the South Omaha branch of the Nebraska Savings Bank, located on the southeast corner of 26th and N streets. The second president of Packers was John F. Coad II with his brother William as vice president, beginning a long association of that family with the bank. John Coad’s home at 3718 Farnam was considered a gem in Omaha’s Gold Coast neighborhood. One of the things which insured Packers National Bank’s success was that initial depositors and board members included Armour, Cudahy and Swift family members, three of the largest four livestock companies in South Omaha.

By 1890 South Omaha’s population was listed in the U.S. census as 8,062 and reported having 327 businesses and three banks which included William Paxton’s Union Stockyards National Bank (No. 4,632) which opened with $200,000 of capital. Live Stock National Bank of South Omaha incorporated in 1970 as No. 8,949 and by 1916 reported having over $3 million in deposits.

In 1907 Packers National hired Omaha architect Thomas Kimball, arguably the most prominent architect in Nebraska, to design a new building for the bank. The 40 by 90-foot, brick and limestone, single-story, Renaissance Revival building is extant at 4939 S. 24th St. Prominent on the bank’s board at the time were John Creighton, Wm. Paxton, Peter Iler and John McShane.

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In 1910 Stockyards National Bank (No. 9,908) opened in the Exchange Building with Security State Bank in 1914 as the last to form. South Omaha, with a population of about 26,000, was annexed by Omaha in 1915.

A two-story addition was made to Packers National in 1950. Their federal charter was abandoned, and they became Packers State Bank & Trust in 1985 while the 24th Street building was converted to offices and apartments and was named an Omaha Landmark. The bank itself moved to 23rd and L streets, where they remodeled and moved into a building which had previously been a grocery store.

In 1984 Packer National’s old building on 24th Street was nominated to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Packers Bank, reported having over $110 million in assets in 1990 when it was also noted they were “the only surviving bank of the three major banks that served South Omaha in its hey-day.”

Historian Jim McKee, who still writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him in care of the Journal Star or at jim@leebooksellers.com

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