George Dayton-Citizens National Bank 1901

George Dayton-Citizens National Bank 1901

Recently while exploring the attic crawl space I came across this box, the Jefferson Wizard Doorbell Transformer along with a ten pound can of commercial putty.

The Citizens National Bank was built in 1901 when the streets of Worthington, Minnesota were dirt.   Horses, wagons and trains were the only means of transportation.

The bank was one of the earliest brick and mortar structures in this southwestern Minnesota town. Brick and stone were signs of permanence. They replaced the Frontier Gothic that was often small wood frame buildings with a larger than life store front.

The wood came from the boreal forests of Northern Minnesota which were being logged, then sold for building throughout the nation. This product of the northwoods was transported by the railways – which were themselves being built all over the west and providing connections.

Railroad transportation bore the heavy load and was cheap enough to haul the Kasota stone from Mankato MN and the carved stone from Oak Island near Bayfield Wisc. (of Bayfield brownstone fame), and brick from Sioux City.

The first tenant to rent the Bank’s 2nd floor offices was a man who had decided to leave this small town and seek his fortune elsewhere.  He rented the office for 6 months to perhaps a year, he needed a place to settle his affairs before moving on. This man had higher aspirations and wanted to start a department store.

Department stores were a rather new concept at this time.  He needed a bigger town and larger audience to launch his store.

He surely was aware of Marshall Field’s in Chicago.  And about the same time Harry Selfridge was leaving his employment at Marshall Field’s in Chicago to seek his fame and fortune in London. He created Europe’s first department store.  It was a compelling idea and, after struggling, became a tremendous success.
Today Selfridge’s still stands as a magnificent landmark in London and a tribute to Selfridge and his devil may care attitude.

The second-floor tenant of the Citizens National Bank building had decided to move on even though Worthington was reasonably well positioned on rail lines and highway intersections. He recognized the importance of the Mississippi River and the importance of large-scale milling and grain elevators to an increasingly interconnected nation.   He realized his access to the nation was limited in southwestern Minnesota.

He also was attuned to the importance of current information and he recognized the advancement in technology.  Electricity had come to the prairie and electricity held promise beyond imagination.

Somebody years ago went to the work of installing an electrical device that was not part of the original building design.   It was some new-fangled gadget called a “door bell” and would ring a bell on the second floor near the office of the man that was planning to leave town.    It required a “transformer”.   The doorbell was a device that may have alerted the man to some business matter, and for him, perhaps the future of electricity. I foretold the many possibilities of how electricity might transform society. It opened doors.

HIs lease was up and it was time to pursue his dream of a department store.   He must have had some reservations about leaving. He had made many good friends and had even built a small prairie mansion that still stands to this day.

The mills on the Mississippi were not only grinding wheat and corn.  The river would soon to be turning wheels that would provide a world with electricity. He had found a piece of land in downtown Minneapolis and George Dayton was ready to make a go of it.

Dayton’s Department Store was to the upper Midwest what Marshall Field’s had been to Chicago. What Macy’s had been to New York City. What Selfridge’s is to London. Over time Dayton’s Department Store evolved into Target Corporation. And a century after these great stores were launched, all three in the U.S. are owned by Target.

Also a century later the Dayton family returned to Worthington to assist in preserving their ancestral home.

It stands and serves as a tribute to a man that has always risen to community service and high moral standings.


A few blocks away from Dayton’s mansion, the Citizens National Bank building found a new tenant for the upstairs offices.  Doctor Clark found them much to his liking.The bank building itself was an impressive structure but the bank only lasted 22 years.   The officers of the bank did not handle their customers’ money as professionally as advertised.   Four or five of the officers were taken to trial and one was found guilty and sent to the South Dakota Penitentiary. The others were said to have received light sentences.

After the banking failure the building was owned or was rented to the barbershop.   he lower level of the building also advertised “baths” for the weary travelers who got off the train.

About forty years ago, I spoke to a former customer who was by then an elderly man. He told me that during the time of “prohibition”  a young paper boy would stop by the barbershop with the newspaper and then also deliver something in a brown paper bag for the barber to an undisclosed address. He said The boy was delivering “moonshine” to one of the barber’s customers.  He made as much money with two deliveries of moonshine as his whole paper route would produce in one week. And the elderly man said the boy was lucky not to have been caught because the penalty would have been severeI asked the man his name and he refused to tell me, still not wanting to be held accountable four decades later.

The bank has had three different owners for five decades.From thence it has been a leather goods shop pursuing small time manufacturing on two of the three levels.   We have occupied this bank building longer than any single tenant. We have used it well, respected the architectural integrity of the building, and we hope have left our own mark on the town. We realize that we are only temporary owners and that someday it will be passed on to an owner who will also appreciate this building and its place on the prairies of southwestern Minnesota.

We cast forth hope that future generations will abide by a passage from Proverbs 22-28…………”Remove not the ancient stone which thy forefathers have set.”

Buffalo Billfold Company

2 Replies to “George Dayton-Citizens National Bank 1901”

  1. Always appreciate your writing Bill. I have great memories of stopping/shopping at your wonder-ful store ever since it opened. Especially feel lucky if you are behind the counter to visit with.

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