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Uncle Jack Fultz’s Memories of Carter County: The rise and fall of Peoples Bank

Reclaiming a beautiful facade

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Peoples Bank was founded in Olive Hill in 1913, according to local historian Francis Nash. Five years later, in September of 1918, the Carter County Herald reported on the construction of their new building on Railroad Street, across from the Depot. 

“We are reliably informed by M.S. Qualls that the entire lot of material for the erection of the new home for the Peoples Bank had been purchased and shipped,” the Herald read. The article finished with the line, “The building will be a nice structure and will add much to the appearance of the street.” 

It is a nice façade, though the interior has not stood the test of time, especially following the flooding of downtown Olive Hill. By 1965, though, as Nash noted, the building no longer served the purposes of Peoples Bank and a new home was secured on Main Street. That location would serve the bank for another dozen years. But by 1987 the bank – which had served the community for 74 years – was in trouble. 

The Associated Press reported in December of that year that the bank was being closed by state regulators because, “it’s financial condition had deteriorated to the point it could not operate in a ‘safe and sound manner.’” 

Peoples Bank was one of several banks to be closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) that year, following downturns in economic markets beginning in October with the “Black Monday” stock market crash. The Peoples Bank closure, for instance, was “one of nine commercial bank failures” on Thursday, December 3, according to the AP. “(A) record for the most bank closings in one day in the (then) 53 year history of the (FDIC).” 

The bank building wouldn’t stay closed for long, however, re-opening the next day as a branch of the Commercial Bank of Grayson “in a purchase arranged by the FDIC.” 

That original building, though, on Railroad Street, outlived the bank itself, and is once again having new life breathed into it. While the interior is being completely redone, the 100 year old building will still look largely the same on the front, with the handsome stone work preserved through the project of Scenic Hills Realty proprietors J.D. and Debbie Rayburn to help revitalize the downtown area. The Scenic Hills Realty office itself stands as an example of what can be done to beautify and reclaim these downtown buildings that have suffered from neglect over the years in addition to natural disasters like flooding. 

We’re excited to see what the project will bring to the building and to see some effort made to preserve what is left of this piece of Olive Hill history. 

Editor’s Note: This is the 24th in a series of articles drawn from the historical newspaper clippings and documents in the scrapbooks of Jack Fultz. We thank Sally James of Sally’s Flowers in Olive Hill for sharing her uncle’s collected clippings with us and the community. – Jeremy D. Wells, editor, Carter County Times 

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