- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
PNC Bank is moving out of downtown Leonardtown in July, leaving in question what will happen to the building it occupies that has overlooked the town square for 92 years.
The Leonardtown branch of PNC is moving to a nearby location north on Route 5, called the Breton branch, less than a mile and a half away.
“The [downtown] branch will be closing on July 19 at 3 p.m.,” said Marcey Zwiebel, vice president and senior manager of external communications for PNC Financial Group. Accounts at that branch will be transferred to the Breton branch, though customers are free to use any branch, she said.
Closing the Leonardtown branch is part of a national restructuring underway including about 200 PNC branches. “Customers are banking very differently today,” Zwiebel said, using ATMs, the Internet and mobile devices more for banking services. “We’re making adjustments as we need to ... as cost-effectively as we can.”
Zwiebel couldn’t disclose the number of employees at the Leonardtown branch, but said, “We do our very best to place employees” when a branch is closed.
The bank in downtown Leonardtown began as First National Bank of St. Mary’s. The building later became headquarters for Mercantile Southern Maryland Bank and then became a branch of PNC.
“I hate to see it, but I understand why” the branch is closing, said Leonardtown Mayor Dan Burris. The branch didn’t have a lot of foot traffic to begin with, and then it dwindled even more after Social Security payments were made directly into bank accounts, he said.
“It’s such an iconic building in town,” said Laschelle McKay, town administrator of Leonardtown. “It’s certainly key to the town.” She called the move “disappointing.”
“It’s an opportunity to bring some other businesses to town,” Burris said. He said he expects PNC to try to sell the property.
“That’s the icon of the square. I want to work with them to try to get someone in there as soon as possible,” he said, though “it’s going to be hard to find an occupant for that large of an area.”
The bank property includes another office building to the rear. The bank building is 9,148 square feet and the Candela office building is 8,342 square feet. “I don’t see the two pieces staying together just because of the sheer size,” he said. “If we could draw retail down to one of those spaces that would be great.”
The First National Bank of St. Mary’s wasn’t the first bank in the county, according to the Maryland Historical Trust, but it was one of the first. With a capital stock of $25,000, The National Bank of St. Mary’s opened on Feb. 9, 1903, in a small, brick building close to the corner of Washington Street and Park Avenue, where the Candela building is now.
The St. Mary’s Beacon newspaper said of the bank’s opening, “We believe the Bank will prove the ‘advance agent’ in the industrial development of St. Mary’s.”
In 1917, the bank set out to move next door on the corner into a larger building. The lot was cleared and a much larger, two-story brick building was completed in 1921. “The bank’s imposing location at the focal point of Washington Street visually supplanted the County Courthouse,” the Maryland Historical Trust noted. That section still stands at the corner of Washington Street and Park Avenue.
A three-story addition was built down Park Avenue in 1966 to the bank building’s current size. But in recent years, much of the space inside was not used. Burris said in the last four or five years, about 10 people have worked in the building.