ROCK SPRINGS — On South Main Street stands an old bank building that people drive by likely without giving it a second thought.
However, this old bank building, the original Rock Springs National Bank building, dates from the pioneer days of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County, not long after the terrible Chinese massacre and while there were still army troops in Rock Springs to maintain an uneasy peace.
Constructed in 1892, the original RSNB was the result of bank organization work done by entrepreneur Timothy Kinney.
One of Rock Springs’ original citizens, H.H. Edgar, was mayor of the new community during 1891-1892 and again in 1895-1896.
Edgar was not only mayor, however, he was also the architect of the 1892 bank building.
Edgar chose a late Victorian “Italianate” design for the bank, according to Jennifer Messer, Rock Springs Museum Coordinator.
June 10, 1892 was opening day for the bank, according to Avis E. Dunkin-Mazur, Public Relations/Marketing Manager for RSNB. The bank moved to a new property on C Street in 1907, when John Hay, Sr. became bank president.
Most of the rest of the further available information about the 1892 bank building came from Brigida (Brie) Blasi, Executive Director of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum.
RSNB continued to own the bank property until 1921, when it was sold to one Anton Mengoni, who died in 1925 at age 57. Mengoni’s widow, Virginia, owned the property following his death.
Anton Mengoni’s obituary said in part, “He came to Rock Springs in 1891 and has resided here continuously since that time. He was employed for a short while in the mines in this locality after his arrival here, but (he) soon made his venture in the mercantile business, and through keen business foresight he accumulated a modest fortune in his several ventures. At the time of his untimely death he was a stockholder in the Wyoming Beverage Company and in the North Side State Bank, and was the owner of several valuable properties in this city, including the old Rock Springs Bank building…”
As of 1907, the bank building was still indicated to be a bank on the ground level with offices upstairs. In 1912, the main floor is indicated as storage and offices still upstairs. In 1920, it was listed as having rented rooms upstairs and soft drinks downstairs.
This was most likely Mangoni’s business if he was leasing and then bought the building in 1921, Blasi said. From 1911-1918, Mangoni had liquor licenses in the name of the Milwake Saloon. The Milwake Saloon was located next door to the bank building, in what is now an empty lot, in a frame building. Mangoni moved into the bank building in 1920 and adjusted his business to soft drinks due to Prohibition.
In 1931, the upstairs of the old bank building is listed as vacant and the bottom floor as the White Front, which sold soft drinks as Prohibition continued.
In 1937 the White Front Hotel occupied the upper floors and White Front Liquors was on the main floor, following the end of Prohibition in 1933.
The hotel was managed by Mary Montoys and the liquor store was owned by George and James Harris.
The Harris brothers continued to run the liquor business for many years. George Harris died at age 69 in 1952. James Harris died at age 85 in early 1973.
As of 1950, the Harris brothers were still listed as running the White Front Bar, with the Rose Rooms upstairs managed by one Joan Fife, regarding whom there is little information. In about 1956 the old bank building became Scotty’s Pitcher Inn, run by Edward P. Hoyne, but the building was vacant again by 1958.
In 1960, as some older local residents may remember, George and Rose Shineburg bought the old bank building and opened the Day-Nite Laundromat. George Shineburg died in 1965 and age 68. In 1976, Edward and Elizabeth Shineburg are listed as running the Rock Springs Laundry, with apartments upstairs in the building.
By 1981, the old bank building was vacant once again, and apparently has been vacant since then.
Currently, the American Legion owns the 1892 bank building and they have plans for using it. The American Legion purchased the old bank building four years ago from the Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency, Legion Adjutant Leonard Merrell said. “It gives us better access to our backyard. We plan to use it for office space, retail space or a museum, maybe a military museum.”
Before the 1892 bank building can be used for anything, however, it will need to undergo extensive renovation. The Sweetwater County Assessor’s office lists the building as being in “poor” condition and of “low” quality. “Right now it’s just a ceiling and dirt,” Merrell said. “There are no floors. Parts of that renovation will consist of repairing damage done by pigeons, he added.
The building exterior is of native sandstone, hauled up from where C Street is now, Merrell explained.
“We told the URA that we would renovate it when we have the time and money,” former American Legion post commander and current trustee Joe Tallon said.
For now, the old 1892 bank building stands as a relic of Rock Springs’ pioneer days and the time shortly after Wyoming became a state. People drive by it today just as horse and buggy riders did 126 years ago.