Now a neighborhood in northeastern Omaha, the former town of Florence was originally one of the oldest settlements in Nebraska and figures prominently in the early history of the state. The town was platted in 1854 on the ruins of the Winter Quarters the Mormons had established as their principal encampment between Illinois and Utah.
Built in 1856, the Bank of Florence is one of the oldest extant commercial buildings in Nebraska and possibly the oldest building in Omaha. The bank is a small two-story brick structure exhibiting a very modest interpretation of Greek Revival commercial architecture in the heavy cornices and treatment of wall openings. Otherwise, it is almost devoid of ornamentation. The vault, the bank’s most important asset, was the first portion of the building to be constructed. Shipped from Pennsylvania, the steel vault was enclosed on site with masonry walls three feet thick. Once the vault was securely in place, the remainder of the bank building was completed around it.
The bank played an important role in the development of the Florence area but frontier-banking practices were lax and the fledgling bank issued quantities of unsecured “wild cat” currency and financed land speculation. Like many other banks, it failed in the Panic of 1857. In the succeeding decades the building housed a variety of businesses, including a second bank that operated from 1904 to 1939.
The exterior of the building retains considerable historic integrity; the interior, by contrast, has been remodeled extensively, although the original bank vault remains intact. Teller cages and other late–nineteenth–century bank furnishings from a shuttered institution near David City were installed here to restore the appearance of a small bank at the turn of the century. Restoration on the second floor includes the living quarters of the original bank manager and the Florence Telephone Company switchboard. The building is owned by the Florence Historical Foundation and is open to the public as a museum.
Magie, John Q., “Bank of Florence,” Douglas County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1969. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.