The Winnetka Bank

Gazette Article by: Jane Lord
Appeared in the Gazette: Spring 1998

The Village of Winnetka had no bank when M. K. Meyer acquired a safe for his general store in the late 1800s. After learning about the new safe, so many of Winnetka’s 1,000 residents prevailed upon Meyer to keep their important papers that he decided to establish a bank in a corner of the store.

Thus, with little fanfare, in 1894 the Bank of M. K. Meyer was born. Today the bank, now a branch of The First National Bank of Chicago, stands on the original site—the northwest corner of Green Bay Road and Elm Street. Three generations of the founder’s family headed the bank for its first 95 years; until it was sold in 1989, it was the village’s oldest, continuously run family business. Meyer’s grandson, Robert K. Humphrey, described local banking a century ago: “When the Bank of M. K. Meyer opened, it was the only bank on the North Shore between Evanston and Waukegan. Because that time was a cash society, banking was different than today, and personal checking accounts were rare.” The bank has undergone many changes throughout its 104-year history.

When Meyer’s banking business outgrew space in the general store, it moved to an adjoining building on Elm Street. The bank’s first telephone was installed in 1900 with “2” as its number. (Number “1” belonged to A. J. Vollman’s Meat Market.)

Fire destroyed both the store and bank on a December night in 1912. Hurrying to the scene, Meyer persuaded firemen to direct their hoses on the bank vault and successfully saved its contents. Afterwards, Meyer decided to concentrate mainly on banking, and a year later a new Bedford limestone bank building rose where the store had been. A 23-foot high ceiling distinguished the first floor. Meyer, who headed the bank for 43 years, was stationed at his desk on the first floor so that he could keep in touch with customers. After Meyer’s death in 1937, his son-in-law, Herbert K. Humphrey, a professor of electrical engineering at Rice University, returned to Winnetka to take over the business. He headed the bank for 30 years. His son, Robert K. Humphrey, continued the family tradition. He joined the bank in 1948 and became chairman in 1967.

In the 1960s the bank again needed to expand. The Humphreys used adjacent, family-owned property on Elm Street to provide additional space for a new building. The west side was constructed first, enabling bank operations to continue without interruption. The new building was completed in 1964. The bank’s name also went through changes. When a 1917 Illinois law required banks to incorporate, the Bank of M. K. Meyer became the Winnetka Trust and Savings Bank. In 1970 it was renamed The Winnetka Bank and assumed as its motto, “The Bank that Built Winnetka.” In 1989 the bank was sold to First Chicago Corporation, becoming First Chicago Bank of Winnetka. With a change in state banking laws, Winnetka’s oldest bank became one of First Chicago’s largest suburban branches in 1992.

The growth of the bank mirrors the growth of Winnetka. Humphrey family records show that at the end of its first year, 1895, deposits in the Bank of M. K. Meyer totaled $9,907.66. Today Winnetka’s First Chicago branch has deposits of more than $140 million.

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10 Responses to “The Winnetka Bank”

  1. December 9, 2013 at 2:12 PM #

    Can you please tell me the current name of The Winnetka Bank ?

  2. Mary Cox September 5, 2020 at 5:27 PM #

    I have a metal savings bank that I think was given to new customers
    as a gift. It says “Winnetka Trust and Savings Bank” impressed
    at the bottom. It is cute for a child maybe. I think it’s cast iron.
    it measures 6″x21/2″x21/2″. I was wondering if you would want it
    for your archive. It’s not in pristine condition, but it can be
    revived with a little care.

  3. September 8, 2020 at 10:24 AM #

    Hi Mary, thank you so much for reaching out! This sounds like an absolutely wonderful item. If possible, would you mind sending me a photo at I’d love to take a look!

  4. November 27, 2020 at 10:56 AM #

    I too have a cast iron money bank that’s the form of of a dog lying down on his tummy with a dog tag says First National Bank of Winnetka which my grandfather gave to me in the 1970s, when I was a child. Just curious as to it’s age.

  5. April 22, 2021 at 1:10 PM #

    I also have bank from Winnetka. It is a white home with a green roof and it says the first national bank of Winnetka. I think it’s from the 60s. It’s yours if you would like

  6. April 24, 2021 at 5:00 PM #

    Thank you Bryan. We’d love to take a look at the model bank. Can you please email a photo to We so appreciate you thinking of us. Have a great day.

  7. April 24, 2021 at 5:00 PM #

    Thank you Bryan. We’d love to take a look at the model bank. Can you please email a photo to We so appreciate you thinking of us. Have a great day.

  8. November 12, 2021 at 8:28 PM #

    Did you know your bank sign was featured in the background of a scene in Uncle Buck, a classic movie w John Candy ?

  9. May 13, 2023 at 7:40 AM #

    It is a scene near the end of the movie. The girl walks sad and alone late in the evening and passes by The Winnetka Bank. Then uncle Buck approaches her. I have a screenshot if you’d be interested.

  10. May 21, 2023 at 11:00 AM #

    That would be great – please email to Thank you for thinking of us!

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