Winona is the location of Merchants Bank’s headquarters and where the Bank was established in 1875. In the late 1800s, Winona, Minnesota was a booming town on the Mississippi River and home to hundreds of migrant workers from Poland, Germany and France. Most of them worked for the lumber mills and other businesses that supported the growing town.
Our founders recognized the need to serve Winona’s working-class population and established Merchants National Bank in 1875. Merchants Bank opened for business on July 12, 1875 with $100,000 in assets and Mark Willson serving as President.
Merchants Bank's commitment to being the workingman’s bank was something our founders didn’t take lightly. All tellers were expected to speak and write in English, German and Polish. Even the design of our flagship location in Winona reflected our small business mentality, from wood accents to pay homage to Winona’s lumber industry to a stained-glass pattern in honor of local farmers’ cornfields.
Our First Board of Directors
The group of men who started Merchants Bank truly tells the story of our commitment to the working class. Our original Board of Directors included:
- Mark Willson, Merchants Bank President (previously a Merchandise Salesman)
- Charles Berry, Attorney
- G.W. Bennett, Owner of Taylor & Bennett Co.
- Conrad Booth, Manufacturer and Lumber Dealer
- Charles Beck, Entrepreneur, Brewer, Politician and Farmer
- H.D. Perkins, Merchants Bank Vice President (previously a Grocer)
- N.F. Hilbert, Merchants Bank Cashier (previously an Accountant)
The Story of Our Winona Location
“A cube encased in brick and glass” is how the original architects described the unique design of the Merchants Bank building on 102 East Third Street. While many other banks built around the turn of the century featured gothic architecture, the Bank hired the Minneapolis firm of Purcell, Feick and Elmslie to bring a different vision to life when constructing our third bank location in the early 1900s.
The firm was a leader in “The Prairie School of Architecture” style and architects Purcell and Elmslie were close associates of Louis Sullivan (all three were contemporaries of Frank Lloyd Wright). The Merchants Bank building is the largest and most famous example of their unique, progressive contribution to early 20th-century architecture. While the building was updated and renovated several times since it opened in 1912, eventually it was restored to match the original architectural drawings during a large building renovation and expansion that took place in the early 1970s. In 1974, our building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our flagship location has some unique features that can still be seen today: