Exploring the First National Bank of Jamesburg

Editors Note: This month the Jamesburg Network explores the Second First National Bank Building of Jamesburg. Built in 1926, we explore the underground and unseen areas of this majestic structure. The Jamesburg Network thanks Victor from the bank for conducting this tour.

The First National Bank of Jamesburg in the 1930s.       The original First National Bank of Jamesburg was established in 1864 by Mr. James Buckelew. The building was located across from Lakeview, on Buckelew Avenue (known at that time as Main Street). The first bank was a two-story structure and the 228th institution to be chartered by the United States government. As years passed, the bank prospered and served all the financial needs for Jamesburg and the surrounding area. However in 1926, a new bank building was built on the corner of West Railroad Avenue and West Church Street and opened July 14, 1926. This two-story stone structure with two massive columns stood proudly as a modern marvel in Jamesburg's rustic business district.

      Throughout the years the bank has had several names: First National Bank of South River, First National Bank of Middlesex County, First Charter National Bank, Heritage National Bank, Midlantic Bank Corporation, and PNC Bank. When the bank originally opened in 1926, the lobby was a two story open air area with a small second floor toward the back. By the 1970s, the engraved "First National Bank" on the facade of the building was covered over and the second story windows were bricked over. Eventually a drop ceiling was put in place and the once beautiful and majestic bank was converted into a more modern facility. In the early 1980s even the Lincoln Coach made its home in the lobby of the bank.

Additional information, photographs, and some of the bank's early records can be found today on display at Lakeview, the famed Buckelew Mansion.

The First National Bank of Jamesburg in 2004.
The First National Bank of Jamesburg in 2004

The safe door. Looking inside the safe.
Upon entering the basement of the First National Bank, the first vault appears. Its doors have rusted open but display all the internal workings of the safe. Very ornate in style, this vault is the size of a large bedroom!

Scribbled:  Fire Sep 19 1938 The tunnel leading to the vacant teller window.
Further down is a coal shoot and area where the coal that once kept the building heated, was stored. Near where the old furnace was located was the phrase "Fire Sep 11 1938." It is unknown whether there was a small fire in the basement or the the significance of this writing. Whether or not it happened, it may hold a clue to the past. At the rear of the bank on the ground level is a small white building that was once a drive-up teller window. In order to access it, a teller would need to go into the basement, through a tunnel, and up a ladder. This very narrow tunnel was added in the 1950s and is no longer used.

A safe in the basement. Battleship gray storage cabinets.
A second, very small vault lies at the front of the bank building. There is no key for this vault and its contents are unknown. Many large battleship gray storage cabinets are in the center of the basement and are no longer in use.

A view of the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg from the second story.
A view of the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg from the second story.
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