In 1959, suburbs across the country were growing rapidly, and the area outside of Chicago called Elmwood Park was no exception. Incorporated in 1914, the village had its first big growth spurt in the 1920s when planned neighborhoods as well as retail and community centers took shape. After the second world war though, the town exploded with a boom of babies and new residents.
In 1959, suburbs across the country were growing rapidly, and the area outside of Chicago called Elmwood Park was no exception. Incorporated in 1914, the village had its first big growth spurt in the 1920s when planned neighborhoods as well as retail and community centers took shape. After the second world war though, the town exploded with a boom of babies and new residents.1
Elmwood Park was ideally situated, only 10 miles from Chicago’s famous downtown district, the Loop. About 8 miles to the north, Chicago’s new O’Hare International Airport was already expanding to include a new runway, another terminal, and other facilities.2 With more economic growth on the horizon, a group of local businessmen headed by Clarence A. Beutel Sr. established a bank to, as the bank later put it, “provide community and commercial banking services to individuals and businesses in the contiguous and neighboring western suburbs of Chicago.”3
Midwest Bank opened for business on December 10, 1959, with just over $1 million in capital. In addition to such features as night depositories and sidewalk windows, the Chicago Daily Tribune made sure to note that “the bank’s computing and accounting system is completely electronic.”4 And, its first location at the busy corner of North and Harlem avenues meant Midwest was in an ideal spot to take advantage of the economic development of not only Elmwood Park, but other nearby “park” suburbs: Melrose Park, Forest Park and Franklin Park.5
At the time, Illinois had strict regulations in regard to branch locations. They were not allowed until the mid-1970s. When the laws loosened slightly, allowing a limited-service branch within a two-mile radius, Midwest took the opportunity to begin expanding. It added a drive-through location at North and Fifth avenues in Melrose Park to provide its business customers quicker and more convenient access to financial services.6 A decade later, when the spot became a commercial office building, Midwest established a full-service bank on the first floor and eventually, its headquarters in the building.
In 1983, deregulation and the formation of First Midwest Corporation of Delaware, later Midwest Banc Holdings Inc., allowed the bank to begin a more serious expansion. Acquiring Illinois State Bank of Chicago in 1986 with its location on South Michigan Avenue turned the suburban Midwest bank into a metropolitan bank with a spot in the urban core of Chicago. Expansion into nearby counties and West Central Illinois soon followed.7
By the late 1990s, Midwest Banc was listed on the NASDAQ with assets nearing $1 billion. By 2007, it would top $3.5 billion.8 But like many banks, Midwest would not survive the financial downturn of 2008-2009 due to risky lending. Despite receiving a bailout, efforts to salvage the bank and recapitalize were unsuccessful. Midwest failed and was purchased by FirstMerit in May 2010. It was the 11th bank to fail in the state in that year alone.9
FirstMerit had considered the opportunities and the challenges, and decided Midwest and its branches fit well in the bank’s expansion into the Chicago area. FirstMerit had acquired George Washington Savings Bank from the FDIC earlier in 2010, as well as bought 24 First Bank of St. Louis branches in 2009 to convert to FirstMerit.10 The moves landed FirstMerit on digital financial media company TheStreet’s list of “10 Banks That Defy the Great Recession.”11
Chicago’s market opportunities were not lost on Huntington, which entered the metro area through its merger with FirstMerit. As one local business journal stated, “Huntington joins a legion of other large Midwestern players that see fertile ground in Chicago’s fragmented banking market.”12
But Huntington is poised to become not just a player. Through its focus on service, the bank is ready to be an integral partner for community organizations, businesses and customers from the suburbs to the downtown core.
Midwest Bank location in Chicago’s Wicker Park Neighborhood, 2005
Courtesy of Kim Karpeles / Alamy Stock Photo