1993: The Morgan State Bank, 201-203 Chartres St., in the early 1900s. After the bank moved out in the early 1960s, the Press Club of New Orleans took over the ground floor, converting the bank vault into a restroom. They remained there for 6 years. Over the past five decades, the ground floor has served mostly as restaurants and bars, while apartments made up the upper floors. It has been vacant in recent years.
The Morgan State Bank was founded in 1901 by George Q. Whitney, of Whitney National Bank, as a small, independent local bank. It was named after transportation magnate Charles Morgan, of Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, who also happened to be Whitney’s grandfather.
Originally located on the uptown riverside corner of Chartres and Customhouse (now Iberville), Morgan Bank had the backing of prominent businessmen and capitalists of New Orleans, some of whom served as its administration, while others, including Whitney, comprised its board of directors.
Morgan Bank was founded to serve the commercial and personal needs of those living and working in the Vieux Carré. They were noted for their innovative approach to banking: being open on Saturdays and until 7 p.m. so that workingmen could do their banking outside of standard working hours.
In 1906, Morgan State Bank had outgrown its space and relocated, but only to the opposite corner of the intersection. They purchased the 4-story masonry commercial building with dentil cornices, built c1850, at 201-203 Chartres St. The bank’s extensive renovation included removing iron galleries from upper floors and installing large plate glass windows on the bottom floor, which the bank would occupy.
In December of 1911, Whitney Bank acquired Morgan Bank and operated it as the Morgan State Branch. Whitney had long wanted a branch below Canal St., as it was so convenient to many of the wholesale, retail, and manufacturing industries operating in and around the French Quarter. It continued to offer personal and business banking; Albert Bloom, president of Morgan State Bank, became the manager of the branch as well as a VP at Whitney.
The Morgan State Branch continued operating at the same location until 1961, when a fire damaged the upper floors of the building. Whitney Bank sold the building in 1964 and took on a restoration of a building two blocks downriver at 430 Chartres St. The Morgan State Branch reopened there in 1966; a souvenir doubloon was minted to mark the occasion and given to customers on their first visit. It is still there, now called Hancock Whitney’s Morgan State Financial Center.