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xtra xtra!
Commonwealth Cooperative Bank
Rooney Real Estate
July 11, 2013
East Boston Savings Turns 165
By Rick Winterson


The head office of East Boston Savings Bank (EBSB), which is celebrating its 165th Anniversary this year.

The year 1848 was a momentous one in American history.  The nation was just 72 years old.  The frontier and the Wild West was real – a living part of the American dream.   The California Gold Rush began in January of that year; the Mexican-American War formally ended in February.  James Knox Polk, an expansionist, was President.

Also in 1848, East Boston Savings Bank was incorporated and opened its first office on Noddle’s Island.  One of the Bank’s founders was ship designer and builder Donald McKay, a history maker in his own right.  In his Boston shipyard, McKay crafted the “Flying Cloud”, a so-called extreme clipper ship, which held the record for 145 years for the fastest trip by sail from New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco (89 days, 8 hours).  Not to stop at that, the “Flying Cloud” also had perhaps the first female navigator of a major commercial ship.  Her name was Eleanor Creesy.

So why put a bank on Noddles Island?  Well, Noddles Island was a thriving, major settlement - the largest single part of East Boston back then.  It lived on its marine enterprises.  Noddles was where bank founder McKay built most of his ships, and where several thousand people lived.  But no matter – nine months after the East Boston Savings Bank was incorporated in 1848, the Bank opened its first full-time office at 16 Maverick Square.  And to use that well-known cliché, “ … the rest is history.”

It’s interesting to track East Boston Savings Bank by drawing a parallel with American history.  Our war with Mexico resulted in annexing California, which then became a key destination for McKay’s clipper ships.

This year of 2013 is the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The growing East Boston Savings Bank was already a vigorous teenager of 15 years when that cataclysmic battle took place and Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.  By the nation’s Centennial in 1876, the Bank was a mature 28-year-old.

Space doesn’t permit a detailed timeline of the entire history of the Bank, although that would be highly interesting.  But 1893 would become a particularly important year, even though not until more than a century later.  That’s the year that Mt. Washington Bank was founded here in South Boston.

Historically, 1893 was the year of the Columbian Exposition, a.k.a. the Chicago World’s Fair, the first major exposition in America featuring pavilions from individual visiting nations.  Most memorably, it was the site of the first Ferris Wheel, a 294-foot monster that could hold 1,800 (!) riders.  More important to East Boston Savings Bank, however, was the founding of Mt. Washington Bank, which would merge with it 117 years later.

This Year of 2013, Mt. Washington Bank turns 120.  Between the two banks, now joined into one while maintaining both of their respective identities, there is a total of 285 years of community banking service.  The United States of America is only 237 years of age this year – a spring chicken compared to the combined ages of the East Boston Savings and Mt. Washington Banks.

The most recent five years for East Boston Savings Bank have been extremely active.  Not one to rest upon his laurels, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dick Gavegnano still says, “I’m not a traditional banker.”  And Dick isn’t.

Throughout the recent (and, in part, continuing) economic crisis, East Boston Savings Bank took no TARP money.  The Bank’s capital position stayed very strong during the past five years, even while the Bank maintained its commitment by continuing to lend to the community - it never stopped lending.  “Doing business the right way”, as Dick puts it.

In 2008, East Boston Savings Bank went public, with a listing on NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations – second only to the New York Stock Exchange).  The initial price of $10 per share has risen to the current $18.85 level in just over four years.

In 2009, Dick and Mt. Washington Bank President Ed Merritt formulated a merger agreement between them, which was approved by the Directors of both entities and was formally signed, sealed, and inaugurated early in 2010.  According to a 2010 article in Boston Business Journal, Dick and Ed hit it off immediately.  Ed’s enthusiasm for the merger is still evident.  During the interview for this article with him and Dick, he mentioned some figures – “Since our merger, Mt. Washington Bank has grown from 175 employees to 450, and our loan volume has increased by 25% compounded each year.”

Their ongoing service and marketing strategy includes maintaining two entirely separate banking identities, while growing to 26 branches between the two enterprises.  Future growth will be organic in nature, fueled by integrity, strong financial positions, and continued commitment to their communitiesHappy 165th Anniversary to East Boston Savings Bank. 

And a Happy 120th to South Boston’s Mt. Washington Bank.  



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