Putnam — For the first four years of its existence, it operated out of the law offices of one of its founders.
Then, in 1866, it accepted another bank's invitation to share space and a vault in a new building at the corner of Main and Front streets. At the end of each day, it lugged its deposits from the second floor down to the first-floor safe.
By 1874, Putnam Savings Bank, as it was originally known, required a vault of its own.
Now celebrating its 150th anniversary, it's long since consigned its modest origins to the archives.
"We continue to adapt," said Tom Borner, the bank's 58-year-old chairman and chief executive officer. How else could a community bank chartered during the Civil War survive for a century-and-a-half?
Putnam Savings moved into its own building at 80 Main St. in 1924. In 1974, it moved again, to its current location at 40 Main St., where it added a second story in 2004. Three years later, aiming to better reflect the breadth of the services it provided, it dropped "Savings" from its name.
Over the past 30 years, it's introduced seven branch offices, opening locations in Pomfret, Danielson, Plainfield, at the Price Chopper supermarket in Putnam and Norwich, and acquiring two others from People's Bank - in Griswold and Gales Ferry.
The bank also operates a loan center in Putnam and a branch that provides limited services to residents of the Creamery Brook Retirement Village in Brooklyn.
With about $480 million in assets, "we're an optimum size," Borner said. "Big enough to offer everything and small enough to grow some."
The bank employs about 120 people from throughout eastern Connecticut.
Putnam, like most community banks, offers much the same products and services as big, national banks, including such features as electronic bill pay and banking on mobile devices. What the big banks can't always match, Borner said, is the community banks' customer service and commitment to the surrounding area.
"We keep it local," he said. "Our loans go back into the community. Our employees participate in the life of the community. Their time, their energy, their money go back into the community."
Borner is a good example.
He has served on the boards of numerous local organizations and as director of the Northeast Connecticut Habitat for Humanity and the Quinebaug Valley Community College Foundation. A practicing attorney for 33 years - he's been a member of the bank's board of directors for 25 years - he still puts in a couple of hours in his law office every day before reporting to the bank.
"I put myself through school milking cows, so I'm used to early hours," Borner said.
He noted that community banks largely avoided involvement in the subprime lending mess, if not the fallout that ensued.
"The latest round of regulatory reforms is impacting small banks disproportionately," Borner said. "We didn't cause the problem, but we're paying the price."
Three of Putnam's employees work full time ensuring the bank is in compliance with federal regulations.
Naturally, other historical events have affected the bank from time to time, perhaps none more drastically than the collapse of European markets at the start of World War I in 1914. Putnam Savings closed that year and didn't reopen until 1916.
The bank hired its first loan officer in 1960, and directors voted to write Federal Housing Administration-backed loans two years later. Today, Putnam is the leading mortgage lender in Windham County.
For Putnam, one of the most beneficial regulatory changes was one that enabled savings banks to issue checking accounts, something they couldn't do prior to the 1970s.
"It's an exciting time to be 150 years old," Borner said. "I think we can be around for another 150 years."
Name: Putnam Bank
Chairman & CEO: Tom Borner
Main office: 40 Main St., Putnam
Branches: Danielson, Griswold, Ledyard, Norwich, Plainfield, Pomfret and Putnam (Price Chopper supermarket)