Growing up on the West Side of Youngstown, the most recognizable feature of downtown Youngstown that I could see from my home was the main offices of Home Savings and Loan. When I was young, I had the back bedroom in our house, which faced east toward downtown. I used to love looking over the valley. One Christmas, I received a telescope as a gift. It was fun looking at the Home Savings Building, and the clock tower on top. If memory serves me correctly at that time, there were neon signs with the name “Home Savings” that would alternately light up on the north and south, and east and west sides of the building.
Whenever I look at old pictures of West Federal Street, you almost always see the Home Savings and Loan building at the far west end, presiding over the financial fortunes of the businesses along that street, as it were. While some of the great old theaters and the McKelvey buildings have been torn down, this main branch remains standing strong.
Home Savings was started in 1889 and the “Savings and Loan” name reflected its mission of providing a safe place to deposit funds at interest and to borrow money to purchase homes, and for other purposes. The bank helped many generations of working class people to realize the dream of home ownership. One of the encouraging things is that despite economic troubles in the Valley, the bank has continued to grow. In 1998 the bank went through a mutual-to-stock conversion, setting up a parent holding company, the United Community Financial Corporation. At the same time, a Home Savings Charitable Foundation was set up and focuses on areas of education, health care and disadvantaged children and adults, according to the “history” section of the Home Savings website. In 2014, United Community Financial Corporation acquired Premier Bank & Trust, a regional bank in the Canton area, bringing its total number of offices to 35 and its current assets to approximately $2.5 billion. In 2016, they created the Home Savings Insurance Group, acquiring a couple local insurance agencies. In 2017, to reflect an increasing involvement in commercial services, the name was changed to Home Savings Bank. While most of Home Savings offices are still in northeast Ohio, there are some in north central Ohio, and loan offices in Cleveland, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Morgantown, West Virginia, Toledo, and in my own backyard of Worthington, in suburban Columbus.
Some of my memories of my father’s last years involved Home Savings. I was his financial power of attorney and when I began to manage his affairs, one of the things we needed to do was close out his safe deposit box at the main branch. We went down to the basement where the safe deposit boxes were located, off of a richly paneled lobby. I deeply appreciated the respect the bank personnel showed to my elderly father as we completed this transaction. He also had funds on deposit with the bank and, once again, I found the people at the bank great to work with, both before and after my father’s passing.
In an age when it is easy to live in a town where all the banks are from places like Chicago, or New York, or a city somewhere else in Ohio, it is encouraging to see Home Savings still going strong as a Youngstown-based bank. Let’s hope that is a sign for other Youngstown-based businesses.