Turning Back Time #4: Millbury Savings Opens Second Millbury Branch--1981
Our Turning Back Time series takes a look back at numerous turning points, milestones, and important moments in Millbury Savings Bank’s 160-year history. Sure, we may be waxing nostalgic, but we also think it’s important to acknowledge the role the bank has played in our community all the way back to the mid-19th century.
When Elm Street’s Gowing* bridge — the crossing that spans the Blackstone River and railroad tracks connecting West Millbury with the town center — was condemned and closed in early 1981, East Millbury, West Millbury, and portions of Sutton were essentially cut off from one another for more than two years.
Recognizing that West Millbury and Sutton bank customers, who at that time accounted for two-thirds of the bank’s depositors, were unable to access the bank’s downtown office without a three-plus mile detour, then-President Dudley Bowker and the bank’s board of trustees hatched a plan.They arranged for a temporary trailer to be erected on land leased from the Boria family at the intersection of Route 146 North and Boria Lane, the back of which abutted the Blackstone River.
The “Millbury Savings Bank West” branch operated out of that trailer the entire time the bridge was under reconstruction — and then some. As Millbury Savings Bank Senior Vice President Bonny M. Dattis, who was hired as a teller in 1982 to staff the trailer, remembers, “It was literally a house trailer, with a little kitchen that held our supplies, the living area that housed two makeshift teller windows, and a portable vault for the cash.”
When the bridge reopened in December 1983, customers weren’t so eager to give up the convenience of that branch. The bank purchased the four-acre parcel of land beneath “West” from the Boria family, with the intention of erecting a two-story building to house not only the bank’s branch, but a medical facility and related office space. When the medical-related company backed out, the bank scrapped plans for the two-story building, instead securing a modular structure — which was shipped in five pieces on a flatbed from Clearwater, Florida, and assembled on-site — to accommodate the branch.
The branch remained at that location until 2012. Recognizing the impact of technology on banking and the need to grow its customer base outside of Millbury and Sutton, coupled with the branch’s close proximity to the newly renovated main office, the bank built a new branch and relocated the “West” staff further north into Worcester.
*According to Images of America: Millbury by Chris Sinacola, though also known as the McGowan Bridge, historic documents reflect that the bridge was originally named for Benjamin Gowing, a local man who sailed to Nova Scotia in 1755 and helped British troops take the province from the French. The bridge was replaced and renamed the McGowan Bridge in 1895, but common belief is that the new name was amisuse of the Gowing name. In 1983, when the bridge was replaced again, town selectmen voted to return the bridge’s name to Gowing.