Old Farmers National Bank
The Farmers National Bank, located at 100 South Main at the
intersection of Main and Broadway in downtown Stafford, Kansas, is a two-story
brick building with limestone trim and a partially finished basement. Charles E. Shepard of Shepard &
Farrar of the Kansas City, Missouri, architectural firm, designed the Farmers
Bank building, and Lew Dellinger was the contractor. The purple-tinged red brick exterior
of the building is laid in running bond with flush mortar joints. In an article
in the Stafford Courier of April 20, 1905, the brickwork on the bank's
front elevation is described:
The brick selected for the front of this building is of peculiar
It is dark in color, a sort of purpleish-black (sic) and of very
rough finish. Viewed individually these brick (sic) have a most uncouth
appearance but will no doubt work up into a handsome wall. They
are very hard and will give a wall a massive, imposing cast.
The west, front elevation facing Main Street retains its original brick
surface (Plate 1). Dominating the front elevation is an Ionic distyle-in-antis
entrance portico. The brick pilasters that form the corners of the elevation
have tall limestone bases upon which also sit the Ionic columns. The Ionic
columns support a wooden Ionic entablature. Sitting on top of the entablature is
a wooden balustrade between brick piers with limestone corners. Originally, the
entrance was reached by three broad limestone steps, now replaced by one step.
The entrance door and the surrounding windows are not original, although the
present day configuration of glass doors surrounded by windows is original to
the building. Above the entrance was originally an awning of two colors that
could be unfurled to protect the entrance from the glaring western sun. Above
the awning was a large sign bearing the inscription "Farmers National Bank.“ Today a much smaller sign reads "Stafford County Museum.“ The second floor was defined by three windows, a
broader central window flanked by narrower windows. They share the same
limestone sill and terminate at the bottom of the Ionic entablature. Today the
canvas awning is gone, replaced by a flat aluminum awning. The three second
story window openings have lost their original fenestration and now have
louvered windows. The roof is flat and is a modern replacement, consisting of
bitumen and asphalt laid on a polyester sheet (Plates 1 & 2).
The north, side elevation of the bank consists of a limestone water
table, six courses of brick followed by a continuous limestone string course
that serves as a sill for the first-floor fenestration. The twelve-bay first
floor, consisting of eleven windows and a door, is divided into six units by
seven brick pilasters. Although the window openings and door are original, their
fenestration is not original. The second floor has twelve bays divided by seven
brick pilasters. Like the first floor, the window openings are original and
retain their original limestone sills, but the fenestration is not original. The
windows terminate at the bottom of the Ionic entablature and above is a brick
parapet (Plate 3).
In ca. 1906 a small brick addition was erected at the rear of the
building, with its front elevation facing east onto Broadway and not quite as
tall as the bank building. This addition housed the Larabee's
company. The red brick exterior is laid in running bond. The original first
floor consisted of a wooden door flanked by two sets of tall plate glass store
front windows and on top of them sat another set of windows. On the second floor
were two tall two-over-two windows. Above the second floor is a diaper-patterned
corbel course and a flat roof (Plate 4). Today, the first floor has two large
plate-glass windows flanking a glass entrance door. Above is an aluminum sheet
running the width of the building and separating the first from the second
floors. The second floor consists of two original window openings with modern
fenestration sitting on their original limestone sills (Plate 3).
The east, rear elevation of the telephone building, which replaced the
rear wall of the bank, consists of orange common brick laid in running bond with
flush mortar joints. The elevation has only one opening, a door located on the
second floor with a small balcony and a metal fire escape ladder to the ground
(Plate 5). The door opening is original, but the door is not original to the
The south, side elevation of the telephone building also has orange
common brick laid in running bond with flush mortar joints. The elevation shares
a party wall on the first floor with the brick building to the south. The second
floor is defined by two original segmental window openings with their original
limestone sills and modern fenestration. At the southwest corner of the second
floor the Ionic entablature on the front elevation turns the corner and stops
next to a metal cage protecting the bank's
alarm (Plate 6).
The bank interiors and those of the telephone building have been severely
altered. Modern double glass doors open onto a small narrow vestibule. To the
right is a single glass door into the Stafford County Historical & Genealogical
Society & Museum that has occupied the Farmers National Bank since 1979. All
that remains of the bank's first floor interiors are the two large, massive
safes, standing side by side, by the Moser Safe Company of Hamilton, Ohio. Each
safe door had a swan's
neck pediments that are now gone.
No expense was spared on the bank's public spaces and, in particular,
its lobby. The original entrance consisted of wooden double doors flanked by
windows with the same wooden frames as the doors (Plate 2). Once through the
double doors you were in the bank lobby with a fine tile floor composed of small
irregular tiles framed by a geometric tile border, now covered by a carpet.
Straight ahead were the curving tellers' cages and behind them the two bank
vaults with their swan's neck pediments visible above the tellers' cages.
Lining the north side of the lobby are windows still in place today and below
them was a series of wooden benches with brass spittoons on the floor. In the
northeast corner of the lobby was an entrance leading to offices defined by two
distyle-in- antis, wooden, unfluted Ionic columns, supporting a wooden lintel.
Above is the wooden beamed ceiling that is now covered by a lower, false ceiling
A November 2, 1905 article in the Stafford Courier, nine
days before the opening of the new Farmers National Bank, captures the
resplendent character of the bank's
The bank room when finished will be a model of beauty and its
appointments artistic to the point of magnificence. The walls are
finished in gold. The ceiling is intersected by giant beams enclosed
with hard wood highly polished and the spaces between studded
with electric bulbs. In general effect it is massive, solid, splendid.
The entire building is a model of modern architecture and is complete in every detail's
team heated, electrically lighted and has a water and sewerage system.
Judging from contemporary photographs, there were at least two offices in
the northeast area of the lobby for the bank's
owners Joseph, Fred and Frank
Larabee. We have a glimpse of the front office in a contemporary photograph
taken just before the telephone building was added to the rear of the bank
building in ca. 1906. The photograph shows Frank, the Bank Cashier, seated at an
enormous roll top desk, the preferred desk type for bankers of this period. The
desk faces north with a window to the right of the desk. On the bank√•s south,
rear wall is a vault and a window (Plate 8).
second floor had five offices that were rented to dentists,
doctors and other professionals. On the windows above the bank's entrance were
painted "Dr. Newell/Dentist and Doctor Webb/Office" (Plate 2). These five
offices were reached by an exterior door located near the northeast corner of
the bank leading to a staircase that provided access to the second floor offices
without entering the bank. Today, the original five offices house displays of
the Stafford County Historical Museum.
The building at the rear of the bank housed the Larabee's telephone
company. On the first floor were the telephone offices and on the second floor
were the telephone operators (Plate 9). The door on the north, side elevation of
the bank then a now provides access to the second floors of the bank and the
telephone building. Today, the first and second floors of the telephone building
are rented to local businesses.
The Farmers National Bank building is located on the West
Thirty (30) feet of the East Fifty (50) feet of Lots One (1) and Three (3) and
the West One Hundred (100) feet of Lot One (1) and the North Seven (7) feet of
the West One Hundred (100) feet of Lot Three (3) less the south Eighteen (18)
feet of the West Thirty (30) feet of the East Fifty (50) feet of Lot Three (3),
Block Twenty-One (21), Maxwel's
Addition to the Town (Now City) of Stafford,
Stafford County, Kansas, Corporation Deed (General Warranty), #2312, November
There are two extant copies of the blue prints of the
Farmers National Bank in the possession of the Farms National Bank. On the blue
print sheet entitled "Detail of Iron Work in the Farmers National Bank,
Stafford, Kansas“ is printed in the lower right hand corner "Shepard Farrar
Archts., Kansas City, Mo“ The other blue print is a longitudinal section of
the second floor and the south elevation.
Stafford Courier, 20 April 1905, p. 1.
Stafford Courier, 2 November 1905, p. 8.
Farmers National Bank is being nominated to the National Register of
Historic Places under Criterion B because of the significant economic
contributions that Joseph D. Larabee and his family made to Stafford, Kansas.
The Farmers National Bank also is being nominated under Criterion C. The
selection of an architect, and somebody of the stature of Charles E. Shepard, a
foremost Midwestern architect, is an unusual choice in a small Kansas prairie
town during the first decade of the twentieth century.
Stafford is located in Stafford County in west central Kansas in the
fifth tier of counties lying south of the Nebraska border and in the sixth tier
of counties lying east of the Colorado border.
Although Stafford is the largest town in the county, it is not the county
seat. That honor goes to St. John, located a few miles to the northwest. Like so
many Kansas counties, the town and county as well were named for a Union soldier
in this instance Captain Lewis Stafford (ca. 1833-1863). Captain Stafford was a
Vermont native who settled in Grasshopper Falls, now Valley Falls, Kansas, and
was killed in 1863 at the battle of Young's Point, Louisiana.
With the mandatory three-hundred residents, Stafford was incorporated as
a third class town on September 10, 1885. Agriculture has always been the
main source of revenue. The sandy soil provides ideal growing conditions for such crops as corn, broom corn, cotton, flax, millet,
sorghum and winter wheat. Stafford was a major grain depot for the county with
grain elevators, one at the north and the other at the south end of town. In
1887 two railroads came to Stafford: the Chicago, Kansas and Western, which ten
years later became the the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, and the Denver,
Memphis and Atlantic, which became the Missouri Pacific. Their depots were
located at either end of Union Street, the Santa Fe at the north end and the
Missouri Pacific depot at the south end of the street.
From 1930 through the 1950's the oil industry was a major economic
factor in Stafford's economy. On April 10, 1930, oil was discovered in the
Richardson Field, followed rapidly by another well in the Zenith Field. During
the heyday of the county's
oil production, there were as many as eighteen oil
companies pumping crude oil out of the ground. Although oil is still being
pumped from Richardson #1, today there is little active drilling in Stafford
Agriculture remains the primary
source of income, but it too is no longer the economic giant it once was.
Stafford has lost one of its two grain elevators and one of its railroad lines,
along with both depots. The Missouri Pacific depot was demolished in 1984 and
its brick was used for planters lining Main Street. The handsome Santa Fe depot
still stands, but is windows and doors are boarded shut. Today, the city's
major employers are schools, rest homes, a hospital and an alfalfa processing
plant. The county's
population has steadily dwindled from a high of 9,824 in 1900 to an estimated 4,589
citizens in 2003.
Farmers National Bank
Joseph D. Larabee came to Stafford from upper New York State hoping to
find "a suitable place to start his two sons, just fresh from college into
business. Stafford suited him from the start "he saw a future to this country
and a great opportunity for his two strapping young men to make money if the
would put their shoulders to the wheel.“ Larabee came to Stafford "well
no later than January 28, 1886, looking for a location for a banking house. He purchased a lot located on the
northeast corner of Main and Broadway in the center of Stafford for $500.00. On
this site, now occupied by a two-story brick building housing the library of the
Stafford County Historical & Genealogical Society & Museum, he erected a 24 x 40
feet two-story frame building. With his family settled in Stafford, on May 24,
1886, Larabee opened Farmers National Bank for business, with himself as
President, his oldest son Frank Sheridan Larabee (1864-1921) as Vice President
and his youngest son Frederick Delos Larabee (1868-1920) as Cashier.
The Larabee's bank flourished, and in 1897 they purchased the old First
National Bank then known as the Bank of Stafford, and founded in 1883. They moved across the street
from their two-story frame building into the Bank of Stafford's
two-story brick building on the northwest corner of Main and Broadway (Plate
10). All went well until the early morning hours of February 1, 1905, when a
fire started in the basement of the Farmers Bank, quickly spread to all the
brick and frame buildings on the east side of Main Street. By the early mourning
hours of February 2, Stafford had endured the "second most serious fire in all
its history.“ The
estimated loss for the Farmers Bank was $12,000.00 and the estimated loss for
all the buildings lining Main Street destroyed by the fire was between $35,000
The Farmers Bank immediately opened temporary quarters in the nearby
Cline Building to receive deposits, and Frank S. Larabee told a Stafford
Courier reporter that the bank would rebuild at once.
The foundation of the
Larabee bank building was near completion by April 20, and on
November 11, 1905 the bank was opened to the public, with every lady patron
given a souvenir.
The Larabees took the unusual step for bankers in a small Kansas prairie
town and hired the Kansas City, Missouri, architect Charles E. Shepard
(1868-1932) of Farrar & Shepard to design their new bank building. During the
late nineteenth century, small town banks generally did not have their own
building. Rather, they were located on the ground floor of store fronts,
preferably at the corner, sharing space with shops and other businesses, with
the second floor occupied by lodgings.
Shepard, born in Iowa and educated at the University of Iowa, came to
Kansas City, Missouri, in 1887 during the city's
building boom of the 1880s. He
became a prominent architect with a succession of partners, while remaining the
principal designer. His firms were very versatile, designing in a variety of
buildings types and various revival styles. Shepard also worked in Kansas. One
of his best-known buildings is the Eldridge Hotel (ca. 1925-1928) located on
Massachusetts Avenue, the major thoroughfare of downtown Lawrence, Kansas.
Kansas City, Missouri, was a major
financial and agricultural center for the south central Midwest. Joseph D.
Larabee made frequent business trips to the city as did his two sons, who
eventually settled there to be near their largest grain mill in St. Joseph,
Missouri as well as other mills in the upper Midwest. In all probability, Joseph
and either or both of his sons saw and admired Shepard's
architecture and asked
him to design their new bank building.
The choice of a style for the bank was of utmost importance for it would
define the bank's
character. By the early twentieth century there were two
clear choices: Richardsonian Romanesque or classical, be it Greek, Roman or Renaissance and its variations. Shepard selected a classical style for its integrity and
dignity befitting a financial institution. He designed a Neo-Classical bank
building defined by the Ionic order, which he used sparingly to great advantage.
Two tall, monumental fluted Ionic columns accent the bank's front elevation and
set the character for the bank's
interiors. Then as now the Farmers National
Bank building dominates downtown Stafford (Plate 11).
The bank that Shepard designed for the Larabee family was a standard bank
type of early twentieth-century America. The ideal location for a bank building
was at the intersection of two main streets for greater marketing exposure and
for practicality. The Larabee bank was not only located at the intersection of
two streets, but at the intersection of Stafford's two major streets, Main and
Broadway in the heart of downtown Stafford. A corner location also meant that
the side elevation provided more space for windows and more light to illuminate
lobby and offices (Plate 12). Before the discovery of fluorescent light, an abundance of natural light was essential to
conduct business and create a salubrious business environment. At the
Farmers Bank there were eight windows on the north, side elevation providing
illumination for the bank's
lobby (Plate 3).
By the end of the nineteenth century there were two basic lobby floor
plans, with many variations. One was the island plan, where the tellers and
their cages were grouped in a central block projecting from the back of the
lobby forward into the lobby. In the U-plan, on the other hand, the tellers and
officers were situated along the lobby walls, allowing the public maximum access
to the lobby This plan was
popular with banks located on a corner site, with the side elevation toward the
street, defined by a series of windows. The bank lobby Shepard designed was a
variation of the island plan. The tellers and their cage were located at the
lobby's rear and followed the south, side wall, stopping well before the
entrance. The bank's
north, side elevation had a series of eight windows that
permitted an abundance of light to illuminate the lobby (Plate 7).
The location of the vault with its massive, imposing door, usually open
during banking hours, was dictated by its symbolic value. Almost without
exception in small town banks the vault was located at the rear lobby, aligned
with the entrance. Upon entering the bank the first view the customer had was of
the vault, a symbol of the bank's security and strength. The Farmers Bank
followed this arrangement. Their two vaults, situated side by side, were located
at the lobby's
rear wall and aligned with the entrance. But there was no clear
view of them because they were partially obscured by the teller cages, although
one could see the vaults' swan neck√•s pediments from the entrance (Plate 7).
During this period there were two typical locations for the owners or
directors offices. Usually, they were located in one of the corners next to the
entrance or, in some cases, in a more secluded location at the rear of the
placed the Larabee's
offices at the rear of the lobby in the northeast corner. An unusual feature of
these offices was their openness. There was no office door. Rather, the entrance
consisted of a wide opening flanked by Ionic columns, a reference to the pair of
Ionic defining the bank's front elevation, The
openness of the offices, located between the tellers' cages and the north wall,
beckoned the visitor to the offices (Plate 7).
In 1907 the Larabee's
obtained a charter as a national bank and changed its name to the Farmers
National Bank to reflect its new status. At the death of Joseph in May 1913, his
two sons Frank and Fred ran the bank. When Fred died in April of 1920, Frank
continued to manage the bank. With Frank's
death a year later, the Larabee
estate sold the bank to the present owners in ca. 1921-1922. In 1980, the
Farmers National Bank built a new building and the Stafford County Historical &
Genealogical Society & Museum purchased the bank building.
The Larabee Family is responsible for bringing Stafford into the modern
world. Joseph D. Larabee and his two sons built a financial empire in Kansas and
the surrounding states. With the Farmers National Bank as their base of
operations, they branched out into the milling business. In 1897, Frank and Fred
acquired the defunct Stafford Milling Company and with it forged a mini empire
under the the umbrella of the Larabee Flour Mills Corporation with mills in
Hutchinson, Wellington, Marysville, Kansas, Clinton and St. Joseph, Missouri and
in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In addition to their milling business, the
brothers owned many grain elevators in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri. Four years before his death in 1909, Joseph was one of the
wealthiest owners of farm land in
the state, owning fifty quarter sections of land estimated to be worth $278,000.
Joseph and his two sons were also responsible for introducing modern
conveniences to Stafford, creating the city's first electrical system and
building the first outside telephone system. Stafford's
first manually operated
telephone exchange started in ca. 1896 in the home of Mrs. Worral. This manual
system was replaced in 1900 by an automatic system owned by the
Larabees. Around 1899 the Larabee brothers started building the first outside
plant. In about 1906, they installed their phone company in a building addition
at the rear of their bank. In 1908, they sold their telephone company to the
The Larabee brothers established Stafford's first electric company. In
1899 they installed a generator in their flour mill and ran electric lines to
their homes as well as their father's
for lighting. By 1904 they erected a
plant to provide electricity for Stafford. They operated the plant until 1911
when they sold it to the city of Stafford.
The most enduring cultural legacy the Larabee family gave to the citizens
of Stafford is the Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library. At the death from
tuberculosis of their only daughter Nora in 1904, her father and mother paid for
the erection of a public library in her memory. Not only did Joseph D. and
Angeline O. Larabee pay for the construction of Stafford's
only public library,
their generously included purchasing the library's
furniture, bookcases and
donating six hundred dollars for the acquisition of books. With this donation
the library was able to purchase fifteen hundred volumes to place on the shelves
when the library opened to the public on May 26, 1908.
Through the years the Larabee family continued to support the library.
During the First World War, Frank S. and Frederick D. Larabee gave two thousand
dollars to the library for the purchase of books in memory of their parents
Joseph D. and Angeline O. Larabee IIn 1955
Charles W. and his wife Lila A. Larabee gave funds to construct a balcony to
provide more shelf room for books in memory of Charles's parents Frederick D.
and May W. Larabee.
An article in the Stafford County Republican/i> newspaper of 1906
celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Farmers Bank captures the
generosity and public spirit of the Larabee family.
Would that Stafford were possessed of many more the like of the
Larabees. Their public spirit and generosity in assisting worthy
causes has been a guiding star to many who might other wise (sic)
have been content to dwell within the narrow confines of their own
shells, so to speak, and not done what was in their might to build
up and beautify Stafford.
I want to thank Michael Hathaway, Executive Secretary of
the Stafford County Historical & Genealogical Society for his assistance in
gathering information for this nomination.
Initially the town was called Sod Town. Stafford
County Kansas 1870-1990. (Stafford, Kansas, 1990), p.6.
Stafford County Republican, 29 May 1913, p. 1.
Stafford County Democrat, 28 January 1886, p. 1.
Ibid., 20 May 1886, p. 1.
Stafford County Republican, 24 May 1906, p. 6.
Stafford Courier, 25 October 1978.
Ibid., 2 February 1905, p. 1.
Stafford Courier, 2 February 1905, p.1.
April 1905, p. 1.
IIbid., 9 November 1905, p. 1.
Historic Kansas City News, December 1980-January
1981, pp. 4-5.
Martha Gray Hagedorn, National Register of Historic
Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 10 September 1986./font>
AA prominent exception to these choices was Louis
Sullivan's ahistorical bank buildings in the upper Midwest, erected during the
first two decades of the twentieth century.
Wim De Wit, The Image of Progressive Banking p.
WWim De Witt "The Image of Progressive Banking“ p.
Stafford Courier, 16 June 1921, p. 1.
Stafford County Republican, 14 January 1909, p. 1.
Stafford, Kansas 1885-1985 Crossroads of Time, (no
publisher & no date), p. 8.
Stafford Courier, 16 June 1921, p. 1.
The Story of the Akers Family Biography and
Autobiography [ 1764-1924]. (George W. Akers, n. d.), n. p.
Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library Balcony Dedication, 6
Stafford County Republican, 24 May 1906, p. 6.