The ornate Italianate building gracing the square at Washington and North Main streets in Washington, IL has a history as rich as its architecture. Washington native Charles Anthony and German immigrant Henry Denhart built the brick-and-stone structure in 1874 after having co-owned a neighboring dry goods store in the previous decade. Their former business was a meeting spot for a pre-presidential Abraham Lincoln and other politicians. Denhart and Anthony had purchased the store from Richard D. Smith after he was appointed town postmaster by Lincoln.
The Banking Years
The dry goods store was transformed into a bank when one customer after another began requesting to have their savings stored in the safe. When the collective deposits reached the sum of $10,000, the young entrepreneurs realized it was time to switch gears. The Anthony and Denhart Banking Company soon filled a growing need to supply returning Civil War soldiers with loans and a place to store their money. Spurred by the bank’s growth, the partners constructed the building that now houses the Cornerstone Inn.
In the coming decades, the bank expanded into surrounding counties and began specializing in farm loans under Clifford Mason Anthony and Dr. R.B.M. Wilson at the Chatsworth, IL branch. Meanwhile, Charles Anthony and Henry Denhart began investing in cattle and other commodities around the country. Their travels became the subject of newspaper stories locally and in Chicago. Twenty years after their partnership began, however, it dissolved amicably. Anthony and his brother Clifford carried on under the name Peoria Safe Deposit Company, while Denhart and new partners Frank Hops and Frank Kingsbury made the original bank even more successful. The booming business was incorporated as Henry Denhart and Company.
The Great Depression
Regional expansion characterized the bank’s most recent incarnation, but the Great Depression soon brought on its demise. An extreme cash shortage was caused by mass withdrawals as funds became unavailable due to countless real estate mortgages. Auditors’ reports resulted in the organization closing its doors. The event led to Denhart and his partners’ ruin, and the bank ended up in the hands of Rae Heiple, the state receiver who had earlier demanded its closure.
The building remained vacant from 1937 to 1948, when Heiple reopened it as Washington State Bank. This version of the bank later relocated to its current site to the west of the square. Several businesses moved in over time, including a barbershop, numerous bars, and a German restaurant called the Rathskeller. Although its beauty was still evident, the building needed a facelift. In 2004, we began the painstaking process of restoring the structure to its original 19th century Italianate glory. A year later, the U.S. Department of Interior granted it a place on the Federal Register of Historic places for its historic and architectural relevance. We at the Cornerstone Inn are proud to occupy a spot in this historically rich edifice.