Where Community is More than a Name

 We’ve tried to preserve our community history while offering modern banking services.  Will Cook

By Kathleen Swift

If you drive around the south side of the square in Neosho, Missouri, you can’t miss First Community Bank. The imposing white granite façade gives the aura of something safe and solid. And so it is. The building has been the home of several financial institutions since it was built in September 1905. After undergoing an extensive remodel, it now serves as a branch of First Community Bank 

Will Cook, community president, explained the research that went into remodeling and preserving the building. “We wanted a modern bank within a traditional structure. Our marketing director, Laura Cornett, and our CEO, Dale Cole, who has a passion for restoring historical structures, along with our architects, came up with our motifs. When we took a first look at the building, we noticed that the second floor was much like it was in the 1940s with wide wooden trim and transoms above the office doors. We kept that look in the remodeled downstairs. We included a tin ceiling, marble floors and decorative transoms above doors.

“The historic photos used around the building were provided by Larry James, a local historian. Printed in a sepia tone, we chose photos from various important parts of Neosho history. We have one office that is themed with photos from the days when Rocketdyne was here. Other areas feature the National Fish Hatchery, the downtown square, the Kansas City Southern railroad, and farming and agriculture. The community room features Camp Crowder.”

As a complement to the historic theme, the bank commissioned a mural by Neosho artist Jeffery Jones that can be seen behind the teller area. Cook said, “The mural illustrates pieces of the Neosho community from the Big Spring Inn to Crowder College to Herman Jaeger, who saved the French wine industry with root stocks of wild Missouri grapes. We have also commissioned a second mural for our conference room, which will feature the old yellow Welcome to Neosho sign that once stood at the corner of Neosho Boulevard and Highway 60 south of town, among other icons of the community.”

Another nod to the past is found over the door of the bank. In times past, it was traditional to carve the name of the bank into the stone. The building was originally built as First National Bank, but now a new panel, carved with the name First Community Bank, has been installed over the original.  

“We’ve tried to preserve our community history while offering modern banking services,” said Cook. “Community is part of our name, and for us, community comes first. Our employees are involved in the community, and as a bank, we are active in the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce. Employees serve on area city, county and local school boards in Newton County and McDonald County. We donate to many local causes, including the new veterans’ memorial sponsored by the Exchange Club and the new Joplin Medical School, to name a few.”

Cook noted, “We’ve been able to give new life to this building at 111 East Main Street. It’s a beautiful building, and we think it has added something to the community we serve.”