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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

AMERITRUST - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

AMERITRUST, the largest bank in the midwest at one time, was established in 1894 as the Cleveland Trust Co. with $500,000 capital and John G. W. Cowles as its first president. In 1903 Cleveland Trust merged with the Western Reserve Trust Co., and kept their offices open as branches. At that time, Calvary Morris succeeded Cowles. Having outgrown a series of rented offices by 1905, the bank built a new headquarters bldg. at E. 9th and Euclid, which opened in 1908. During the presidency of FREDERICK GOFF† (1908-23), Cleveland Trust expanded, acquiring banks such as the Detroit St. Bank, the Garfield Savings Bank, and Lake Shore Banking & Trust. By 1924 Cleveland Trust became the 6th largest bank in the country and Harris Creech was its new president. The bank survived the Depression well, and after GEO. GUND† succeeded him as president in 1941, it continued to grow in wealth and influence, reaching $1 billion in assets by 1945.

In the 1960s, Cleveland Trust saturated the county market with branches and acquired mortgage banking and realty companies out of state. Gund moved up to board chairman in 1962, succeeded by Geo. Karch as president, who served for 10 years. By 1977 Cleveland Trust had 120 branches, $5 billion in assets, and wielded significant financial power through its Trust Department, which managed $7 billion in trust funds for its clients. Under Karch's successor, Pres. M. Brock Weir, the bank formed CleveTrust as a holding company in the early 1970s to establish affiliates throughout the state, something that individual banks could not do. CleveTrust changed its name to the AmeriTrust Corp. in 1979 to reflect these new horizons, and an exchange of its state charter for a national one in 1983 permitted AmeriTrust to expand outside the state as well. The bank and its chairman were the public targets of Mayor Dennis Kucinich's wrath in 1978 when Cleveland was forced to DEFAULT on the payment of $14 million in short-term notes.

Under Pres. Jerry Jarrett, who succeeded Weir in 1983, AmeriTrust expanded its operations into Indiana, Texas, and Colorado. However, in the competitive atmosphere of the 1980s, AmeriTrust fell behind Banc One Corp., NATIONAL CITY CORP., SOCIETY CORP., and Huntington Bancshares--Ohio's top four bank holding companies in terms of assets. The collapse of the real estate market in the late 1980s substantially weakened AmeriTrust, which was burdened by too many high-risk real estate loans. Although the bank had increased its assets to $11 billion, it was struggling to survive when Craig Smith replaced Jarrett as president in 1990. After considering merger proposals from Natl. City, Banc One, and Society Corp., AmeriTrust accepted Society's bid on 13 Sept. 1991, consolidating two of the major banking establishments in the area.

Gwynne, S. C. Selling Money (1986).

Cleveland Trust Co. , Annual Reports (WRHS).

Cleveland Trust Co. A Quarter of a Century of Banking Service, 1920 (WRHS).

Cleveland Trust. Frederick Harris Goff, Brief Sketch of His Life and Memorial, Meeting held by the Board of Directors, 1924 (WRHS).

Cleveland Trust. Cleveland Trust, the Epitome of the Past, a Chronicle of the Present, a Promise of the Future, 1908 (WRHS).

Ameritrust Records, WRHS.

Last Modified: 26 Mar 2014 03:34:33 PM

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