When one of downtown Columbus' biggest banks wanted to open a Worthington branch, it aimed for a big impression.
In 1963, City National Bank opened a 12,000-square-foot banking center at the corner of Broadmeadows Boulevard and High Street, just south of Worthington's city limits.
And unlike many of today's nondescript suburban bank branches, this building intended to charm the locals. Its showpiece decoration, a huge, 40-foot-long mural, depicted important moments in early Worthington history.
Today, both the mural and the bank remain linked to Worthington. The history mural now fills two walls in the popular collections area of Old Worthington Library, 820 High St. It was moved there in 1997 after the bank branch closed.
As for the bank, its roots can be traced all the way back to Francis Sessions – the son-in-law of Worthington entrepreneur Orange Johnson – who founded what, through mergers, would eventually become City National Bank, then Bank One Columbus.
The mural consists of three panels.
The largest, which was the central image when originally installed, imagines the 1803 arrival of James Kilbourne and a crew of eight men as they spent their first days preparing the land for the settlers who would arrive later that year.
Two smaller panels describe President James Monroe's 1817 visit to Worthington and an imaginary view of downtown Worthington in 1842.
Louis P. Szanto and Andrew B. Karoly, two Hungarian artists from New York, painted the mural. During the 1950s and early '60s, they worked extensively in Cleveland, painting more than 30 murals for local businesses.
City National Bank's murals present a romanticized picture of Worthington's past and appealed to "traditional values" at a time when Worthington was facing rapid change.
Since the late 1950s, the city had been fighting off proposals to run a Columbus outerbelt just south of town and there was talk of turning the rural Olentangy River valley into a huge freeway.
Development of 1,000 new home sites on 300 acres began in 1962 as farm fields were bulldozed for the Worthington Estates housing development.
The Worthington Historical Society purchased the Orange Johnson House in 1963 as a restoration project but, a year later, preservation efforts would fail to prevent the demolition of the Griswold Tavern, a significant landmark on the Village Green.
In the early 1960s, Worthington, like much of the country, was infatuated with all things colonial. By 1963, colonial style had come to represent a pleasant mishmash of traditional architectural features from the 18th and early 19th centuries.
And the bank certainly played up its "traditional colonial" style.
The huge murals were a big attraction. At the grand-opening event in March 1963, 2,500 people attended – nearly 30 percent of Worthington's population.
The event was billed as "Old Fashioned Friendliness in a modern-day bank." Hostesses greeted guests in vaguely antebellum gowns; attendees received a commemorative gift of "specially prepared homemade bread and old-fashioned apple butter."
You can see the history mural in the Old Worthington Library's popular-collections area on the main level. The large panel fills the east wall and the two smaller panels hang on the west wall.
You also can view images of the mural, including one taken at its City National Bank unveiling in 1963, at worthingtonmemory.org.
Jennifer Maier is a library associate for Worthington Libraries.