Dayton State Bank

The Salish and Kootenai tribes reserved the land within the Flathead Reservation for their exclusive use in the 1855 Hellgate Treaty. Nevertheless, in 1910, Congress authorized the opening of the reservation to homesteaders. With the influx of thousands of farm families, towns like Dayton, founded in the 1890s, boomed. Among Dayton's new businesses was the Dayton Banking Company, which opened in 1910 “with assets of $100,000.” Two years later, bank President Clifford Harris and his associates reorganized the bank—which originally operated out of the Dayton Mercantile—as the Dayton State Bank. In 1913, they authorized construction of a dedicated building, hiring a contractor named Nelson for the project. Completed in October, the bank’s new home was, according to the local newspaper, “one of the ‘swellest’ institutions in the Northwest.” It featured Egyptian Revival style detailing, including a smooth exterior finish, tapered walls, and monumental columns supporting a heavy entablature (the horizontal band that topped the columns). Designed to evoke the entrance of an ancient temple, the bank looked like it would last the ages. The choice of the Egyptian Revival style, along with the bank’s thick concrete walls, was meant to assure customers that their money was safe from theft and bank failure. Initially, the bank upheld the implicit promise of its architecture. Although half of Montana’s banks failed in the agricultural depression of the 1920s, the Dayton State Bank survived into the 1930s. It closed in 1933, just months after Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which protected bank customers’ deposits against loss.

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399 C St., Dayton, MT ~ private