620 Davis Avenue and Its Rich History
The former Iowa State Savings Bank building at 620 Davis Avenue is one of the most eye-catching buildings downtown. Partly for its standout light colored brick, but also for its arches and large windows. This handsome structure has a very colorful history.
Although A.F. Oakley ran Corning State Savings Bank in 1892 at another location, he teamed up with his brother-in-law C.H. Vernon to build a new bank on property owned by Mr. Vernon. On April 19, 1900, the brand new Okey-Vernon Bank opened for business at 620 Davis Avenue boasting two fireproof vaults, one for money and the other for safety deposit boxes. Presumably, it was business as usual until 1915 when there was a two day “run” on the bank probably triggered by a rumor. $30,000 was withdrawn on a Friday and another $10,000 on Monday as people stood in line loudly demanding their money. To assure the public and the bank investors, $100,000 was brought in by special train from Omaha (it was the fastest way to travel then) and ultimately $175,000 in bills and gold were piled on the back counters as visible proof that the bank was solvent. The bank survived the “run” in good shape and in the next year moved to a new location on Davis Avenue.
On May 13, 1916 O. T. Hutchison and his son Hayden, always known as Hayde, moved their harness shop from next door into the remodeled former bank. It now sported an addition to the east housing a large skylight and a big oil tank made of concrete. The tank was handy for treating the tack required in the horse-and-buggy days. The older part of the building was used to display their goods. Dolores Parcher remembers having her good brown shoes dyed black at Hutchison’s in 1927 when she was in the seventh grade. They lasted her through the six years she was in band.
According to an August 9,1961 article from The Des Moines Tribune, Vernon Ashenfelter apprenticed to Hayde at age 19 in 1922 and bought the business from him in 1945. The need for harness sales and repair had gradually slacked off with the changing times, but Vern retained show harness repair and saddlery as he diversified the business into shoe sales and repair, sporting goods, and hand-crafted jewelry. This odd mix came about from Vern’s hobbies of rock collecting and polishing and his marksmanship with firearms and archery. A shooting range in the basement allowed the potential buyer to try out the weapon right on site!
Vern’s son Richard (Dick) started part time work at the harness shop while in fifth grade; partly sorting harnesses, but also sweeping out the shop and washing the windows. By 1944 he was working full time in the shop. Vern passed away in 1966 and Dick purchased the business from his mother Bernice and renamed it Ashenfelter Repair Store, even though shoe sales remained a big part of the business. His wife Betty worked side by side with him repairing clothing, tarps, awnings and so many flags that she got the nickname “Betsy Ross of Corning”. According to his daughter Janet (Ashenfelter) Buzzard, the motto of the shop was “We mend the rips, patch the holes, build up the heels and save the soles”.
In 1989 the building came full circle as Dan Dunlap of First National Bank-Lenox restored it back to its original glory. The stamped metal ceiling was polished, the brick walls exposed, and the wood floors waxed to a shine. An attractive modern vault was installed in plain view behind the teller cages that looked like something right out of the Wild West. However, no gun slinging was allowed in the open dirt floored basement original from the earliest days. The old oil tank/harness production area got converted into offices.
In 2020, this branch of Iowa State Savings Bank (who had taken it over from First National Bank) closed. This jewel of a building now sits empty. Soon, there will be activity bustling from inside the walls of this magnificent building. A local company, Balance4ward headquartered out of Nodaway, will be the next owner. With so much potential, the next chapter of this building is on the horizon.
Main Street Public Relations Committee
Main Street Corning Director