What a Difference 175 Years Makes: Cape Ann Savings Bank Celebrates A Big Milestone


It was the year of the first recognized baseball game in America.  It was the year Congress established the Smithsonian Institution. It was the year a dentist first used ether to extract a tooth. And on April 15—in 1845—it was also the day the Cape Ann Savings Bank was founded, at 51 Main Street in Gloucester with 40 depositors and $1,355 in deposits.

That was a long time ago. 175 years to be exact, and the bank has plans to celebrate all year in fun and more serious ways.  On Thursday, for instance, its actual “birthday,” the bank picked up $10 of every customer’s tab at Bischo!, the bustling eatery now operating from the first floor space of the bank’s original home.  For more serious birthday chops, Cape Ann Savings also announced it will make a $175,000 bonus donation to the approximately 100 local community nonprofit organizations it has supported in the last two years.  To be clear, this donation is in addition to the bank’s 2021 giving plans, which are on track to match the $275,000 it donated in 2020.

“175 years ago, Cape Ann Savings Bank was founded by community leaders to provide a safe place for the hard-earned income of their neighbors. Since that day— through war, depression, natural disaster, and pandemics—we have remained steadfastly committed to helping our neighbors build prosperous communities,” said CASB President Robert “Bob” Gillis, Jr.

Cape Ann Savings Bank is a true local bank.  It has remained a mutual savings bank, which means it’s owned by depositors and not stockholders.  There are 19 Trustees, including Gillis and his announced successor Marianne Smith (and Bucky Rogers, former president), and 149 Members of the corporation.  That unique structure ensures an independence, and community orientation that offered a unique path for the bank to grow. 

And grow it has.  In 1868 the bank needed more space and moved to 109 Main Street.  By 1876 it had grown to 4,019 customers and just over $1.1 million in deposits.  In 1996, as it celebrated its 150th Anniversary, there were 30,000 depositors and almost $208 million in deposits.  And as at year’s end in 2020, Cape Ann Savings had over $579 million in deposits, with $774 million in total assets and retail banking locations in Gloucester (including a student run bank location at Gloucester High School), Manchester and Rockport.

“Cape Ann is more than the place we do business,” said Gillis.  “Cape Ann is our home.”

Coincidence or not, 2021 started off with new strides.  In January, the bank announced it would soon open its newest branch at School House Road off Blackburn Circle in Gloucester.  The project is expected to be complete in early 2022 and, when it’s completed, it will be neighbors with Halyard Apartments and the new Glen T. MacLeod YMCA.  It also announced that month that Gillis will be retiring this summer, and will be succeeded by Marianne Smith, the bank's Chief Financial Officer.  Smith is the first female president in the bank’s history, and she is among a current pioneering wave of female bank presidents in the US.

Due to COVID, the bank cannot plan in person events (“which we would have loved to do,” said Jennifer Orlando, the bank’s VP/Marketing Officer.)  But the team there has plans to commemorate the anniversary all year long, fun initiatives tied to local businesses (like the Bishco promotion). 

Also planned is a project with the Cape Ann Museum on a historic archive project of early documents from Cape Ann Savings 19th Century operations.

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