First National Bank/ Majestic Theater/ ANCO

The First National Bank of Florence

202 North Court Street

The First National Bank was the leading financial institution in the Shoals area for many years and was one of the few Alabama banks to remain open throughout the bleak years of the Great Depression.

The Bank's Early Years

Founded in 1889 during an economic boom in Florence by a group of sixteen investors, including former Alabama Governor Edward O'Neal, the First National Bank was first located in the Bliss Block at the intersection of Court and Tennessee Streets. The bank prospered and between 1919 and 1920, its directors built an impressive Neoclassical Revival building on the corner of North Court and Mobile Streets.


The architecture of the new building boasted a symmetrical façade and a two-story, recessed portico supported by Doric columns and pilasters. A wide, mostly unadorned frieze separated the second and third stories. Long bands of windows spanned the third story, some of which are still visible along East Mobile Street, and a decorative crest sat centered atop the roofline. No doubt this building was viewed by residents of Florence as both highly-styled and colossal at the time in which it was built, symbolizing the Bank’s role as a pillar within the community and its prominent position within the downtown business core. The Bank’s interior spaces were no less impressive. Tall ceilings that opened to a second floor mezzanine and a marble lobby contributed to the building’s grandiose presence.

The Modern Era

By 1958, the Bank had opened two branch offices in the Florence area and had again outgrown their Main Office building. Following a fire that destroyed the adjacent Majestic Theater in 1951, the Bank purchased the lot and made plans for a physical expansion to their existing home on North Court Street. In 1958, work on the expansion began, and by 1960, the Bank’s new façade boasted a thoroughly Modern style. Large sandstone tiles and sleek metal columns replaced and in part encased the 1920’s limestone building. In an era of Urban Renewal efforts and architectural styles that rejected traditional and historical precedents in favor of new, progressive designs, the Bank’s new façade reflected a hoped for future of innovation and continued growth.


In 1981, The Bank’s financial growth necessitated one more physical move, and the Main Office moved to a new location in the 200 blocks of South Court Street. The First National Bank of Florence was purchased by and merged with Suntrust Bank in 1995, the bank whose moniker adorns the multi-story office building on South Court Street today.


The Bank maintained a branch office at 202 North Court Street until 1985 by which point they had opened several other branch offices strategically placed around the area and closed that branch. The building at the intersection of North Court and Mobile Streets was then purchased by ANCO Management Company and remains their office building today. 

The Majestic Theater

204 North Court Street

The Majestic Theater served to entertain Florence residents for roughly half a century. It was part of a chain of local theaters in the Shoals area managed by Louis Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum would eventually own the Florence theater.

The Majestic’s first location was at 105 North Court Street and opened c. 1900. Its second and arguably most memorable location was a block away at 204 North Court Street. A newly constructed Majestic Theater opened its doors to Florence residents on Saturday, August 30, 1919. It sat four-hundred patrons, and admission started at ten cents. The Majestic was known for showing “moving pictures,” including such diverse titles as Girls, Girls (1920), a “screen comedy featuring the famous bathing beauties,” and Soldiers of Fortune (1919), a silent film based on a novel of the same name about the Spanish-American War.


Architecture

The Majestic Theater was built in the Art Deco style, a popular choice for theaters at the time, and was two-stories high, featuring a flat roof with parapet wall and a decorative geometric design in low-relief across the second story. The first story entrance had a ticket box and welcomed visitors beneath a neon sign that simply read “Majestic.”


Legacy

Lifelong Florence residents remember trips to the Majestic fondly. Ethel Schmidlkofer recalls:


"My granddaddy every Christmas and every Thanksgiving, now mind you, he had twenty- seven grandchildren, but he was the biggest kid of all of us, after we had the big meal and all, he would line us up, two-by-two and he would take us up the alley and around to the Majestic Theatre which was on Court Street, up there by the bank. And it was two features and about six cartoons, and so that’s where we all went. And it, I mean, it was just this little troupe of kids following my granddaddy. And he would already have the dimes all counted out, he didn’t give dollars or anything. He had all the dimes. And that was every Christmas and every Thanksgiving for as long as they were alive."


Carroll Crouch remembers seeing “every picture show in Florence in the 1930s.” He says, “The Majestic Theater was always cowboy movies and had serial pictures, you know, that come in to be continued, you know, each week.”


According to Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and the Tri-Cities Directories from the 1930s, a small retail space sat adjacent to the Majestic at 206 North Court Street. In 1935, that space was occupied by Mike’s Café, and by 1948, the business name had changed to the Majestic Ice Cream Parlor but was continually run by the same owner.


The last night the Majestic opened to the public was June 9, 1951. Sadly, a fire destroyed much of the Majestic’s interior, and the theater was razed soon after. The neighboring First National Bank of Florence acquired the lot at some point in the 1950s and expanded into its space between 1958 and 1960. The former Majestic Ice Cream Parlor closed around the same time as the theater, and its space occupied by Crump Camera Shop by 1954. The camera shop remained there until the Bank’s expansion began in 1958.