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Last of Waukegan Savings branches close

Waukegan Savings Bank located 1324 Golf Road  Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

Waukegan Savings Bank located at 1324 Golf Road in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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History of Waukegan Savings

Waukegan Savings had deep roots in the community. Founded in 1924 as the Lithuanian Building & Loan Association of Waukegan, it opened in one room of the Lithuanian Auditorium at 901 Lincoln St. It became the Waukegan Savings & Loan in 1953 when it moved to the corner of 10th and Lincoln streets. Margaret Gupton became the first woman president of a Waukegan financial institution when she was appointed president in 1980, succeeding her father. That same year, the S&L built a new home on Sunset Avenue and Butrick Street. The 10th Street branch closed in 2007.

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Updated: January 9, 2013 6:07AM

Two former Waukegan Savings Bank buildings closed on Friday, marking an end to a business founded in 1924 to serve Lithuanian immigrants on the city’s South Side.

Closure of branches at 1324 Golf Road and 1075 N. Green Bay Road followed in the wake of the bank’s failure, announced Aug. 3, and the takeover of its $167 million in deposits and assets by Itasca-based First Midwest Bankcorp Inc. First Midwest, which does business in locations throughout Waukegan and Lake County.

First Midwest kept the buildings open after the takeover, allowing customers to continue to access their accounts as usual as it worked to convert bank operating systems.

The Golf Road building underwent a $3 million renovation in 2000. The building on Green Bay Road was constructed in 2007. James Roolf, First Midwest senior vice President, said the bank will work with FDIC to sell the buildings.

“We will look to a whole range of organizations that might be in need of a building,” said Roolf, who noted the proximity between existing First Midwest and Waukegan Savings branches. “We’re an industry where more and more technology is being used for banking services. The brick and mortar branch is something that is going to be looked at very closely for level of activity. Åny bank has to balance its customers with an eye to how many use the branches and how many use all the electronic channels available to them.”

First Midwest has invested in the Allpoint ATM network, Roolf said, which allows customers to access their money at no charge at more than 50,000 machines in the U.S. and other countries.

Roolf estimated that Waukegan Savings employed 25 people at both branches. More than half those have transferred to positions with First Midwest, he said.

“The majority of tellers and personal bankers have joined our First Midwest team,” Roolf said. “We’re really happy about that. They’re excited about the opportunity and we need staff to make sure we can take care of our customers.”

Waukegan Savings was the 40th bank in the nation to fail during the recession.

Roolf said banks have struggled with “a tough liquidity situation, a lack of capital, or loans that were not performing,” in addition to spiraling expenses. First Midwest Bankcorp has acquired four other FDIC failed institutions over the last three years. The others include Peotone Bank and Trust, Palos Bank and Trust, First DuPage Bank in Westmont and the former Integra/Old National Bank of Evansville, which had branches in the Joliet area.

“We have significant capital, we’re a strong company, we provide an array of financial products and we also have a high level of service,” Roolf said.

Waukegan will also weigh in on the prospects for the two empty buildings, which will be added to the city’s list of available properties, according to spokesman David Motley.

“We will do everything in our power to work with property owners to help identify tenants who would be appropriate for those locations,” Motley said.

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