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Oldest commercial building
in Montgomery County gets upgrades
By Sondra Hernandez, Staff writer

Photo: Gustavo Huerta, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
The Conroe State Bank building recently got a facelift from new owner attorney Tay Bond. The historic location is on a Walking Tour of the downtown Conroe area.

Conroe attorney E. Tay Bond considers himself a steward of the property at 200 W. Davis more than the owner.

The old brick bank building at the corner of Main and Davis streets is one of downtown Conroe’s most recognizable buildings because of its unique windows and architecture.


According to Montgomery County Historical Commission Chairman Larry Foerster, this building is believed to be the oldest commercial property in the county having survived the large 1911 fire in downtown Conroe.


After purchasing the building nearly a year ago, Bond is making some upgrades to the building that will make it a focal point when people visit the downtown square.


Most noticeable to the public, the outside has been transformed from all tan to gray with highlights to the curved windows.


“The design emphasizes the architectural detail and masonry work which is pretty spectacular considering when that work was done,” Bond said. “When it was all one color, those details got lost.”

The building was constructed for Banks Griffith and his partner DC Tharp in the early 1900s. However, historians have been unable to pinpoint an exact year of its construction.


Griffith, who lived from 1858 to 1933, was a sawmill owner, banker and legendary turkey hunter, according to a passage in the 1981 Montgomery County History Book by his relative Virginia Griffith Hogue.


"He was a man greatly respected," Hogue wrote. "But he is remembered with delight for his many amusing eccentricities."

Tharp was involved in the sawmill industry and lived in Conroe. Forester surmises that Tharp must have been a stellar citizen of Conroe as the May 1896 Courier article promoted him for political office.

The two men operated the bank as an unchartered bank at least as far back as 1898 according to the advertisement in the Willis Index.


Foerster suspects the building was constructed after the 1901 fire on the east  of Conroe’s railroad tracks. At the time, Conroe’s business center was located on the east side of the railroad tracks along Avenue A, the site of Isaac Conroe’s home and where The Courier building sits today.


After the first big fire, businesses relocated west of the tracks on a plat of land named the Ayers Addition after J.K. Ayers.

According to Foerster, the unchartered bank went from being Banks, Griffith and Son bank to a new bank when in 1911 Banks Griffith and his son opened a new financial house on Simonton at Pacific, called First State Bank of Conroe in May 1911.


Griffith sold his old brick bank building at Davis and Chambers (Main) to Judge W. N. Foster who had build his building two lots west in 1910.


Foster in turn sold the building to the newly chartered Conroe State Bank in 1914 when John Wahrenberger was the president.

A.W. Woodson, grandfather to community leader Lucinda Owen, was brought from Ore City, Texas to assist in the organization and management of Conroe State Bank.


Woodson was born in Montgomery and had many good friends in the area who welcomed his return. He went on to be a leader in the community in a number of ways.


In an interview in 2018, Owen said she remembers when she was a girl, she’d sit in the open windows of the old bank building to watch the political rallies that took place on the courthouse lawn.

The capital of Conroe State Bank was approximately $25,000 with 30 stockholders.


In 1925, Conroe State Bank was chartered as a national bank and First National Bank operated in that building for the next 36 years, according to Foerster.


In December 1951, First National Bank moved to its new location at Davis and Thompson.


The old bank building was used for a loan office and then purchased by the late Grady James around 1990. He renovated it then to use as his law firm.


James passed away in 2018 and then the building was sold to Bond.


Bond’s goal is to “bring it up to where when people come to downtown Conroe, they’ll remember seeing that building.”

Visit https://www.etaybond.com/ for more on Bond’s law firm. 

The Courier June 12, 2020

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