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Hancock Bank to Celebrate Pass Christian Branch Re-Opening
From: News Release     Filed 10/22/07 GCN

 Another South Mississippi beachfront landmark is restored, reoccupied, and ready for a bright new era of Gulf Coast commerce as local cities steadfastly forge a post-Katrina renaissance of economic opportunity.

 This Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at 4:30 p.m., Pass Christian community leaders and Hancock Bank officers will celebrate the grand re-opening of Hancock’s historic Pass Christian branch with ribbon-cutting festivities at the Scenic Drive site.  Heavily damaged by Katrina’s relentless winds and unprecedented surge, the 80-year-old branch is the first pre-storm Beach Boulevard business to reopen in Pass Christian.

“We are so excited to welcome our customers back to the Pass Christian Hancock Bank.  We have worked very hard to create an attractive, efficient environment in which to serve our customers, to highlight our community history, and to uncover unique original architectural details obscured by past renovations,” said branch manager Monica Wittmann.

Wittmann said that Hancock has also reproduced historical photographs of the Pass Christian area as artwork for the 6,500-plus-square-foot branch and will display original blueprints for the building during the ribbon-cutting.

Within a few weeks of Katrina’s landfall, Hancock was also the first bank to begin serving Pass Christian customers from a temporary mobile unit at War Memorial Park.

“We’ve come a long way from that lone modified RV surrounded by storm debris.  However, our commitment to helping our customers achieve their financial goals and dreams remains as unwavering now as it has been for the last century,” said Wittmann.

A Piece of Pass History

The second Hancock Bank branch established after the bank’s 1899 founding, the Pass Christian Hancock Bank originally opened on April 19, 1902, at the current location in a wood frame building that also housed the Elmer Northrop Store and overlooked the Mississippi Sound and the first Southern Yacht Club.  In 1905 the bank built and occupied a new office just north of Northrop’s store.  That facility that now serves as the Hancock Bank Pass Christian Community Center. 

As Pass Christian —known in the late 1890s as the “Newport of the South — and the Coast prospered with turn-of-the-century resorts, timber trade, seafood processing, and agriculture, Hancock purchased the Northrop property at Scenic Drive and Davis Avenue and built and moved into the present building, designed by architect William T. Nolan, on February 28, 1928.  The first floor accommodated Hancock’s banking and insurance businesses; the second floor, a doctor’s office and telephone company.

In 1963 Oubre & Wagner Architects designed a two-story addition on the west side of the branch with 650 square feet of new space, including an elevator, more teller lines, two drive-up windows, and air conditioning.  As business needs and decorating trends changed during the next few decades, the branch underwent several remodelings, including adding a one-story canopied drive-up and wood-paneled lobby offices.

The Post-Storm Restoration

Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Hancock facilities managers, architect Lawrence Jaubert, and contractor J.W. Puckett began formulating strategies to repair and refurbish the gutted-but-still-standing Pass Christian Hancock Bank.  Guests at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting will see missile-impact resistant windows that preserve the building’s architectural integrity and intricate original moldings and decorative ceilings heretofore hidden by modern additions.  Craftsmen carefully cleaned, repaired, and polished marble floors, columns, bases, wainscoting, and vault walls damaged by the storm to a like-new luster.

Office ceilings align with window frames to enhance natural lighting; a larger, reconfigured teller area provides more efficient service space and a more aesthetically uniform interior layout.   A rebuilt drive-up teller area features a commercial window, three overhead pneumatic tubes, an ATM lane, and a more secure drive-up, rather than walk-up, night depository.  The re-designed west-end drive-through canopy is more architecturally consistent with the main branch building and the adjacent old Nelson Hotel, currently under restoration. 

The branch’s electrical power lines are now underground and include connections for a portable generator; and the elevator is slated for upgrades in the near future.  New concrete drives replace old asphalt parking lots.

Hancock has completed similar historical restorations at the bank’s 1905 building just north of the branch.  Often called the “Doctor Taylor Building” for Dr. C.D. Taylor, a Pass Christian physician who had offices in the building and served on Hancock’s board of directors, the building now offers local civic groups a place for meetings and club functions.

About Hancock Bank

Hancock Holding Company is the parent company of Hancock Bank (Mississippi), Hancock Bank of Louisiana, Hancock Bank of Florida, and Hancock Bank of Alabama and has assets of approximately $6 billion.  Hancock Bank — the only financial services company headquartered in the Gulf South to rate among the top 20 percent of America’s top performing banks — offers comprehensive financial solutions through more than 150 banking and financial services offices and more than 130 automated teller machines across South Mississippi, Louisiana, southern Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. 

Additional corporate information and on-line banking and bill pay services are available at www.hancockbank.com.

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