Union National was one of the city’s largest locally-owned banks throughout most of the Twentieth Century.
In 1885, William J. Turner, a former chief clerk and deputy in the Arkansas State Treasurer’s office, established his own private banking business, W. J. Turner and Company. The company’s first location was 223 West Markham Street in Little Rock.
After Turner’s death in 1893, two brothers, Sydney J. Johnson and Allen M. Johnson, bought the business and changed the company name to S. J. Johnson Company. S. J. Johnson purchased Guaranty Trust Company in 1899. In 1902, the two merged companies were incorporated as Union Trust Company.
In 1919, another Little Rock bank, Mercantile Trust Company, was merged into Union Trust Company, forming Union Mercantile Trust. In 1924, the word “Mercantile” was dropped from the company’s name.
In 1933, the name of the company was changed to Union Bank. The following year, the company received a national bank charter and became Union National Bank. Union National Bank was merged into the Worthen Banking Corporation in 1993.
Original plans (by Ginocchio, Cromwell Carter and Neyland) called for two “cubes”, one atop and somewhat smaller than the other, together making up 10 floors. The original plans construction estimate was $2,500,000. The new plans called for a 20-story building that would be taller by two floors than any existing or planned structures downtown and would be the tallest building in Arkansas. Estimated cost of the project was $6,500,000.
Construction began on September 6th, 1967 and was set for completion in July 1969.
On signal from Earl L. McCarroll, president and chief executive officer of Union Bank, a helium-filled balloon was released on a guy line that had pennants marking the approximated level of each of the 21 floors.
The article “Which is better Style, Is it Steel or Concrete?” – compares the Union Building (made out of steel) and the Worthen Building (made out of pre-cast concrete).
Race to the Top
Worthen Building was announced as an 18-story building, which was the same height as the then tallest building in Arkansas, Then Union Bank announced they were going to build a 21-story building, which would be the tallest building in the state. The Worthen Board members held secret meetings to discuss the possibility of adding a couple of stories to their building to make it the tallest in the state. Once the Union Bank held it’s topping off ceremony and the last piece of structural steel was placed on the top of the building (thus ensuring that they couldn’t make the building any taller) Worthen announced that they were no longer going to be building an 18-story building, but would instead be building a 25-story building, thus ensuring that they would have the tallest building in the State.
More Interesting Facts
- Thomas E Stanley and Associates of Dallas – architect
- Pickens-Bond Construction Company – contractor
- AFCO Steel provided the steel – have flyer from them that says “21 Stories 5 Months”
- Topping out ceremony – have program from ceremony dated August 7, 1968
- Total pieces of steel – approx 9,500
- Total weight of structural steel – approx 2,160 tons
- Number of bolts – approx 30,000
- First beam set into place – March 11, 1968
- Final beam set into place – August 7, 1968
- The top most piece of structural steel is 281 feet above the corner of Louisiana and Capitol Avenue
- The number of shop drawings required for the structure is 285 drawings