Few buildings in America can claim to have the kind of storied history as the Old State Bank in Decatur, Alabama. Standing for 183 years now, it has suffered through a civil war and two depressions. Being used first as bank, then a field hospital storehouse, and base of operations for Union soldiers, becoming a bank once again, and then finally a museum. The Old State Bank has been seen just about everything imaginable.
Slaves who built the bank were freed
Built in 1833, the columns are said to weigh 100 tons each and were quarried on a nearby plantation whose owner, according to tradition, set free the slaves who crafted them upon the building’s dedication. It served as a branch of the state bank until that system collapsed, and a private residence when the war arrived.
Old State Bank, Decatur, Alabama ca. 1939 by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston (Library of Congress)
Bears the markings of history
Today, the Old State Bank bears the markings of all that history today with the wounds from cannon ball and musket fire still visible.Those scars might not be the only signs of the Old State Bank’s history, it seems a few those soldiers and other people from its past have taken up residence there.
Old State Bank, Decatur, Alabama ca. 1934 by photographer 1934 by photographer W. N. Manning (Library of Congress)
People claim to see ghosts
People have claimed for years to have seen the ghosts of Union soldiers, a woman in black, and weeping lady. Nothing surprising for a building that has been through so many traumatic events.
By 1864, the bank was only one of a handful of buildings left that had not been torn down or burned by Union troops during the Civil War. With 22-inch-thick walls, the bank’s vault provided shelter from bullets, mortars, and cannon fire, which allowed it to be used as an operating room for wounded Union soldiers.
Confederate General Edmund W. Pettus wrote a letter from Florence, Alabama after passing through Decatur during Hood’s Middle Tennessee Campaign in late 1864:
This country is the most desolate in appearance and truth than any [such] country I ever saw. Wealthy families are wanting bread. The worst of all is that most of the inhabitants have been conquered.” During the Battle for Decatur, the Old State Bank was directly in the line of fire, and possibly was used as a field hospital.
Doors of Old State Bank, Decatur, Alabama ca. 1934 by photographer W. N. Manning (Library of Congress)
Its easy to imagine a few of the people who held up in Old State Bank at one time or another simply never left. Perhaps those soldiers feel the need to stand guard and those ladies are looking for men who died at the field hospital.
Old State Bank, Decatur, Alabama ca. 1939 by photographer 1934 by photographer W. N. Manning (Library of Congress)
Its hard to say for sure if these spirits are real or only peoples in minds but a group of paranormal investigators are trying to find out and you can be part of it. Every year the Old State Bank hosts a Halloween Spooktacular where visitors can be part of live paranormal investigation. Helping investigators gather evidence with a long list of tools.
Vault Old State Bank, Decatur, Alabama ca. 1934 by photographer W. N. Manning (Library of Congress)
During the event visitors are also taken on a tour of the Old State Bank where they can learn about its traumatic past. Even walking through the vault that was used as a surgery room during the Civil War. Giving them a chance to try spotting a ghost for themselves!
- Photographs – Library of Congress
- Civil War Album – Battle of Decatur
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
- John Corrigan – 4 things you need to know before stepping foot in Decatur’s (possibly haunted) Historic Old State Bank – al.com
Bestselling novel RIBBON OF LOVE: 2nd edition – A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love Book 1) is the story of a first family in colonial America who eventually migrated to Alabama.
Better Homes and Gardens Magazine October 2011 Autumn Beauty Halloween Fun
I believe so,my nephew and some of his friends sorta like ghost hunters told me abt it,
When we lived in Decatur from 84-87, my wife was the Tourism Director for the Chamber and her office was in the Old State Bank building.
Is this open to the public?
Yes, it has been restored and is now a museum. Click on the link to see a film of what it looks like now.
One sentence in this story explains the ghost stories:
“Every year the Old State Bank hosts a Halloween Spooktacular where visitors can be part of live paranormal investigation.”
A gorgeous old building.
No ghosts were mentioned when I toured the bank in 1985. Also the article did not mention the underground tunnel from the bank to the Tennessee River which was used by people to take their deposits directly from freight barges to the bank without having to go through town. The tunnel was gradually ruined by silt and then filled in.
Thanks for the info. That sounds like another good story about the bank.
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Didn’t see any when I was there in 1985
No, I don’t.