Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs, right, talks with David G. O'Neil, the oral historian for the PNC Legacy Project, on Wednesday during the unveiling of the new multimedia exhibit at the Imperial Centre.
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Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs, right, talks with David G. O'Neil, the oral historian for the PNC Legacy Project, on Wednesday during the unveiling of the new multimedia exhibit at the Imperial Centre.

PNC opens banking history exhibit

By John Henderson

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PNC Bank unveiled a multimedia exhibit on Wednesday at the Imperial Centre that documents the rich history of banking in Rocky Mount.

The PNC Legacy Project is designed to preserve and honor the history of predecessor banks, including Centura Bank, Planters National Bank and Peoples Bank & Trust, PNC bank officials said.

The Rocky Mount exhibit, on display in the History Room of the Centre at 270 Gay Street, is the sixth PNC Legacy Project in the country.

The display includes pictures and artifacts, such as currency, of local banks dating back to 1899.

The photographs hanging on the wall, which include the award-winning “Cow in People Main Branch” and “Tobacco Auction,” came from the Charles S. Killebrew collection, courtesy of the University of North Carolina’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

The exhibit also includes “oral histories” displayed on a video touch-screen, which includes interviews with long-time bank employees and community leaders.

Tom Rogers, a Rocky Mount City Council member who was an executive with Peoples Bank and Centura Bank, is among those interviewed. He said the exhibit exudes a can-do spirit of Rocky Mount.

“It’s about people working together, solving problems, making the community a better place, pulling together, dealing with adversity, but also taking advantage of opportunities,” Rogers said. “The DNA that is represented by the people in this exhibit is of entrepreneurship, of innovation, of determination. I think that DNA is still resonant in this community.”

Mayor David Combs said the exhibit reflects the city’s overall history, not just its banking roots.

“This just is another display of (PNC) investing in the community, and not only remembering the history, but also maybe projecting into the future what we might expect from PNC and their investments,” he said.

In March of last year, the Pittsburg-based PNC Financial Services Group acquired RBC Bank. RBC Bank bought out Centura in 2001.

In 1990, Centura was formed as the result of a merging of two fiery competitors, Peoples and Planters banks.

Planters, which was formed in the early 20th century, had catered to farmers and longtime Rocky Mount residents. Peoples Bancorp was formed during the Great Depression to cater to a younger crowd.

Mary Beth Corrigan, the historian and curator of the PNC Legacy project, said the banks were more than willing to share pictures and artifacts for the exhibit.

“The main theme of the exhibit is ‘building the community,’ how both Planters and Peoples took a very active role in developing community, shaping the infrastructure and economy,” she said.

About year ago, Corrigan said, she made a trip to Rocky Mount and decided it would be a great location for PNC’s next Legacy Project.

“I recommended we do it because I thought that Rocky Mount, Eastern North Carolina, had a distinctive story, and I thought we had plenty of resources to go ahead and build this project,” Corrigan said.

David G. O’Neil, a personal historian who holds a master’s degree in theology from Harvard University, interviewed the people for the oral history display over the summer.

“It is of interest to the community when they see the history of everyday life and the impact that the banks have had on that every day life,” he said. “People coming through will be interested to know about the history of the community through the lens of these three institutions.”

Dorsey Tobias, a spokeswoman for the PNC, said as a third-generation employee with the bank, the PNC Legacy Project has a personal appeal to here.

“But the personal connection aside, this is really an exhibit that is appealing to anyone who has a connection to Rocky Mount,” she said. “This exhibit tells the story of a strong history, of entrepreneurism, innovation, determination and our sense of community.”


Mayor Clueless

It's funny that 'our' Mayor was there, since the 100's of jobs lost were under his watch... Too Funny!

I Wonder

I wonder if there will be an exhibit on the 100's of Rocky Mount jobs they get rid of?????

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