Key American Federal Milestones
“Our Roots Run Deep and Strong in the Valley”
The rich written history of American Federal begins in the northern Red River Valley in January of 1891 when “The Building and Loan Association of East Grand Forks” was incorporated under a charter issued by the state of Minnesota. Oral history accounts report the neighborhood association was open for business as early as December of 1889 in downtown East Grand Forks on historic DeMers Avenue, a street it would call home for more than a century.
Back then, the core business of the association was limited to making loans in the city of East Grand Forks and paying interest on savings accounts.
Today, as a full-service, financially-sound community bank with 13 locations in four North Dakota and eight Minnesota communities, American Federal Ag, Business and Personal Bankers provide financial advice and business expertise to agriculture producers, business owners and consumers who value experienced, knowledgeable Bankers helping them find the best solutions to reach their goals and plan their financial future.
- The Early Years: GI Loans, Home Loans
- Federally-Chartered Savings Bank
- 124 DeMers Avenue Becomes Home
- ‘American Federal’ Name Approved
- Sales Office Expansion Begins
- Product Line Expands Further
- American Federal Enters Ag, Business Markets
- American Federal Has Successful Stock Offering
- American Federal Investments Expands Offering
- First North Dakota Location Opens
- Branch Acquisitions
- New Name and Logo Design Is Trademarked
- American Federal Makes Fargo Bank Acquisition
- New Fergus Falls Bank Building
- Home Office Begins Relocation to Fargo
- Greater Grand Forks Flood of 1997
- East Grand Forks Builds Near Gateway Drive
- Investment in Facilities
- American Federal Opens New Grand Forks Facility
- Tornado Hits Northwood
- Fosston Opens New Bank Building
- A New Century
- American Federal Converts to S-Corp
The Early Years: GI Loans, Home Loans
The association’s first offices were established in the old First National Bank of East Grand Forks building, located at 202 DeMers Avenue. The offices remained there until 1925, when, at the instruction of the Minnesota Department of Banking, the association moved its books and records out of the bank. A warehouse located some distance from downtown, along the Great Northern Railroad track, became the temporary home of the association until January of 1928 when it relocated to a basement office in the First National Bank Building.
In 1933, the state-chartered association was the first financial institution in the East Grand Forks and Grand Forks area permitted to reopen its doors, following the Bank Holiday declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It made some of the first GI loans after the war and began to lend money for home construction.
Federally-Chartered Savings Bank
December 22, 1934, the association converted to a federally-chartered mutual savings and loan association and changed its name to “East Grand Forks Federal Savings and Loan Association.” As a federal association, the bank could do business within a radius of 50 miles, including North Dakota. There were 100 savings and mortgage customers. Total assets were $110,376.40. March 16, 1935, the association received a FSLIC Certificate and Operator Charter N, allowing it to offer insurance on deposit accounts.
In 1946, the thrift purchased what was then called the old Minnesota National Bank Building at 223 DeMers Avenue and opened business on the main floor.
124 DeMers Avenue Becomes Home
Soon squeezed for space, the growing financial institution purchased and then demolished the Coast-to-Coast store across the street at 124 DeMers Avenue in East Grand Forks. January 2, 1962, it opened on the site in a new one-story brick building. Eleven years later, in 1973, two floors were added to the bank building.
Deposit and loan transactions were performed manually until 1957 when a posting machine was purchased. In 1972, a computer was installed and savings went “online” in November. Mortgages followed in June of 1974.
‘American Federal’ Name Approved
The Federal Home Loan Bank Board approved the bank’s request to change its name to “American Federal Savings and Loan Association of East Grand Forks.” The effective date of the name change was February 27, 1973. Later, the institution shortened its name further to “American Federal Savings and Loan Association” to better reflect its growing market beyond the Greater Grand Forks city limits
February 11, 1985, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board approved a further modification in the bank’s name and the financial institution became known as “American Federal Savings Bank.”
Sales Office Expansion Begins
The year 1974 marked the beginning of the association’s branching strategy in Minnesota. That year, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines approved applications to establish sales offices in Crookston and Ada. In December, American Federal opened a newly-constructed bank in Crookston at the corner of Fifth and Broadway. The Ada banking location was established at 205 West Main.
A year later, in December of 1975, a banking location was added in Moorhead at 601 Center Avenue, its present home today.
Following a merger with the Hallock Savings and Loan Association in 1976, an office was opened in Hallock in January of 1977. American Federal originally operated in Hallock at 118 Second Street Southeast. Two and one-half years later, in June of 1979, American Federal finished construction of a new bank building at 157 South Second Street in Hallock, its current home today.
In February of 1977, an office was added in Warren at 101 East Johnson, which remains its home today. In June of 1980, a banking location was opened in Fergus Falls.
Product Line Expands Further
The 1979 deregulation of interest rates for financial institutions permitted the bank to begin offering adjustable rate products and expand its charter to offer consumer loans.
In 1988, American Federal organized the Red River Insurance Agency subsidiary and began offering life insurance products.
March 13, 1989, American Federal cut the ribbon on a detached Drive-Up Bank at the corner of DeMers Avenue and Northwest Fourth Street in downtown East Grand Forks.
American Federal Enters Ag, Business Markets
After a century of success serving the credit and savings needs of consumers, American Federal expanded its expertise and began serving the financial needs of agriculture and business. Today, ag and business relationships account for the largest share of the bank’s portfolio.
American Federal Has Successful Stock Offering
August 20, 1991, the financial institution converted from a federal mutual savings bank to a federal stock savings bank. American Federal formed a unitary savings and loan holding company, AFS Financial Corporation, and conducted a successful initial public placement of stock. AFS Financial Corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota as the holding company with American Federal Bank as a subsidiary of the parent company.
Three years later, in August of 1994, American Federal deregistered as a public company with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a privately-held company owned principally by its employees, along with directors and customers in the communities where American Federal has banking locations.
American Federal Investments Expands Offering
In 1994, American Federal renamed its insurance subsidiary and a year later began to offer brokered products through a partnership with a registered broker-dealer.
Today, American Federal Investments, Inc. (AFI) makes available a full range of life and health insurance, annuities, mutual funds and other investment products and financial planning for businesses and individuals, including group benefit and qualified plans.
First North Dakota Location Opens
American Federal opened a loan production office in North Dakota on December 19, 1994 at the corner of Columbia Road and 17th Avenue South in Grand Forks. Almost a year later, on November 10, 1995, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), the bank’s federal regulator at the time, approved the establishment of a full-service branch at the location.
The year 1995 was a year of acquisitions. On December 8, 1994, American Federal entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire two banking locations of TCF Bank Minnesota, fsb in the Minnesota communities of Crookston and Fosston. The closing date of the transaction was April 9, 1995.
During the summer of 1995, American Federal began to remodel the TCF-acquired bank building at 304 North Broadway in Crookston. American Federal continued to operate from its original home, at the corner of Fifth and Broadway, until remodeling was complete on July 31 at the acquired location and it re-opened to customers.
American Federal’s original location in Crookston remained open until the fall when expansion of the drive-up at the TCF-acquired building was finished. The newly refurbished and expanded banking location at 304 North Broadway held a Grand Opening September 26-28, 1995. Improvements to the new Crookston site included redesign of the facility’s parking and landscaping of the full city block surrounding the bank building. The Crookston bank continues to operate today at the 304 North Broadway site.
January 31, 1995, American Federal entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire the former Metropolitan Federal Bank, fsb office located in Northwood, ND at 504 First Avenue North from the former First Bank. American Federal moved into the new location on June 24, 1995 with the final closing date taking place July 10, 1995. The Northwood acquisition became American Federal’s ninth sales office. The 504 First Avenue North location continues today as American Federal’s home in Northwood and is one of the bank’s most unique properties. Designed to resemble an Alpine chalet, the bank building is made of wood with a gently sloping roof.
New Name and Logo Design Is Trademarked
July 25, 1995, an even more concise name, “American Federal Bank,” was adopted to reflect the growing diversification of the bank portfolio and target markets and to enhance the bank’s image beyond its origins as solely a savings and loan institution. Use of the core name “American Federal” for all of its entities offered greater flexibility for business and enabled the financial institution to bring all operations under the same brand identity. AFS Financial Corporation became “American Federal Corporation.” The insurance and investment entity became “American Federal Investments.”
A new name and logo design, using a stylized capital letter A and red and blue colors, was trademarked.
American Federal Makes Fargo Bank Acquisition
American Federal began to plan for a more significant presence in the southern Red River Valley, in particular Fargo, North Dakota, the financial center of the state, the Red River Valley and the Lakes Region.
February 13, 1996, American Federal entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Northwestern Financial Corp, parent company of Northwestern Savings Bank, headquartered in Fargo. The final acquisition, on August 2, realized American Federal’s strategic objection of entering the robust and well diversified Fargo market. Its acquisition added two Fargo locations–a south Fargo bank at 1301 30th Avenue South, which had opened in October of 1994, and a downtown Fargo bank at 720 Main Avenue–plus a bank in Wahpeton, ND at 615 Second Avenue North. The Fargo South and Wahpeton locations continue as American Federal sales offices today.
New Fergus Falls Bank Building
By mid-summer of 1996, American Federal opened a new two-story banking facility at 117 Mill Street in Fergus Fall. The building project produced a unique joint public and private venture. The city of Fergus Falls erected a concrete deck at street level with below-grade covered public parking. American Federal purchased the air rights atop the deck and built an 11,000-square-foot bank building with a three-lane drive-up. The new bank opened on September 16, 1996, replacing a small retail office in the City Center Mall on Cavour Avenue that had been American Federal’s home since 1980.
Home Office Begins Relocation to Fargo
By now, American Federal was operating its Home Office Mortgage Banking Department in rented space in Moorhead and had organized a Home Office Information Technology Department in Fargo. With the balance of its Home Office operations in East Grand Forks, American Federal began to look for a home that could eventually house all of its Home Office departments in one location.
In November of 1996, American Federal’s goal was realized with the purchase of the former Metropolitan Federal corporate building at 215 5th Street North in downtown Fargo from the former First Bank, owner of the property. American Federal began to remodel the first floor of the eight-story, 45,000-square-foot office tower to provide a full-service, first-floor bank and to prepare the upper floors for Home Office departments.
March 17, 1997, American Federal relocated its Downtown Fargo sales office from the former Northwestern Savings building at 720 Main Avenue to the newly-acquired former Metropolitan office tower at 215 5th Street North. On April 14, 1997, the phone system was installed in the upper Home Office floors of the building.
Greater Grand Forks Flood of 1997
Four days later, on April 18, 1997, the Red and Red Lake Rivers overflowed their banks and flooded the Greater Grand Forks area, forcing evacuation of the towns’ residents, destroying much of the downtown business districts and damaging 80 percent of the homes in Grand Forks and all but a handful of homes in East Grand Forks.
The devastating “500-year” flood heavily damaged the first floor of American Federal’s East Grand Forks home at 124 DeMers Avenue. By Monday, April 21, 1997, American Federal had relocated most all of its Home Office employees to Fargo and established what it thought would be temporary headquarters in its newly-acquired downtown Fargo office tower at 215 5th Street North, a move that become permanent in the wake of post-flood reconstruction in Greater Grand Forks. Today, the 215 5th Street North location services as American Federal’s Home Office and houses the Fargo Downtown bank on the first floor.
By Monday, April 28, 1997, American Federal re-opened its Grand Forks sales office and was operating from a temporary mobile trailer parked in the driveway of its downtown Drive-Up Bank in East Grand Forks. American Federal operated a full-service bank from the trailer until the second floor of its main bank in East Grand Forks was ready to open in late June. First-floor renovations continued until August when the main bank was ready for full occupancy.
The return to its long-time DeMers Avenue home was short term.
Early in 1999, the city of East Grand Forks asked to purchase American Federal’s post-flood refurbished bank building at 124 DeMers Avenue to make way for a major redesign and reconstruction project in its downtown business district, hard hit by the 1997 flood. The 124 DeMers Avenue bank site was sold, demolished by the city and converted to a paved parking lot for a new large retail store.
East Grand Forks Builds Near Gateway Drive
The flood waters of 1997 presented American Federal with an opportunity to provide its customers with a new enlarged and ground-floor bank facility in East Grand Forks.
With the sale of its long-time home on DeMers Avenue in downtown East Grand Forks, American Federal selected a new bank site in the fast-developing northern sector of the city, near the intersection of the city’s main highways–US 10 and 220.
Construction was complete in December of 1999 on its new 8,500-square-foot home at 140 Gateway Drive Northeast in East Grand Forks. Opening of the new bank building on December 20 marked a milestone in American Federal’s long and rich history in the community and continued its tradition as the oldest continuing business in East Grand Forks.
Investment in Facilities
In April of 2000, the second-floor balcony ringing the north and east sides of the American Federal Bank building in Crookston was extended over the entire bank lobby to provide additional sound dampening and esthetic appeal. In August of 2011 the lobby was updated to provide clients with sit-down banking for all of their transactions.
April 26, 2000, a pre-dawn fire destroyed the 26-year home of American Federal in Ada. By that afternoon, American Federal Bankers were taking deposits in new quarters at the north end of the block at 215 West Main Street. The new banking location was refurbished and became the bank’s new home in Ada.
With post-flood reconfiguration of the East Grand Forks downtown business district nearing completion and with the addition of American Federal’s new full-service bank on Gateway Drive, American Federal closed its stand-alone Drive-Up Bank at 321 DeMers Avenue in East Grand Forks on September 7, 2001.
American Federal Opens New Grand Forks Facility
Across the Red River in Grand Forks, American Federal opened a new 4,200-square-foot bank at 2551 South Columbia Road, across the street from the city’s largest shopping mall, on November 22, 2004. The new facility brought easy access, a four-lane drive-up and lots of parking for customers. Like its East Grand Forks sister bank, the Grand Forks building featured a prominent cupola atop the bank.
In Warren, employees began meeting with clients in the refurbished east half of the bank’s historic building on May 25, 2007. Warren’s single-story brick building consisted of two sections built at least 110 years ago, based on old photographs of the bank. With a property easement from the City of Warren, American Federal added a remote video one-lane drive-up and expanded into the entire east half of the building which had been vacant for several decades. The historic character of the building was preserved during refurbishment and the bank’s customer service area was doubled to 3,000 square feet.
August 22, 2007, American Federal moved into a one-story, stand-alone building purchased in Ada at 201 East Main Street South. Located along Highway 9 South and built in 1979, American Federal updated the interior of the 2,760-square-foot office building, poured new concrete sidewalks and added a remote one-lane drive-up.
Tornado Hits Northwood
In Northwood, American Federal resumed business just two days after a tornado ripped through the heart of town on Sunday evening, August 26, 2007, leaving virtually no structures undamaged. With restoration of power, American Federal re-opened for business Tuesday, August 28. The “enhanced” F-4 tornado broke windows and ripped away shingles on a corner of the bank’s unique Alpine-style building. Inside, light fixtures were damaged, papers were blown about and water seepage occurred.
Fosston Opens New Bank Building
A new 5,800-square-foot bank opened in Fosston at 209 Johnson Avenue North on November 19, 2007. Located in the same city block and just north of its first home, the new facility went up at a record pace, more than doubled its customer service space and featured the architectural hallmark of American Federal’s newest building construction, a cupola atop the bank. Built with growth in mind, the new bank included a two-lane drive-up with ATM and night depository, sit-down teller customer service and safe deposit boxes.
A New Century
The founders and first-century customers of American Federal would still recognize their community bank today and see its continued commitment to the growth and development of agriculture and business in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and the Lakes Region of northwestern Minnesota.
Its entrepreneurial spirit and founding values of honesty, integrity and excellence continue to make American Federal a successful, respected financial leader and first-rate employer.
Strategic initiatives positioned American Federal for continued strong growth into the new century.
American Federal focused on in-market loan portfolio growth with clients with financially-strong balance sheets and initiated anytime, anywhere recruiting of Bankers with proven results for developing a profitable business practice and a passion to join a professional partnership and become a shareholder.
American Federal introduced a Sales Star recognition program in 1999 to recognize, reward and celebrate top sales and referral employees throughout the organization.
In 2001, American Federal introduced the Personal Profit Statement to measure individual Banker sales performance and long-term profitability and reward results with incentive compensation.
American Federal Converts to S-Corp
January 1, 2007, American Federal converted from a C-corporation to a S-corporation, creating a partnership with shareholders and eliminating double taxation of corporate earnings.
May 28, 2010, American Federal raised capital through the private placement of stock to existing shareholders.
American Federal’s financial stability and conservative business approach positioned the bank to thrive during the most significant recessionary period in the United States since the Great Depression, the years from 2008 to 2010.
National financial rating services, like Bankrate.com and IDC Financial Publishing, awarded American Federal its top mark of “superior” based on the bank’s financial strength and stability.
While some 300-plus U.S. banks failed during 2008-2010, American Federal recorded its best quarters of financial performance. American Federal continued to focus on its core principles, providing credit to clients within its geographic footprint and not lending based on inflated values.