A Local Bank with Strong Roots
Our history is rich and unique. Over the past two centuries, we have witnessed dramatic and ongoing change in our industry and company.
Founded in 1800
Washington Trust’s history is intertwined with America's history
Our bank was founded in 1800, just 24 years after the colonists declared independence and a mere nine years following the establishment of the country’s first national bank in Philadelphia. The First Bank of the United States reflected George Washington and Alexander Hamilton’s belief that a strong banking system was essential to the young nation’s developing and expanding economy.
A group of entrepreneurs in Westerly, Rhode Island believed the same was true for their farming and fishing community. They sought to establish a local financial resource to serve the people and early merchants of southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.
Closer to home
By the late 1700s, a growing number of villages and mills were sprouting up along the Pawcatuck River, which flowed past Westerly into Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. The closest banks, however, were located in Providence, RI and New Haven, CT requiring long and difficult trips by horse or horse and wagon.
For the Westerly area to thrive, it needed a financial institution nearby to safeguard money, extend credit, and — most important — issue bank notes, ensuring a convenient medium of exchange. The federal government did not print bank notes at the time, reserving this privilege for state and local banks.
Providing “little assistances”
The Washington Bank, named for the nation’s recently deceased first president, opened for business on August 22, 1800. The original charter granted by the Rhode Island legislature noted that the Westerly area was “peculiarly fitted by nature” to encourage industry and ingenuity, and that “nothing is wanting but those little assistances, from time to time, which banks only can give.”
Thus began our work of supporting people’s dreams by serving as a trusted financial partner and good neighbor. It is work that has been at the heart of who we are for more than two centuries — through wars on American soil and overseas; during financial crises, including the Great Depression and the Great Recession; and in all kinds economic, social, and political climates, both challenging and advantageous.
We continue the work of supporting people’s dreams to this day.
Historical Perspective - Did you know?
To put our story into a larger historical context, consider this:
- We were the first bank to print George Washington’s likeness on currency — 69 years before President Washington appeared on the federally issued one-dollar bill and 132 years before the Washington quarter appeared
- We are 86 years older than the Statue of Liberty
- We celebrated our 60th anniversary the year Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency
- Washington Trust was founded 49 years before Harriet Tubman escaped slavery
- When the Wright Brothers took flight at Kitty Hawk, we had been helping people achieve their financial goals for more than a century
Washington Trust Today
What led to the founding of our bank — people’s need for a trustworthy and local financial partner — continues to guide us today.
We offer comprehensive financial capabilities all under one roof, including personal banking, commercial banking, mortgage banking, and wealth management and trust services. We make it easy for people to manage their financial affairs — online, on a phone or tablet, or in one of our local branches or offices. And no matter how customers do business with us, they always get the five-star service we are known for.
With faster decision-making and local, responsive service, we are able to deliver a consistently superior banking experience that contributes directly to the steady financial performance that we have achieved for more than two centuries.