Here at Portage Bank, we have made it our mission to develop banking in coordination with the communities we serve, offering financial solutions that meet the needs of the times. Since our founding over a century ago, our philosophy has been that everyone ought to have access to the best banking services, including access to the credit they need to achieve their business and home-ownership goals, for the good of our clients and the communities in which they live.
A Walk Back in Time
Portage Bank started out as the State Bank of Ceylon. No, not the one in the Indian Ocean (now called Sri Lanka), but the one in Minnesota.
Ceylon, Minnesota, got its start in 1898, when the Minnesota and International Railway chose it as a townsite along their railroad route. The railroad originally named the town Chanhassen, but as that name was already in use, a few citizens suggested changing the name to Ceylon–after seeing the name on boxes of tea from Ceylon. The village of Ceylon was officially incorporated by the State of Minnesota on October 22, 1900, and what is today Portage Bank was begun not long after, as the State Bank of Ceylon.
On August 29, 1901, 17 founding stockholders agreed to begin operations and appointed a committee to locate a building. The committee found their first building on Main Street very quickly. By 1902, operations had grown so much that it became necessary to make an addition to the building. It was remodeled and expanded again in 1952, and a further addition was added in 1959.
As an important stop along the railroad line, Ceylon grew quickly. Government buildings, newspaper offices, churches, and shops were built, and then expanded, and later remodeled. Farms grew larger in the surrounding areas, sidewalks were put in in town, and libraries and firehouses were built. All this growth and expansion required credit and a safe place for people and businesses to put their money, making the State Bank of Ceylon a major player in the town’s growth and prosperity.
The city even had a state-of-the-art telephone exchange by the Fairmont Telephone Company put in as early as 1905, and the switchboard was located in the rented back rooms of the Bank.
Best Bank Leadership
Since its founding, dedicated Bank presidents have kept the State Bank of Ceylon, now Portage Bank, stable and thriving throughout its history. In fact, since 1901, Portage Bank has only had eight different presidents, evidencing their steadfastness and commitment to the principles which animate the work of Portage Bank both then and today.
In 1982, J.W. Vollrath and Marlen E. Bents, both of whom served as presidents of the Bank, purchased all of the Bank’s shares and created the Ceylon Bancorporation as a holding company. More recently, in 2019, a small group of investors bought the Bank with the intention of expanding its operations. Refashioned as Portage Bank, the Bank is now headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, and still maintains its Main Street branch in Ceylon, Minnesota.
Today, Portage Bank is growing, and is taking full advantage of modern technology to re-imagine the mechanics of banking while still holding true to the values that are at the core of our institution: respecting human dignity, solidarity, personal service, customer care, and continuing to be the best banking option for the citizens of Ceylon, Minnesota and now the northwest community. Contact Portage Bank today and see how our history is informing our future.