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The Pie Safe Baking Company has preserved the historic Former First National Bank of Forest City. The building that was built in 1904 as a bank, continues standing and now hosts a bakery. The signature aspect of this building is the 18-ton vault, which customers can walk into and explore if they so desire. Attached to the building is the Forest City Clock, built in 1901.

18 ton vault turned into a shirt shop at Pie Safe Baking Company

18 ton vault turned into a shirt shop at Pie Safe Baking Company

Former National Bank of Forest City in North Carolina

Former National Bank of Forest City in North Carolina

Forest City Clock attached to Pie Safe Baking Company

Forest City Clock attached to Pie Safe Baking Company

In October 2017, Kirk Wilkerson and John Higgins met and decided to transform the old bank. (1) According to the Pie Safe Baking Company legend, John Higgins asked his wife, Stephanie, what he and Wilkerson should transform the bank into, and she revealed her dream in opening a bakery. Delighted in this idea, the business partners pursued the endeavor with the intention of specializing the bakery in pies. Since the bank safe remained in the building, Higgins and Wilkerson decided to name the bakery Pie Safe. In February of 2018, Higgins and Wilkerson sealed their ownership of the old bank, and they began renovating the interior. On December 8, 2018 Pie Safe Baking Company opened. The Pie Safe website describes the grand opening as: “It was a cold day and just like flour through a sifter, snow powdered down on the patrons standing in line all down our little Hallmark town with Christmas lights glowing in the snow.” (1) Over four hundred customers visited Pie Safe that day. (1)


Wilkerson and Higgins knew this bank bore much history in the Forest City town and had always been the heart of the city. They wanted to carry on this tradition in a new way. The bank that held Pie Safe originated in 1904. Here is the story:


In June 1904, a partnership of men desired to open up the first bank in Forest City and met at Dr. G. E. Young’s house. The men’s names are as follows: "Dr. G. E. Young, T. P. Reynolds, S. B. Tanner, Dr. G. P. Reid, E. L. Gaston, J. W. Streetman, and J. D. Ledbetter." (2) On October 15, 1904, the Forest City Bank opened as a state bank with the capital of $12,000 and Dr. Young as the president. (2) In 1907, Forest City Bank became renamed to the First National Bank of Forest City with an increased capital of $25,000. (3) Across the street from the bank, James Hinter Thomas organized a second bank named Farmers Bank and Trust Company, opening February 3, 1915 with a capital of $40,000. 2 Later in the year (1915), Farmers Bank and Trust Company merged with the First National Bank of Forest City with a capital increase to $75,000 and united the bank names to Farmers Bank and Trust Company. In 1919, the capital of the bank rose up to $100,000. The bank grew to be one of the strongest banks in Western North Carolina. (2) On June 30, 1926 the Farmers Bank and Trust Company moved into the former building of the First National Bank of Forest City, remaining under the same name: the Farmers Bank and Trust Company. (2)


The building had been remodeled starting July 21, 1925 by the Southeastern Construction Company of Charlotte. (3) The three-story building had Pennsylvania Iron slag brick with an interior steel frame to make the bank fireproof. The first floor, the main floor, contained the vault and four storerooms. The second and third floors held the offices. An electric elevator was added as well. Inspection deemed the bank to be the “best and most modern banking home in all of Rutherford and adjoining counties.” (4) In the center at the rear of the bank is a large vault “which [was] the largest and most modern and best of anywhere between Charlotte and Asheville. The vault is equipped with a door weighing 18 tons, having a modern time locking system and is truly one of the most attractive features of the interior of the banking rooms.” (4) This remodeled bank was the pride of Forest City and Rutherford County. (4) 


At the Crash of Wall Street on October 29, 1929, Farmers Market and Trust Company began to struggle. (2) On February 4, 1930, Farmers Market and Trust Company locked its doors. (2) As the banking crisis began to settle down, the bank reopened on November 10, 1930 under the name First National Bank of Forest City with W. S. Moss as president at a capital of $120,000. (3, 2) 


Later on, First National Bank of Forest City closed and First Citizens Bank opened in the same building. However, in 2014, buildings down Main Street in the Historic Downtown District began to empty of businesses. (5) On May 2, 2014, First Citizens Bank, which was merged with First Mountain Bank, left the corner of 102 West Main Street and Cherry Mountain Street to another building in Forest City. (5) The old bank building remained empty until 2018 when Pie Safe Baking Company opened later that same year.          

Today, Pie Safe Baking Company still houses the 18-ton 1926 bank vault. The workers claim the electric elevator still works, though they rarely use it. The bank offices on the second and third floor still remain and are yet to be refurbished into something new. Families and friends still flood Pie Safe throughout the week, eager for more treats and to experience the history of the bank within the building. The Square of Main Street Historic District of Forest City, North Carolina will continue to house the deep memories of the Former First National Bank of Forest City that has stood for 116 years and continues to host the heart of the town through the gathering of town citizens for refreshment and community. 

Extra information on the Forest City Clock attached to the building:

On the side of the building is the Forest City Clock, which was built in 1901 by O. B. McClintock Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. (2) The clock formerly hung on the Farmers Bank and Trust Company building across the street on East Main Street and Depot Street. (2, 1) The clock was built of “copper and steel, with leaded and stained glass accents and gilding on the clock faces.” (2) “Every quarter hour, the 1901 O.B. McClintock clock chime[d] Cathedral Peak Westminster; every half hour, Reveille Peak Wellington; three quarters of the hour, Whittington and on the hour, Westminster.” (6) In 2011, a great storm came and stopped the clock at 8:15. The town noticed how quiet the clock was and decided to restore it. (7) Members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, their wives, and other towns people volunteered each week to repair the clock. (7) In March 2014, the Forest City town clock was restored. (7)

(1.) “About Us: The Pie Safe Baking Company.” Pie Safe Baking Company, Ordereze, 2020, 

(2.) Lattimore, Robin Spencer. Forest City, North Carolina: A Story of Progress and Pride. Rutherford, North Carolina: Hilltop Publications, 2011. 65, 90, 108.

(3.) Morgan, Worth J. “City’s First Bank Opened October 15, 1904.” Forest City Courier Centennial Edition, (Forest City, North Carolina), n.d. Source from picture on wall in building.

(4.) “The Farmers Bank and National Consolidated.” Forest City Courier. (Forest City, North Carolina), July 1, 1926. 

(5.) Gordan, Jean. “16 Percent of Downtown Buildings are Empty.” The Daily Courier, (Forest City, North Carolina), February 7, 2014, 

(6.) Gordon, Jean. “As Gentle As Clock Work.” Daily Courier, (Forest City, North Carolina), April 22, 2014. 

(7.) Gordon, Jean. “Town Clock Restoration Project.” Daily Courier, (Forest City, North Carolina), March 15, 2014. 

(8.) “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.” United States Department of the Interior National Park ServiceForest City, February 5, 2002. 

(9.) “Streetscape Improvements for Town of Forest City, North Carolina.” McGill Associates. June 30, 2014. 


Image Sources(Click to expand)

"Pie Safe Baking Company." Trip Advisor.

"Photo Galleries: Forest City Scenes." Remember Cliffside Galleries.

"Historic Small Towns." Blue Ridge: National Heritage Area.