History of Hope

The First Hope Bank, while enthusiastically reaching for the future, is mindful of its heritage, which abounds in the Village of Hope, New Jersey. Located 55 miles northwest of New York City, just off Interstate 80 at Exit #12, Hope was settled in 1769 by Moravians, who remained until 1808.

The Moravians, a Protestant group that believed in spreading the word of Christianity throughout the world, developed the Town of Hope as part of this ministry. The focal point of Moravian life was its church, or Gemeinhaus. It is this building that First Hope Bank occupies today. Its cornerstone was laid April 1, 1781, by Bishop J. F. Riechel of Saxony, Germany, who was visiting Moravian settlements in North America. Fifty-five citizens of the town witnessed Bishop Riechel's service. The bishop charged the crowd to cause the building and themselves to be "a candlestick with a burning that shines a light for this part of the Country...as it's...a calamitous time being the sixth year of unhappy war with Great Britain and this continent."

The bank continues to practice Bishop Riechel's charge as it embraces new and improved techniques of service for an ever increasing group of customers. First Hope Bank's symbol, a many pointed star, reminds us all of the Moravians' courage in overcoming immense obstacles and adversities in the construction of sturdy buildings for future generations to use.

The large church building took 19 months to build, contained 3½ stories, had rooms for both boys and girls schools, living quarters for the minister in charge of the Moravian community, as well as a large second-floor 30-foot square meeting room, with dormitory facilities on the third floor. The second-floor room, or Saal, was described by the Marquis de Chastellux, Aide to Lafayette, as the "place where duty is performed...resembling a Presbyterian meeting with the difference that there is an organ and religious pictures."

The town was visited by many notables during the Revolutionary times, including George Washington, who on July 27, 1782, expressed his gratitude to the Moravians for the supply of grain sold to his army during its winter encampments at Morristown. The General was also thankful for their work as teamsters who transported, not only grain, but cannonballs from nearby Oxford Furnace to Morristown. The Moravians were never repaid for their efforts.

During its use as a church, the building housed two organs—one on the second floor (built in 1780 especially for the church), and an additional one on the first floor, given in 1798, by the congregation in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. On November 7, 1787, the fifth anniversary of the church's dedication, a set of trombones was purchased in Germany to serve the community, both as a public address system from atop the Gemeinhaus' bell tower, and at other festivities.

Unfortunately, the Moravian settlement of Hope was not economically successful. They sold their holdings for $48,000 in gold and departed Hope on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1808, following a final service in the Gemeinhaus.

Over the next 20 years, the building provided space for a public school, residence, hotel, and, for some time, a courtroom for Sussex and later Warren counties. In 1828, the building was converted to serve as a hotel, with minor modifications and partitioning of the large second floor meeting room into nine rooms. It served as such until December 1912. Operating as The Union Inn until 1894 and The Moravian Inn thereafter, the building was an early stop on the stage routes between Philadelphia and Newburg, New York, as well as the central social and meeting points for surrounding villages. The current bank president's great grandfather operated the Union Inn during the period 1840-1853. In 1861, the first Warren County Company of Troops answering President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers was initially organized from the Union Inn. The bank president's grandfather, who helped establish First Hope Bank in 1911, was born in a second-floor room that is currently the Consumer Loan Officer's Office.

As trains became a more popular means of transportation, the hotel evolved into a summer retreat for individuals traveling from New York and Philadelphia to enjoy the "country air."

Eventually, the reduced need for two hotels in Hope and the dream of businessmen to have a bank caused a series of meetings of citizens from northwestern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania in the summer and fall of 1911. These meetings led to what is now First Hope Bank, which ends this part of our story. However, our corporate history can be reviewed here.

There is one end note to the story of our main office and its Moravian roots. During this building's evolution from church to bank, some alterations had been made to the building's original design. Through meticulous research the bank's outer facade was returned to its 1808 appearance, to include relocation of chimneys and restoration of the Moravian bell tower on the roof. The Moravian staircase to the second and third floors and the Moravian interior design for the second floor, including crown molding, wainscoting, and doorframes, were preserved. This process, beginning in 1987 and continuing through 1993, was initiated and completed by the current president, CEO, and chairman of the board, Norman Beatty. However, this restoration would not be possible without the great care his father and grandfather had for the bank building.