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Technological change forces early retirement of Windmill bank

Landmark to become city property

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ORANGE CITY, Iowa - Growing popularity of banking machines (ATMs), direct deposits, automatic withdrawals, telephone banking and even the Internet, all were factors in the recent decision by Northwestern State Bank to phase out its 27-year-old Windmill branch at Highway 10, near the east entrance to Orange City.

Bank president Jim Plagge observed that although his bank handles a lot more business, increased computerization now has three tellers do the work of seven previously. The Windmill branch, an imposing landmark, had fewer customers drop by for transactions. As a result of technological changes, the institution had less need of multiple branches in Iowa's second-oldest Dutch American settlement.

The unique Windmill branch was the brainchild of Northwestern's then president Virgil Rowenhorst who saw the structure as an "expression of the appreciation for the loyalty of the community" to his bank.

When announcing the impending retirement of its Windmill branch, Plagge went one up on Rowenhorst. He presented the landmark as a gift to Orange City whose Mayor Don Vander Stoep and council were quick to accept it. If Vander Stoep's comments are an indication, the Windmill branch soon could be a visitors centre with possibly offices for community groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce and the Dutch Heritage Boosters.