Part I – Almost a Century of Service: The History of Washington Federal

by Washington Federal Team on April 6, 2012

Washington Federal will turn 95 years old next week. In honor of this birthday, we’d like to share our story with you in five parts leading up to this special moment. Be sure to check back on our blog for more of the story.

Nineteen seventeen might not have been the ideal time to open a new bank.  After all, the average worker was earning as little as 45 cents a day and the ability to save money was a real challenge.  The U.S. Government had just introduced the 16th Amendment establishing a federal income tax, and to complicate matters even further, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Declaration of War against Germany on April 6, 1917.

Despite all odds, however, on April 13th of that year, a small group of businessmen in Ballard – W.C. Kean, John Gerke, J.L. Pheasant, Frank C. Kean and M.T. Bowie – founded Ballard Savings & Loan – which was to become Washington Federal.  Their basic objective was to provide a source of funds for home loans and to help their neighbors build a safe and secure financial future.  Their collective personality and vision laid the foundation for what has today become “one of the strongest financial institutions in the nation.”

Its beginning, though, could be traced all the way back to 1896, when W.C. Kean first came to Seattle and attended the University of Washington.  Soon after, he organized a real estate company known as “Kean Brothers Inc.” with his brother Frank and his father A.C. Kean.  Their building was first located at 2317 Market Street.  They stayed in that spot until 1909, and then built at 2023 Market Street.

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