‘A lot of history:’ Florida’s first Black-owned bank symbol of Orlando neighborhood

Axiom Bank is Florida’s first Black-owned bank, located in Washington Shores

ORLANDO, Fla. – As News 6 celebrates Black History Month, we want to take you inside a local building that’s been getting results in our community for nearly 60 years.

It’s not just any building. Axiom Bank is Florida’s first Black-owned bank and over the decades, it has become a symbol of Orlando’s Washington Shores neighborhood.

For retired Orlando police officer Kevin Barnes, going to the bank and seeing so many familiar faces is like reuniting with family. His roots are deep at the bank. His parents were just the third customers of what was once called the Washington Shores Savings and Loan back in 1963.

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Barnes visited the bank as a child to deposit his birthday checks. He has fond memories of seeing his bank book stamped by the teller and watching his balance grow. “And I looked at that bank book, and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Barnes said.

“You know, this is my family and it’s very important,” lifelong customer Donna Walden said. Walden’s dad served on the board. Her parents opened an account for her back in 1964 when she was just 6 months old. “And when I come in, you know, I introduce myself literally like today, ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘I’m Ms. Walden. This is my bank. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to my bank.’”

“Oh I’m walking in history every time I come,” former Orlando City Commissioner Samuel Ings laughed. Ings has been banking there since the 1970s. As the surrounding community has evolved, he says this bank has been a mainstay. “That’s what’s really crucial to me,” Ings said. “They do see a future that’s solid for the community.”

Known as the Goldwyn branch, the bank has changed names over the years. Most recently, Axiom Bank took over and invested $1.5 million to upgrade the historic building, while keeping its retro touches.

“A lot of history has been here at this location and we wanted to keep some of that history here,” branch manager James Pugh said. “When this branch was opened, there wasn’t very much lending for this and surrounding communities and that was one of the reasons that the founders opened this location.”

The original floors, beams and iconic roofline are still intact. The familiar stones that used to grace the façade will eventually be repurposed for the landscaping.

When Walden first saw the transformation, she was in awe. “I literally stood in the corner. I was like, ‘Wow.’ So, so deserving,” Walden said.

So deserving for an institution that has been getting results for nearly 60 years and to this day is the only bank operating in Washington Shores.

“Very seldom do I come in here and I don’t bump into someone that I don’t know,” Walden said. “And then you end up going down memory lane and hang out for a while.”

About the Author:

Lisa Bell has been in Central Florida since 2007, covering the big stories that impact our community. Lisa was promoted to News 6 evening news co-anchor in May 2014.