A Place in Time spotlights a significant cultural resource - a district, site, building, structure or object - entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
Gosztonyi Savings and Trust building. State Historic Preservation Office

Gosztonyi Savings and Trust building. State Historic Preservation Office

The Gosztonyi Savings and Trust represents the Eastern European immigrant community’s financial investment in America and the singular vision of a woman determined to continue and expand her husband’s legacy. The bank building at 530 East 3rd Street, Bethlehem, Northampton County, was constructed around 1922, well into the evolution of the Gosztonyi family’s successful business.

Few immigrants catered to the needs of the foreign-born population in the early 20th century as ably as the Gosztonyi family. John Gosztonyi, family patriarch, emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1884, settling in South Bethlehem in 1892. An entrepreneur, he founded a Slovak-language newspaper, opened a general store and operated a boarding house for other Eastern European immigrants. He also served as a translator for the local court system and was the first Slovak to win an election in the Bethlehem area, as a delegate to the state Democratic convention. John’s fluency in six languages as well as a number of dialects likely made his social and political achievements possible. His most lasting enterprise was the private foreign exchange bank he created to serve Eastern European immigrants living in the Bethlehem area. The bank was an outgrowth of John’s boarding house, which lodged immigrants working at the zinc and iron mills in the area.

Boarding houses were common at the turn of the 20th century, because new immigrant laborers without families, lacking English-language skills and an understanding of local culture, depended on more-established immigrants, often their landlords. Gosztonyi’s foreign exchange bank sold steamship tickets, wrote domestic and foreign money orders, and served as a financial agent to boarders and other Eastern European immigrants in the community. Money remaining after room and board was deducted from wages was often sent back to family in Europe or saved for a “transportation package” (ticket, visa and emigration permission) for wives or family members.

John’s partner in many of his endeavors was his wife Rozalia, known as “Rozi,” a Czech immigrant who spoke five languages. After John’s death in 1905, Rozi continued operating the boarding house and its financial services from the family home. She was even more successful than John, focusing on the growing bank that was giving her family stability. Her eldest son Charles graduated from nearby Lehigh University with a degree in engineering in 1910 and went on to work as a superintendent at Bethlehem Steel, which had become the dominant employer in the area. By 1912 Rozi moved the now full-time bank out of the family’s home and into a newly acquired building. When she took the bank public in 1918 as the Gosztonyi Savings and Trust, she became its president, probably the first female bank president in Pennsylvania. Charles soon resigned from Bethlehem Steel to work for his mother.

The bank's vault door, with a plaque identifying the architect Tilghman Moyer, was retained in the renovation and now is the entry to a private dining room. State Historic Preservation Office

The bank’s vault door, with a plaque identifying the architect Tilghman Moyer, was retained in the renovation and now is the entry to a private dining room.
State Historic Preservation Office

By 1919 Rozi was ready for another expansion of the business. She acquired new land and commissioned Allentown-based architect Tilghman Moyer to design a Neoclassical Revival stone building to be located directly across from Bethlehem Steel’s company offices. Moyer was a successful regional architect specializing in banks. The building he designed for Rozi is featured in his 1924 book Building the Bank for Business.

Rozi and the family continued to operate their bank until they were forc

ed to sell following the economic crash of 1929. At the start of the 1930s they were able to pay only 50 cents on every dollar deposited in the bank. After a 1934 reorganization failed, the family sold the business to Peoples Bank of Bethlehem. The building continued to operate as a bank branch under various names until 1996, when it was converted into offices for the National Museum of Industrial History, complete with drop ceilings hiding the upper portions of the tall windows and partition walls dividing the main banking hall into smaller rooms.

In 2015 the building was converted again, this time for use as a restaurant and distillery, the Social Still. The renovation returned the open main space, exposed decorative ceiling trim and other original features that had been hidden, and retained distinctive details such as the bank vault, which now serves as a small private dining room.

This successful new use for the building was made possible in part by the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program for the rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties. The tax credit program is one of the nation’s most effective historic preservation efforts, encouraging the reuse of buildings, generating jobs, enhancing property values and supporting community revitalization. Each year approximately 1,200 projects are approved, leveraging nearly $6 billion annually in private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings across the country. In 2015 an estimated $350 million was invested in rehabilitating 29 Pennsylvania properties through the tax credit program, which is administered in Pennsylvania by PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office in partnership with the National Park Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

The Gosztonyi Savings and Trust building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on May 19, 2015.


Recent listings in the National Register of Historic Places include Continental Powder Works at French Creek, East Pikeland Township, Chester County; Friends Housing Cooperative, Philadelphia; Hatfield Borough Substation, Lock Up and Firehouse, Hatfield, Montgomery County; Loleta Recreation Area, Millstone Township, Elk County; and Star Barn Complex, Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County, already listed but scheduled to be moved and reassembled in Lancaster County, requiring new documentation.


The author acknowledges the work of Lauren Golden, who prepared the original National Register nomination for Gosztonyi Savings and Trust.

April E. Frantz is a historic preservation specialist who coordinates the National Register Program for the eastern part of the state at PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office.