Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Purdue State Bank, West Lafayette, IN

In the sleepy college town of West Lafayette, Indiana, is the Purdue State Bank building (now Chase). Completed in 1914, this is another of Sullivan’s Jewel Boxes, fit into a gently sloping, irregularly shaped block along the main east-west thoroughfare. Like his structure in Algona, Iowa, the Purdue State Bank was completed on a low budget, and is among the smallest of the banks. They’re similar in their composition, colors, size, and budget.

The Purdue State Bank, now Chase, rather defaced by an ATM in front

Unfortunately, the building has been altered, especially the once-front entrance, which has been replaced with an ATM kiosk. The signs that had hung over the entrance have now been replaced with a smaller sign, and it appears that the terra cotta has been nicely restored. As for his decoration, it’s restrained overall, restricted to green terra cotta framing the side windows and textured brick patterns along the facades. Despite the budget, it is amazing how Sullivan works his magic in these buildings. It also looks like aside from the ATM, the building is in good condition even after nearly 100 years. The interior, which I did not have the chance to see, seems to be office and storage space for the bank, and probably could use some restoration.

Decoration detail, side facade

Next stops, Sidney, OH, and Owatonna, MN.

Farmers and Merchants Union Bank, Columbus, WI

Located 30 miles northeast of Madison is Louis Sullivan’s last completed building (he designed one last facade in Chicago in 1922), his last Jewel Box bank, and one of two structures in Wisconsin.

Farmers and Merchants Bank

The building remains occupied by the bank that commissioned the work, no small feat in today’s difficult economic times. The building has been very well-kept, and although it has been expanded, the additions have respected the spirit of the original building.

A new animal makes an appearance in this final bank, two eagles sitting atop the front and rear elevations, with the Wisconsin state motto, “Forward”. The bank name is on the marble lintel, along with the architect’s name, and the initials are carved in several places in the decorative front, and the gryphons make yet another appearance, holding shields with the F & M logo.

Detail, front

Eagle with “Forward”, rear facade.

Sullivan’s sketches for the bank survive. The overall plan changed several times, mostly on the front facade. The front facade went from three arches, to a single arch with a centered entrance, before finally settling on the built design. The side elevation, along Broadway (now Dickason Blvd.), was originally seven arches with decorative elements along the brick walls, but Sullivan reduced this to five arches and decoration in terra cotta above the arches. He settled on the final design by the end of March 1919, and the building was opened in June 1920.

Stained glass windows along Broadway elevation

The inside is similar in plan to his other banks, although with an upstairs mezzanine level holding a small museum of materials and photographs. John Szarkowski’s photos of the bank are displayed throughout, as is a Tiffany lamp donated by Sullivan after the bank opened. One nifty, overlooked item is the drinking fountain (bubbler for you Wisconsinites), yes, designed by Sullivan himself. He never neglected the human element of his buildings, his sketches of the facades include people, and the decoration is at all levels of the structure, eye level to keep the passerby interested, and up high to help unify the building.