Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Merchants' National Bank

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Built  1914
Designated CP  January 7, 1976
Added to NRHP  7 January 1976
NRHP Reference #  76000804
Opened  1914
Architect  Louis Sullivan
Merchants' National Bank httpswwwblufftoneduhomepagesfacstaffsulliv
Location  Northwest corner of 4th Avenue and Broad Street, Grinnell, Iowa
Architectural style  Late 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements, Other
Part of  Grinnell Historic Commercial District (#91000384)
Similar  National Farmer's Bank of O, Peoples Savings Bank, Henry Adams Building, Farmers and Merchant, Van Allen Building

The Merchants' National Bank (1914) building is a historic commercial building located at 833 Fourth Avenue in Grinnell, Iowa. It is one of a series of small banks designed by Louis Sullivan in the Midwest between 1909 and 1919. All of the banks are built of brick and for this structure he employed various shades of brick, ranging in color from blue-black to golden brown, giving it an overall reddish brown appearance. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architecture. In 1991 it was listed as a contributing property in the Grinnell Historic Commercial District.


Merchants' National Bank Images of Merchants39 National Bank by Louis Sullivan

Description and history

Merchants' National Bank Merchants National Bank View On Black Grinnell Iowa desig Flickr

Merchants' National Bank was built in 1914 and had its grand opening on January the first, in 1915, along with the Purdue State Bank in Indiana, also designed by Sullivan.

Structurally the building is a rectangular box, with a magnificent main facade and a windowed side facade.

Merchants' National Bank Merchants39 National Bank Wikipedia

Although this building is smaller than either his Owatonna or Cedar Rapids banks it appears just as monumental. This is due largely to the oversized cartouche that surrounds a circular window on the Fourth Street facade. Light is introduced into the interior by a series of stained glass windows that alternate with structural posts down the side of the building and through the colored glass skylight that comprises much of the ceiling.

Merchants' National Bank Merchants National Bank architect Louis Sullivan I always loved

While the bank housed in the structure, and its location, Grinnell Iowa, did not warrant national attention, yet the unveiling of a Louis Sullivan building was given national coverage in the architectural press of the day and the Merchants' Bank was thus featured in an eleven-page spread in The Western Architect's February 1916 edition.

Merchants' National Bank Merchants39 National Bank Grinnell Iowa designed by Loui Flickr

As he did in his banks in Cedar Rapids and Sidney, Ohio, Sullivan used lions, or at least a grotesque, winged version of a lion, as figurative decoration. This creature is one of the very few figurative elements that can be found in the architect's designs. (The angels in his Transportation Building and the Bayard-Condict Building being other examples.)

Merchants' National Bank iowa ride travel live

Some of the plans and even the designs of the ornament were done by Sullivan's draftsman Parker N. Berry, who was shortly thereafter to fall victim to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

In the 1970s or early 1980s a city beautification project sponsored the planting of several trees in front of the bank. Gebhard calls this an "unbelievable decision" for the growing plants would obscure more and more of the amazing facade. These plantings can be easily seen in the gallery pictures, taken in 1985. These trees were removed as of 2013.

In 2007 the city remodeled its downtown sidewalks and streets so the intersections of the square had the "Jewelbox" appearance to them. The city also put Planters at the four corners of the crossings which have the "Jewelbox" engraved in them.

Between 2008 and 2009 one of the lions in front of the building was damaged. Both lions have now been replaced.

Other Louis Sullivan "jewel boxes"

  • Farmers and Merchants Bank, Columbus, Wisconsin (1919)
  • Henry Adams Building, Algona, Iowa (1913)
  • Home Building Association Company, Newark, Ohio (1914)
  • National Farmer's Bank, Owatonna, Minnesota (1908)
  • People's Federal Savings and Loan Association, Sidney, Ohio (1918)
  • Peoples Savings Bank, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (1912)
  • Purdue State Bank, West Lafayette, Indiana (1914)
  • References

    Merchants' National Bank Wikipedia

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