Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bills' Banks, Part Four

I've chosen to pair the two banks in this post, not for their proximity in location but for their proximity of design.   One was in Ripon and the other in Stevens Point, both were Romanesque in style.  In the Oshkosh Northwestern Weekly's biographical article about architect Waters of June 25, 1891 a Ripon bank is listed but not a bank in Stevens Point.  Among the many images found in the Waters archives of the Oshkosh Public Museum was a building of rough hewn stone with a pediment holding a set of small arched topped windows but no identification.  While researching the Ripon opera house I noticed in a photograph of the town square a similar building and concluded it was the Waters' designed bank listed in the newspaper. 
       
The bank in Ripon was the German National Bank which was built in 1891, its' construction unheralded by any of the Oshkosh press.  Constructed of rough hewn limestone it was perhaps thirty feet wide and two stories high.  On the ground floor to the left was the entrance; double doors with an arched transom, flanked by twin columns which supported a stone lintel and pediment and to the right of the doors was a large square window.  Above the first floor window were two windows and another set of smaller windows to the left just above the doors.  The stone work was of regular shaped blocks, either rectangular or square and laid in even courses.  With the onset of World War one the bank changed its' name to the First National Bank and replaced the building in the early 1920's with a large Art Deco Style edifice.
The mystery of the unidentified bank remained. I had no idea where to look but searched old images from cities around the state, old postcards of Stevens Point brought an answer when I spotted the building in a picture of Main Street.  The accompanying explanation designated the building as the Citizens National Bank, built in 1895.  The bank was a  tour de force of Romanesque Style architecture with retail space in the basement and two floors above for banking and office use.  The first floor sat on a high foundation and the front elevation was dominated by two features; to the left a large arched window and at the right the front door.  The entrance was gained by a short flight of steps and as with the Ripon bank there was a set double doors with an arched transom set in a portico with twin pillars on each side supporting brackets.  These brackets held up a stone lintel inscribed the the word "BANK" and above that  was a pediment rising past the windows of the second floor.  The fenestration of the second floor was like that of the Ripon bank with two large windows above the arched window of the first floor and two smaller windows above the door.  The second floor widows were double hung window with transoms, above the windows to the left were two square lights and three lights above the smaller windows to the right.  A pediment with a set of triplet window capped the facade.  The stone work was of regular shaped blocks, either square or rectangular not laid in even courses but in a random pattern.  Large stone lintels topped the openings of the second floor. In the 1907 book Along the Wisconsin River by A. Decker there was this quote, " Few banks in the country are housed in finer quarters, the elegant building it occupies being not an enduring monument to the business sagacity of its backers, but it is a rich and magnificent acquisition to the architectural splendor of the city."  The splendor of the architecture was appreciated only until 1921 when the facade was replaced by a neoclassical style front.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bills' Banks, Part Three

With all the work Mr. Waters did in Neenah and Menasha it is no surprise that he designed a bank in each city.  The First National Bank of Neenah was founded in 1861 and was located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Ceder Street, later known as Commercial Street.  A fire in 1883 destroyed the bank and the adjacent Pettibone Block, a replacement was soon in the works.  Architect Waters' plans not only provided ample space for the bank but there were three other retail spaces as well as office or residential rooms on the second floor.   The building was of the latest style and employed a variety of building materials and surface textures.  Along the Wisconsin Avenue side were two store front and a stairway to the upper floor.  At the top of the structure was a brickwork cornice and a large pediment centered in the wall.  The bank itself occupied the corner space.  A chamfered corner held the front door which was flaked by two columns supporting a segment pediment.  Above the door was a set of double windows and beyond that, a set of small double windows set in a diminutive tower capped by a hipped peaked roof.  By the 1930's it no longer fit the needs of the bank and was replaced with a neoclassic style building.  
The First National Bank of Menasha was established in 1887 and was by January 1 of 1888 doing business from a William Waters designed building.  The bank was on Main Street, located on the square and faced north.  Constructed of limestone and red pressed brick it had two entrances with large transoms on either side of an imposing arched window.   Given the situation of the building the windows permitted a great deal of light to fill the lobby.   Rough hewn limestone was used for the foundation, lintels and trim while the remainder of the building was red brick.  There were four large window across the second floor and above them were panels of decorative brick flanking a large stone inscribed with the word "Bank".  Menasha's semi-centennial souvenir booklet publish in 1893 called the building one of the architectural ornaments of the city. The refurbished building is still there but put to other use. 
On June 25,1891 the Oshkosh Northwestern Weekly newspaper published a lengthy biography of William Waters, including a list of his many accomplishments.  Banks in both Neenah and Menasha were part of that list.  There is also in the William Waters' archives of the Oshkosh Public Museum a photograph of the Menasha bank.