Tag: Banks

  • First National Bank, Castle Shannon

    First National Bank, Castle Shannon

    You might pass this little building by without a second glance as you walked along Poplar Street, if you ever did walk along Poplar Street (a very pleasant street) in Castle Shannon. But if you did pause, you might notice the tall Corinthian columns and sturdy-looking quoins (those patterns in the bricks that are meant to look like cut stone) and think, “I wonder whether that used to be a bank.”

    Then you would look up at the pediment, and all doubt would be removed.

    Vault alarm

    The electric vault alarm still sits prominently in the pediment where a richer bank might have had an allegorical figure of Commerce.

    To judge by old maps, this bank was built between 1890 and 1906.

    Corinthian capital
    First National Bank
  • Peoples Trust Company of Pittsburgh, South Side

    Peoples Trust Company of Pittsburgh

    This modest but tastefully classical bank was built in 1902. Notice how the front composition of larger arch flanked by two smaller arches is rhythmically repeated on the side.

  • German Savings Deposit Bank, South Side

    German Savings Deposit Bank

    This is now the Carson City Saloon, because everything on the South Side eventually becomes a bar. But the whole building shouts “bank.” It’s built from classical elements like a Venetian Renaissance palace.

    Carson City Saloon

    The date stone tells us that the bank was put up in 1896, with palm fronds signifying victory, and anti-pigeon spikes signifying “We hate pigeons.”


    This ornamental ironwork is meant to evoke the balconies on a Renaissance palace, without actually being useful as a balcony.

    1401 East Carson Street
  • Arsenal Bank Building, Lawrenceville

    Arsenal Bank Building

    Built in 1884 in a Victorian Gothic style—Father Pitt calls it Commercial Gothic—this was a bank until 1943, according to the Lawrenceville expert Jim Wudarczyk. After that it was offices for quite a while, and then was refurbished as a restaurant and apartments above. This is not a great work of architecture, but the details are interesting and worth a close look. The builder reveled in his corner location and made that corner the focus of the whole building. Old Pa Pitt can’t help thinking that the treatment of the windows could have been improved by making it either more interesting or less interesting; the stone accents are either too much or too little.

  • Looking Up at the Keystone Bank Building

    Underside of the arch, Keystone Bank Building

    Most of the light well, once this building’s most distinctive feature, has been filled in; but for some reason the mutilation stopped before it reached the very top. Here we see the underside of what used to be a spectacular arch.

  • Industrial Bank

    Industrial Bank

    A little bank built in 1903, designed to convey the message that you don’t have to be big to be rich. The architect was Charles M. Bartberger.

  • Commercial National Bank

    Commercial National Bank

    This little bank on Fourth Avenue was originally designed by Alden and Harlow. The central section has been ruthlessly mutilated, with the elegant arch replaced by a cartoon suggestion of an arch. For reasons unknown, much of the rest of the building was left untouched (although it is pretty clearly missing its top), and the details there are enough to make it worth our while to stop and admire them.

    Of course there are lions. How could there not be lions?

  • Dollar Bank

    Dollar Bank

    The adjective “tasteful” does not naturally attach itself to this structure. It has the look of a building specified by a banker who hired an expensive architect and was determined to wring every cent of his money’s worth out of the details. It is magnificent in a slightly horrifying way: this is the kind of monstrosity that was in the minds of the modernists when they condemned all things Victorian. Old Pa Pitt would not change a single swirl or swag or grotesque half-vegetable naked lady.

    The architect in question was the firm of Isaac H. Hobbs & Sons from Philadelphia. Isaac H. Hobbs was a kind of celebrity architect. He was familiar to the thousands of ladies across our fair land who read Godey’s Lady’s Book, the premier fashion magazine of the middle 1800s: every month, Hobbs contributed a design for an elaborately Victorian residence for the lady readers to drool over. It was something like having a regular segment on a popular daytime talk show today. According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s Fourth Avenue walking tour (PDF), Hobbs designed a number of houses around Pittsburgh, but Father Pitt does not know any of them; he wonders whether they were original designs, or whether they were adaptations of the many designs published in Godey’s.

    It appears that the crust of 150-year-old ornamentation requires some stabilization: netting is stretched over the top half of the building at the moment.

  • Colonial Trust Company

    Colonial Trust Company

    A splendid banking hall with façades by Frederick Osterling. The Wood Street one above is one of his late works, from 1926. Many of the banks along Fourth Avenue went for height, building some of the first skyscrapers; the Colonial Trust Company went for length. Its main hall extends all the way through from Fourth to Forbes, with elaborate façades at both ends; it later extended a perpendicular arm to Wood Street. Below, the Fourth Avenue façade from 1902, also by Osterling. We can see how much his ideas of classical architecture had changed in 24 years. In 1902 he chose the Corinthian order and elaborated it with every kind of ornament of which classical architecture is capable; in 1926 he chose the Ionic order and kept the ornamentation to a minimum.

  • West End Savings Bank & Trust Co.

    In classical times, worshipers deposited their money in temples, leaving it under the protection of the god. In neoclassical times, banks were built in the form of classical temples, but the only god was money itself.