Historic Structures

Indiana National Bank Building, Indianapolis Indiana

Date added: January 8, 2021 Categories: Indiana Bank

After a fire on 18 Sept. 1895 that destroyed the bank's quarters, the directors commissioned D. A. Bohlen and Son, Architects, to design a new building. Oscar D. Bohlen of the architectural firm and bank president Volney T. Mallott went to New York City to look at banks. Construction began 1 Feb. 1896. The building was occupied on 12 Jan. 1897. The building was designed in the Classic style and was fireproof. The exterior was of Indiana oolitic limestone, carved by H. R. Saunders, sculptor. The interior was finished in white Italian marble. The dimensions were given as 128 feet long, 63 feet wide, and 36 feet high.

It is interesting to note that The American Architect and Building News carried drawings by Marsh, Israels and Harder, architects, titled "Competitive (Unsuccessful) Design...", dated 1895. This plan centers on a circular, domed rotunda, quite different from the rectangular banking chamber of Bohlen's design. A competition, then, preceded the award of the commission to D. A. Bohlen and Sons.

The vaults are described as "built of laminated chrome steel overlapping plates - no cast steel or chilled steel entering into their construction". Inspection of the working drawings showed that the vault floor and footing included railroad rails laid in two directions with the rails placed side by side. The present owner of the property is understood to have left the vault—it was not demolished with the rest of the building.

The main banking room was spanned by steel trusses and the floor of this space had shallow segmental arches of masonry spanning between steel beams. From the beginning the building was heated by steam piped under the streets to downtown buildings from a central steel plant. In the original building the first floor housed the tellers' cages and small desks. The vault was in the basement, as were the transit and bookkeeping departments, whose desks were boards on sawhorses. The stairway to the basement was in the back center of the lobby, and the safe deposit vault was at the front right side as one entered the front door, where the teller cages began. This building functioned quite differently from a present-day bank. It was a commercial bank where businesses could deposit extra cash without interest. The bank made commercial loans and maintained checking accounts for businesses and wealthy individuals. There were no checking accounts for the average persons, no savings accounts as known today, and no mortgage or installment loans.

Expansion of the building had been planned for, and in 1912 a two-story addition was made consisting of two bays on the west elevation of the building along South Pennsylvania Street and six bays on the northeast elevation along Virginia Avenue.

At this time prison lights were installed in the sidewalk along South Pennsylvania Street to give natural lighting for the cellar.

Photographs dating from 1902 or slightly earlier of the bank and neighboring buildings on South Pennsylvania Street show proceeding in order southward from the original bank building—a narrow two-story building, the Scottish Rite Building of about seven stories, and the Majestic Building of ten stories at the corner of South Pennsylvania and East Maryland Streets. The 1912 addition replaced the two-story building on South Pennsylvania Street and replaced other existing buildings along Virginia Avenue. The north elevation of the bank is also shown.

In 1935 the Scottish Rite Building was purchased and demolished and another two-story addition to the bank was made to the south. At this time the upstairs floor was rearranged, opening it up. The freestanding octagonal tables in the main banking room were installed then, as were new bronze entrance doors at the north entrance, and the vault at the rear of the first floor was removed in order to allow connection to the large addition to the south.

In 1950 six stories (and a penthouse?) were added on top of the 1935 addition with a facade of Indiana limestone. Air conditioning and high-speed elevators were included. In plan it had 82 feet of frontage on South Pennsylvania Street and was 101 feet deep. The additional space was to be used as additional meeting rooms and for expansion of then-existing departments. A photograph published 17 June 1950 shows the steel structure as its highest point was reached. A photograph of the completed addition was published by the general contractor in a brochure of his work.

In 1958 a nine-story office building 40 feet wide fronting on East Maryland Street and 120 feet deep was built. In plan it lapped over the rear of the 1935 and 1950 additions and was accessible through them at all floor levels. The 1958 addition had a facade consisting of an aluminum-and-glass curtain wall outlined by Indiana limestone trim. The building was air conditioned. The 1935, 1950 and 1958 additions are standing today. The 1958 addition replaced the 68- year-old Ober Building on its site.

In 1970 the original portions of the bank building and the 1912 addition were razed.