THE EARLY SKYSCRAPER BANKS

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY PAM VANDERPLOEG COPYRIGHT 2019

Early Bank Skyscrapers on Monroe Center 

Monroe Center was the epicenter for Grand Rapids early skyscraper banks. The idea was to build elaborate and imposing structures implying permanence and prosperity by using monumental classical detailing on a grand scale. The first of these banks, set on the corner of Pearl and Monroe Center, is the Grand Rapids National Bank completed in 1914 at 114 Monroe Center. It was designed by Williamson & Crow and built in different stages with the first rendition a substantial Neoclassic design with large two story fluted columns and elaborate stonework.   Soon after, additional floors were added. The Grand Rapids Savings Bank was completed two blocks east at 66 Monroe Center at Ionia. This bank was designed by Osgood & Osgood and completed in 1916. The buff brown brick and granite building with Terra Cotta trim was for many years the tallest building in Grand Rapids at 13 floors. In 1926 it was bested by the addition of floors to the Grand Rapids National Bank bringing the height to 16 floors. Also in the 1920s, architects were recruited from Chicago and Detroit to complete the last two of the early skyscraper banks on Monroe Center.  The Kent State Bank, 55 Ionia NW at the corner of Monroe Center, was incorporated into the Morton House Hotel on the northwest corner of Monroe Center and Ionia and was designed by the prestigious Chicago firm Holabird & Roche.  The last of these early skyscraper banks, completed in 1925, is Grand Rapids Trust Building, sometimes known as the Michigan National Bank, by Wirt Rowland, lead designer of the Detroit firm of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls.  He was known for the design of the fabulous and ornate Guardian Building in Detroit. The Grand Rapids Trust building similarly uses Terra Cotta, and in this case the entire facade, and stunning decoration by noted architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci.  These four early skyscraper banks have anchored the downtown for over one hundred years, in the case of the first two listed.

Original portion of the Grand Rapids National Bank on Monroe Center built in 1914. McKay Tower addition shown below.

Original portion of the Grand Rapids National Bank on Monroe Center built in 1914. McKay Tower addition shown below.

MCKAY TOWER - GRAND RAPIDS NATIONAL BANK 1914

The McKay Tower Building in 2018 on Monroe Center

The McKay Tower Building in 2018 on Monroe Center

146 Monroe Center NW 

BUILDING DETAILS:  Four-story bank building in neoclassical style, with large engaged fluted columns.

ARCHITECTS:  Williamson & Crow

HISTORY:  On the original site of the Joe Guild House (original Grand Rapids pioneer) and later the Wonderly Building. The bank was a successor to the bank found in the 1860s by Moses V. Aldrich, one time mayor of Grand Rapids.  In 1926 it had $1,000,000 in capital and a surplus of $200,000. There were nine branches. In 1926, Dudley Waters who financed the Waters Building, a furniture exhibition building, was president in the 1920s. The building was purchased by Frank McKay in 1940 and renamed McKay Tower.  

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GRAND RAPIDS SAVINGS BANK copy 2.jpeg

GRAND RAPIDS SAVINGS BANK 1914

66 Monroe Center NW

BUILDING DETAILS: An early Grand Rapids bank skyscraper at 13-stories.  This is a monumental brick building with a three story base of gray granite blocks and has classical revival and beaux arts styling. Modern in its structural design, the bank was constructed with structural steel in place of load-bearing walls. The front of the building has five bays. The recessed entrance, three bays wide, is exactly in the center and is flanked by two massive Doric Columns. Two engaged outer columns frame the recessed entry space. A large elaborate cornice tops the granite base. Slender brick piers on the upper floors give the building a soaring verticality in the style of the Chicago modern skyscrapers. The three sets of paired windows, flanked by a single window on each end, are capped with Terra Cotta sills and lintels.

ARCHITECTS: Sidney and Eugene Osgood were the architects and the contractor was Hauser Owens-Ames.

HISTORY: The Grand Rapids Savings Bank was organized in 1870. By 1917 it had moved to this auspicious building. The building was added to the National Register in 1990.
                                       

HOME STATE BANK FOR SAVINGS At the Southeast Corner of Ionia and Monroe Street

BUILDING DETAILS: Still looking for a photo and information.

ARCHITECT: Unknown

HISTORY: Started in 1922 and organized by Charles B. Kelsey as President and Martin Verdier as Cashier, who became Executive Vice-President by 1926.

MORTON HOUSE 72 MONROE CENTER 1922 HOLABIRD AND ROCHE.JPG

MORTON HOTEL - KENT STATE BANK 1922 55 Ionia NW at Monroe Center 

BUILDING DETAILS: Neoclassical style 

ARCHITECTS & BUILDERS: Holabird & Roche Architects, Chicago and Owens Ames Kimball, Contractors.

HISTORY:  Constructed for J. Boyd Pantlind.  

The Kent State Bank was the consolidation of Kent County Savings Bank and the State Bank of Michigan in 1908 with capitol of $500,000 and officers President Henry Idema, John Covode and Daniel McCoy, Vice-Presidents and cashier J.A.S. Verdier. Its offices had been at the corner of Ottawa and Fountain until it moved to its new location in the new Morton House Hotel in 1923 with its lobby on the main floor of the building. The next year it absorbed the Commercial Savings and Peoples State Banks. By 1925, it had capitol of $1,000,000.

Restored as Morton House Apartments.

Sculpture detail by Corrado Parducci with Native American theme

Sculpture detail by Corrado Parducci with Native American theme

GRAND RAPIDS TRUST BUILDING 1925 77 Monroe Center NW

BUILDING DETAILS: 1920's modern skyscraper of Italian Renaissance styling and elaborate details, including a sculptural representative of a Native American the Monroe/Ionia corner of the facade and cast iron rosettes designed by renowned Detroit architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci.  The building features large deeply recessed Romanesque arches at the base with recessed corner pylons.  It rises sharply above that with the style of a modern skyscraper.  The interior included walnut panelling, wrought iron railings throughout and an elaborate second-floor banking hall with marble floors, terrazzo, columns and ornate woodwork. The second floor later became a ballroom with a grand staircase. 
ARCHITECT:  Wirt Rowland for Smith Hinchman & Grylls, Detroit.  

In 2019 this building provides commercial office building and serves as a grand event space.  It is  owned by City Flats Hotel next door. 

Grand Rapids Trust Building with Terra Cotta facade in 2018

Grand Rapids Trust Building with Terra Cotta facade in 2018