|The monumental Grand Street entrance -- photo by Jim Henderson|
It was in this more respectable neighborhood that The Bowery Savings Bank planned its spectacular headquarters in 1893, 60 years after its founding. In giving guidelines to the group of architects vying for the commission the bank’s committee instructed “that an edifice ought to be erected which should impress the beholder with its dignity and fortress-like strength on account of the neighborhood in which it is to be located.”
The committee chose the designs of McKim, Mead & White and they got what they asked for.
As construction got underway The New York Times promised that the building would “be one of the handsomest in the country as well as one of the largest wholly devoted to banking purposes.”
Borrowing loosely from the design of the Bank of England in London, the architects also drew inspiration from the monumental white marble edifices that graced Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of a year earlier. The firm created a Roman temple to banking that wrapped around the existing building at Bowery and Grand Street. The L-shaped structure had a majestic two-story portico on Grand Street with four colossal Corinthian columns supporting a classical pediment. Frederick MacMonnies sculpted two reclining figures representing Time with an hour glass and scythe, and Industry that rested against an enormous clock within the pediment.
|The narrower Bowery entrance with its triumphal arch entry -- photo by Jim Henderson|
Like other new bank buildings following the Financial Panic of 1893, the building was intended to instill confidence in those who would entrust their savings here. The classical, sturdy limestone structure exuded the strength and stability that wary investors found reassuring.
The interior was a dazzling display of grandeur. A century later the AIA Guide to New York City would say of it, “Roman pomp wraps around Renaissance luster…Pass through the triumphal arch into an interior that is one of the great spaces of New York.”
A 100-foot, mosaic-floored corridor led from the Bowery entrance to the main banking area which sat beneath an enormous amber glass dome. Corinthian faux-marble columns with gilded capitals supported the dome and matching marble pilasters rose between the windows. Beneath the dome was the 8-foot tall cashier’s counter crafted of Sienna marble and bronze grills. White mahogany trim and glazed brick walls finished off the interior design, under a rich coffered ceiling based o the Basilica of Constantine in Rome.
Construction was completed in 1895 at a total cost of $570,421.57.
|The bustling Bowery with its streetcars and elevated trains. The tiny clothing store around which The Bowery Savings Bank wrapped is seen at the left -- photo The New Museum|
The Bowery Savings Bank remained in its imposing Roman temple until 1982 when it was sold to H. F. Ahmanson & Co., who renamed it Home Savings of America. In October 2002 it ceased to be a bank and the building opened as Capitale – a banquet and events venue. Owner Stan Greenberg spent $4 million to restore and convert the36,000 foot space.
The Bowery Savings Bank exterior was designed a New York City landmark in 1966 and the breathtaking interiors were landmarked in 1994.