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Utah Commercial and Savings Bank Building

The importance of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank building
is related to both the architect, Richard K. A. Kletting. and the founder
of the bank, Francis Armstrong, as well as to the architecture.

Born in Wurttensberg, Germany, in 1858, Richard K. A. Kletting became
a dominant figure in Utah architecture after his arrival in the State in 1883. His important design commissions include the Utah State Capitol building,
original Saltair Pavilion, Utah State Hospital at Provo, McIntyre Building,
Felt Building, old University of Utah (now West High School), Deseret News
Building, Bell Telephone Building, Jefferson and Wittier schools, old Salt
Palace, Enos Wall mansion and several other commercial and residential buildings.

He was considered by his peers and the critics who followed an architect
of unusual ability. This opinion is attested to by the fact that most of
his projects are still in existence.

Francis Armstrong was an energetic entrepreneur who was born in England in 1839, came to the U.S. in 1858 and settled in Utah in 1861. After working for a short time in a flour mill, he formed a lumber and general contracting business known as Taylor, Bomney and Armstrong Co. Armstrong served in county government from 1881 until 1886 when he was elected Mayor of Salt Lake City.

As one of the originators and president of the Utah Power Co., Armstrong
purchased a street railway system from the L.D.S. Church and had it converted to electrical power. Thus Salt Lake City became the first city west of Chicago to have electrically operated street cars.

Francis Armstrong was one of the organizers and the first president
of the Utah Commercial and Savings Bank. He was responsible for commissioning Richard K. A. Kletting to design the bank building constructed between 1888 and 1890.

Style and significance:

A journalist of 1889 predicted “The Utah Commercial and Saving Bank building will have the finest front of any building in Utah: Of all the business facades of downtown Salt Lake, this one has survived with the least change. The Utah Commercial and Savings Bank is one of the best and of the few remaining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture
as applied to the commercial Brownstone architectural style. Constructed
in 1890, the building is one of the earliest banking buildings preserved in the State. In addition, it represents a successful design accomplishment and shrewd economy in putting three levels of business frontage on a site less than 33 feet wide.

Condition:

  • Exterior: The exterior of the bank building is weather worn
    but it is in good condition. It was sandblasted in about 1969
    and was coated with a protective plastic spray.
  • Interior: Some plaster has been removed from walls in the basement and on the second level to expose the original sandstone. The rear windows have been restored and some worn tile and wooden flooring has been replaced with parkay flooring. Though the interior walls on the main floor have not been altered significantly, the other levels have experienced extensive remodeling.

Exterior description:

Walls: The front wall and foundation are built of red sandstone. The stone has been dressed in a varied of ways for contrast. The dominant rusticated stone is complimented by smooth, scored and carved stone.

Window bays: The front elevation is symmetrical and the window
types differ with each floor level:

  • Ground floor: Over the entrance is a half-round transom window set within a carved stone Roman arch. Flanking the entrance are large, square, fixed stonefront windows with smaller, square transoms above.
  • Second floor: The middle window bay is flat or segmentally arched and enclosed a double-hung window with fixed sidelights and transoms to the sides and above. Flanking this center bay, one on each side, are two pairs of tall Roman bays enclosing double-hung windows with half-round transoms.
  • Upper floor: The center bay and its flanking bays are square and enclose sets of double-hung windows with decorative obscure glass transoms above. The center bay has a set of two windows while the side bays have three windows each.

Form and appearance:

Both the plan .and the shape of the front elevation are rectangular. A flight of nine risers bridges an areaway and goes up to the front entranceway. The entry doors are deeply recessed within an open vestibule. Recesses at the basement level shelter the entrances to the shops below. The roof is flat but slopes slightly to the rear of the building.

The center portion of the front wall extends slightly outward from the main face of the structure. This extension together with the recession of windows and cast shadows from the carved dentils and rock-faced masonry provide a sense of texture and weighty massiveness. Accentuating details include the steep triangular center facade, the columned mullions between windows on the second level, the engaged colonnettes which terminate
at a horizontal parapet and decorative stone foliated wall scrolls. The overall effect of the design of the building is is one of order and strength.