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Friday, July 27, 2012

Winona National Bank

The most interesting building we saw while in Winona, Minnesota was the Winona National Bank which was recommended to us by the worker at Sole Sport when we stopped in to look for an oar tether for the kayak.

 When it was built in 1916 it was called Winona Savings Bank but became Winona National Bank shortly afterward. The entrance pillars are made of granite and were quarried in North Carolina. When we opened the front door I thought I'd somehow traveled to downtown Chicago!

When we started admiring the Diebold steel vault we ended up getting a tour from a bank employee. The Tinos Green marble is from Greece and the English Vein marble is from Italy. The reason why it looked like a building one might see in downtown Chicago is because the architect was George Maher, who moved to Chicago at the age of 13 to be an apprentice in the architectural firm of Bauer and Hill. At the time Chicago was becoming a center for innovation in architecture as it was being rebuilt from the fire of 1871. By 1887 Maher was working in the large and influential office of Joseph L. Silsbee where Frank Lloyd Wright  was among his co-workers.

After getting a brief tour of the vault we were encouraged to explore the bank on our own. We got a great view of the vault from the second floor landing, then moved on up to the third floor which held lots of surprises. The furniture upstairs is the original Prairie School influenced furniture and was renovated in 1991. The third floor also houses a collection of guns and trophies from the original owner's 1942 African safari, including a now extinct black rhino.

Every last detail was breathtaking, the marble,the Tiffany stained glass window, mahogany stair rail, decorative floor tiles, original working light fixtures and even the vent coverings and skylights. The best part was unlike a tour of an architectural wonder in Chicago, there were no crowds and you could wander around and enjoy the splendor while trying to imagine a time when such attention to detail mattered... and it was free, too! I hope we can find more gems like this in our future travels. If you know of any, please share!

1 comment:

  1. They just don't make buildings like that any more. I share your admiration for that detail and beauty in older architecture. Today's construction is all about function and the decision was made by bean counters; cheap undecorated square boxes.