History & Context
Completed in 1925, this grandly-scaled Colonial Revival-style building at 4146 South Halsted Street originally housed two banks that served the industries and employees of the nearby Union Stock Yards and Central Manufacturing District. With its Palladian windows and central clock tower, the design is closely modeled on Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Interest in Colonial architecture grew in the 1920s due to Philadelphia's Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926 and the restoration and reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s.
The building was designed by Abraham Epstein, a Chicago architect and engineer who is perhaps best-known for his designs for the reconstruction of the Union Stock Yards after a fire in 1934. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on October 8, 2008.
Assessment & Upgrades
For this project, Wight & Company partnered with the City of Chicago's Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS) to carry out a number of necessary improvements:
- Shoring up public safety (exterior) in terms of falling or deteriorating elements
- Ensuring the building is watertight (roof and basement specifically)
- Making the interior safe and secure
- Creating a space that's usable and functional (MEP systems)
The original First Floor Plan indicates placement of the President's Office as well as workspaces for other bank officials and the bank tellers.
The Interior Lobby, pictured in 1924, featured marble flooring and fixtures, plaster ornamentation, and pendant chandeliers located at the center of each ceiling bay.
A view of the lobby in early 2020 shows the remnants of the building's final tenant, The Color Inn. While large sections of lath and plaster had deteriorated beyond repair or were completely missing - resulting in exposure of the exterior brick masonry to the interior of the building - much of the marble wainscoting, plaster fluting, and capitals located on the wall and columns were in good condition and could be rehabilitated in the future.
The basement housed a number of vaults and large work rooms for staff. By the time Wight & Company began work on the project, 8' of standing water filled the space.
The original safety deposit vault, located in the center of the basement, circa 1924.
The safety deposit vault in early 2020. The standing water caused severe damage and destruction to all finishes and nonstructural partitions. Water removal, mitigation, and abatement work were completed in late 2020.
The basement was drained twice during project work. Several inches of water still stood after the first draining, which revealed remnants of the employee bathrooms along with mechanical and electrical fixtures.
A drawing of the original clock tower, which would have been visible to many of the 40,000 workers employed in the stock yards by the early 1920s.
Scaffolding and a 150’ lift were required to repair and restore the clock tower facade in 2020.
Improvement work included installation of a passive ventilation system, the addition of new access stairs, and new sheet metal enclosures on the roof. Sadly, the clocks no longer function.
Although the clock hands were removed over 60 years ago, a mechanical arm that would have rotated the hands still reaches out from the center to the face of one clock.
A spiral staircase at the center of the building lead down from the second floor to the "balcony," a private space used by bank security guards as a vantage point to watch over the entire first floor’s banking hall and teller stations.
A view from inside the balcony, which was discreetly tucked away near the first floor vestibule. The pink section to the right of the circular stair is actually an opening in the panels where guards could fire their weapons in case of a robbery or other threat to bank employees.
The highlighted section shows the exterior view of the opening in the balcony. The photos of the balcony shown here are some of the only ones ever published.
As part of restricting access to dangerous areas throughout the building, the spiral staircase leading down to the balcony was boarded over in late 2020, ensuring that in the event of an emergency, no one would become trapped if they mistakenly tried using it as an exit to the first floor.