Three Round Banks

When I was in Meridian looking at the old Sears building last week, I discovered for the first time (although I’ve driven past them numerous times) two mid-century banks in the same area. They reminded me of a former bank in my own Fondren neighborhood in Jackson that is not only round but, in its new incarnation as a check-cashing establishment, has been painted a very bright pink. Truth be told, I didn’t really notice the building when it had its staid red brick veneer. It was really when they painted it pink that I first paid attention to it, which is slightly embarrassing. Ok, more than slightly embarrassing.

I have lost the citation for this advertisement, but I think it was in the Northside paper, c.1957.

So today, for your viewing pleasure, here are three round banks, all built c.1955-1960. I’m afraid that’s the limit of my knowledge about these buildings. I suspect that the Meridian banks were designed by one of the little coterie of Modernist architects in Meridian after World War II: Chris Risher, Robert B. Clopton, and Bill Archer. As for the Jackson bank, it could have been the work of any number of architects, many of whom had their offices right in the vicinity (in fact, Tom Biggs’ office was about four lots up the street, and R.W. Naef was just around the corner).

While some might say that round buildings aren’t practical, all three of these buildings are still operational, and two are performing their original function. Cool and functional? I’d say that’s mid-century Modernism at its best.

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Categories: Banks, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Meridian, Modernism, Recent Past

43 replies

  1. Thanks for posting these. I haven’t seen many of these in Texas, but as you imply, maybe folks just aren’t looking carefully enough;-)

    The Citizen’s Bank building, with the scalloped roof, reminds me a bit of the round arena or coliseum with the colored panels you had up a few weeks back? (Or months?) There seemed to be a thing with round buildings in the mid-60s. The sports arena at the Univ. of Virginia (University Hall, ca. 1965) is round and has a scalloped roof, with a very similar look to the Meridian bank. Univ. of Illinois also has a variant on the theme.

    BTW, that Georgian Rev. school in Laurel is just lovely. The frequency of that style just seems to ebb pretty quickly once you get west of Ark. and La.

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  2. There’s lots of examples of round buildings in Georgia, too. I think it was a theme for a decade or two:

    The Alexander house in Atlanta (now listed on the Nat. Register):
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/28/garden/28atlanta.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1

    And the Trust Company of Georgia (unfortunately the Piebar restaurant concept failed, and no one has been successful with new bar/restaurant concepts since – so maybe a check cashing business isn’t so bad of a fate):

    Piebar

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    • Wow, if a pie bar can’t make it, what has our world come to? I know for sure a person of my acquaintance would be there every night! What a great building, though, and with that bridge? very cool

      Thanks for those links too–that was great publicity from the New York Times!

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  3. Thanks! Interesting to see that Mr. Alexander was the designer for the oft-despised, round, multipurpose/astroturfed sports stadia in Cincinnati and Atlanta as well. That house was much more interesting;-)

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  4. You are correct, Mr. (fr. TX)! Georgia has quite a few. The smaller roundies like the check-cashing place in Jackson are everywhere here. In Athens there is one near the hospital that is used as a drug store. Fortunately that family has been able to hold the business for many years. I spotted another round one in Atlanta many years ago that is also similar to the check-cashing place. It was being used as a children’s clothing and toy shop, but I think it had changed hands many times… so adaptations had spoiled the form a bit. I think in California there are some recent past, round buildings that were designed for auto dealers. The floor-t0-ceiling glass walls I think were designed to open so the cars could be driven right out and the form of the building acted as a display case; a fayncy jewelery case, if you will (I’m probably thinking of BMW or Mercedes…).

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  5. Maybe someone should start a Flickr group for images of round bank buildings?

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    • Only if they sell pies! (Or at least give away free toasters.)

      Thanks, Scape.

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    • I see a group for round houses, but nothing for round banks. What about a round buildings group, to make it more general? And that way, we won’t have to offer free checking or free toasters either :-)

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    • The bank on Meadowbrook in Jackson could be in danger. The adjacent property has been purchased by (so I’ve heard) Walgreens, and everything on it demolished. I’m cringie when I drive by it nowadays.

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      • I’ve hardly been able to drive that direction since I realized last week what was about to happen. Now four buildings are down, and I believe a fifth on State street is also coming down, all for one big chain store. BUT I’ve heard the round bank is safe, for now. It’s all very upsetting though.

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  6. Malvaney, you know how I generally feel about Modernism. That being said, I do like the Citizens National Bank. The roof reminds me of Saarinen, a modern architect who’s work I like (along with some of Stone’s work).

    The Shoals also contains a round bank landmark. The former Colonial Bank, a two story round bank with absolutely no colonial features, sits at the corner of Woodward Ave. (U.S. 43) and Avalon Ave. in Muscle Shoals. I have liked that Colonial Bank ever since I was a child and not just because it was the family bank branch. The plantings shield the fairly small parking lot from the two major Muscle Shoals arteries. Also, to preserve the roundness of the bank, the architects (who I believe were Paul E. Barr and William S. Tune of the Shoals firm Barr & Tune) placed the drive-thru as a separate structure with the same detailing as the round bank. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photographs to share with everyone; since the bank sits on the two busiest streets in Muscle Shoals (a seven-lane U.S. highway and a five-lane commercial street) I have not felt suicidal enough to attempt to photograph it.

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  7. Come on, W., take one for the team–you’re a young guy, I’m sure you can dodge at least most of the oncoming traffic :-)

    I love the irony of a round Modernist Colonial Bank–I wonder if the architects were playing a joke?

    The Citizens Bank is my favorite of this bunch too. I’m going to hope it’s a Chris Risher design, but only because I’m biased.

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  8. I went through Meridian a few years back on a Risher Sr. tour of buildings. I remember seeing a very nice modern small doctor’s office with big glass and an interior garden court, and the elementary school on the east side of the highway. Would not surprise me if Risher Jr. had all of his pop’s drawings. Wouldn’t take too much to find out.

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  9. Risher Jr. does have all his father’s drawings, according to all the sources I know, but hasn’t been willing to part with them–that’s all hearsay.

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  10. I’ve heard from a couple of people now about this tour of Risher buildings a few years ago? How did I miss that? I had seen TomL’s pictures of the medical building, but I’m intrigued by your reference to an elementary school on the east side of the highway–you don’t happen to remember a name, do you?

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    • I’ve thrown some emails around to my Meridian friends. I’ll be passing through there on Friday,… I will try to find time to swing by. I’ll also photograph an old school in Macon that I keep meaning to document… looks like it was an N.W.O.

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      • That is a great-looking school in Macon–I assume you’re talking about the 1920s elementary school? It’s a P.J. Krouse, not Overstreet, but Krouse did some great work, including the Stewart Jones school I posted about earlier this week, the Meridian City Hall (w/Hutchison of Mobile as W. White has posted about previously), and many others around the state. Yet another underappreciated architect, probably because he was one of the very last in that generation just before Overstreet and may have begun his career as an apprentice instead of a formal education, and also because he was from Meridian and so hasn’t been as well known around the rest of the state.

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    • I believe it is Crestwood, diagonally across the intersection of 22nd Avenue and I-20/59 from the abandoned Village Fair Mall, directly off of the frontage road. Drove by this summer, looks in good shape, didn’t have camera, though.

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      • Also, a proper tour would include the great metal building auto dealership that the two Risher’s are responsible for at the intersection of Highway 39 and Dale Drive (old 45). Although modified, it maintains its dignity (of course that was of a few months ago). Its complexity isn’t immediately apparent, but you’ll get it if you take a look.

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      • Tom, I nominate you to put together a tour of Risher buildings in and around Meridian :-)

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  11. Yes, Crestwood Elementary School, just south of I-20, near 22nd Avenue… thanks Tom! EL,… you need a Risher Meridian post,… also,… what about an interactive map that links all these,… ala the GumboTrail,,… or the TamaleTrail that the SFA does?…. just a thought!… I know Risher Jr. has done a ton of work in Bay Springs…. don’t know of specifics though.

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    • Jason, I took some shots of the building designed for the the Bay Springs Telephone Company. I’ve forgotten who currently owns it, and it was a weekend so I didn’t get inside, but it looks unaltered and in great condition, Sr/Jr did alot of work for the Fail family in Bay Springs and beyond…residential and commercial.

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  12. Very cool–I haven’t look at Crestwood but will make a point of searching it out next time I’m through there. Maybe JE can grab a picture or two for us when he’s going through Friday?

    I like the idea of an interactive map. W. White has previously proposed doing some sort of linked list of buildings for each architect we post about here on MissPres, and I think that’s a great idea too, but haven’t had the time. I see that on Flickr, each group has its own map, so if you go to the Preservation in Mississippi group, you can click on Map and see where each of the photos was taken (presuming the owner geotagged them). If we set up a group for Risher, Overstreet, Krouse, etc. we could use that to start building an interactive map. It’s not as ideal as having the map wholly under the auspices of MissPres, but it’s a thought. What do y’all think?

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  13. The Citizens National Bank reminds me of another lost modern in New Orleans – the Kansas City railway building.

    Mystery Modern

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  14. One more thing about round buildings (!), had to share this link that was brought to my attention, a Time magazine article from 1962, that mentions the Jova bank in Atlanta along with a whole lot more:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,827556-1,00.html

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