Going Inside: First National Bank, Jackson

I can be pretty bold about taking pictures of historic buildings or just any building that I consider architecturally impressive, but one place I’ve never even tried to take a picture of is the inside of my bank, Trustmark Bank in downtown Jackson. Originally known as First National Bank, the building was one of several boldly Modernist skyscrapers that took their place on the Jackson skyline in the 1950s (see for instance that wacky colorful Petroleum Building, built in 1958).

I had forgotten until just now that I’ve been posting about Trustmark Bank since Oct 2009. In that first post, I had a postcard of the building when it was new, along with an article about the building when it opened.

First National Bank (now Trustmark Bank), Jackson

The article quoted in that October 2009 post first appeared in The American Banker, Sept. 27, 1956 edition, and it very briefly described the main banking floor in a photo caption:

Designed in aluminum and walnut, lobby is spacious with ‘floating’ ceiling panels.”

Compare that description with this postcard of the banking floor I recently grabbed off of eBay:

FIRST NATIONAL BANK, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI. The main lobby of First National Bank features thirty-two teller windows, a customer lounge, three conference rooms plus the officers' area. Unusual lighting, colors and materials combine to create striking, decorative effect.

If you were to walk inside Trustmark today, you would recognize the scene, although I believe the floating panels have been painted blue. Unfortunately, the great orange (or burnt-umber if you prefer) couches are gone, as are the white naugahyde chairs. Otherwise though most of the long line of teller windows is still there, the terrazzo floor, wood and aluminum finishes, even the customer desks to write out your deposit slips (although those ash trays seem to have gone away–surely someone kept one or two to use for something else?).

What’s missing today though when I go to cash a check is people. When I first became a Trustmark customer back in the 1990s, the banking floor was a place of activity, going and coming, lots of business being transacted. Back then you might be in a line of 10 people, but you knew you would move quickly because there were 5 or 6 teller windows open. Now, there may be no line at all, even though there are only 2 or 3 windows open. I worry about this great open Modern space, now that banking has changed to a series of bytes passing through the ether. The long line of teller windows has gotten shorter over the years, and the open space to the right in the photo above has recently been half-partitioned. This work, nicely crafted as far as I can tell, does diminish the great feeling of openness in the space.

Even with these changes, I always enjoy heading downtown to my bank, just to be able to spend time on the banking floor. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get my nerve up to ask the security guard if I can take a picture or two.

Related post: What Jackson’s Trustmark Building Might Have Looked Like



Categories: Architectural Research, Banks, Cool Old Places, Jackson, Modernism, Recent Past

5 replies

  1. That is one of my favorite buildings and spaces in Jackson. In the 80’s, one of our studio projects was to draw a wall section of a building, and I chose this one. Great memories of touring the building, including a thrilling trip to the roof, with the building manager back then. Good to hear that the lobby is more or less intact, although I share your concerns about these kind of spaces, not just in Jackson. How do you adapt this kind of space for changing uses?

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  2. Thank you so much for such great photos and information of times past! I had forgotten what the Petroleum Building looked like. Cool! FNB too. Until 2004, Rankin County was home (& in my heart, still is- now stuck in N E MS dreaming of returning one day.) Worked in downtown Jackson for 11 years in the Milner building but it had a new look and name at the time – Security Centre. I called it The Lawyer Factory because that was mostly what was in it during the 90’s. First National/Trustmark housed Brunini Grantham too. Back in the day, downtown Jackson was a behive of activity and still is, but was there last week. Dined at the Elite and was told that the Landmark Building that wraps the corners of Lamar and Captiol is having hard times. The Atrium restaurant moved out due to “water problems.” Some other tenants may be vacating too. The Edison Walthall Hotel is pretty much closed in bankruptcy. Sad.

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  3. I am digging those groovy ashtrays! I’m like you and hope they saved a few of those somewhere.

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  4. That is a really nice space. Haven’t been in that bank in years, but I may have to visit again now.

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  5. It breaks my heart to see what has happened to Jackson over the last 30-35 years.

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