Rathbone Debuys Bank Identified

Recently the Tulane Southeastern Architectural Archives blog featured a post about the time-saving office of New Orleans architect Rathbone DeBuys.

In addition to having a pretty swell name, Rathbone Debuys was a pretty smart fellow, having several degrees from Tulane and a Ph.B from Yale.  The SEAA blog post includes a photograph of his office from 1932, which is interesting enough in its own right, but also interesting are the many photographs hanging on the wall of the office.

Rathbone DeBuys Office_American Architect_1932_Biographical Files, From DIY Rathbone DeBuys. http://southeasternarchitecture.blogspot.com/2015/11/diy-rathbone-debuys.html accessed 12/1/2015

Rathbone DeBuys Office_American Architect_1932_Biographical Files, From DIY Rathbone DeBuys. http://southeasternarchitecture.blogspot.com/2015/11/diy-rathbone-debuys.html accessed 12/1/2015

For some reason one of these tiny images jumped out at me.

rb office

I was almost certain I had seen such a building before but the form was somewhat generic and could have been located anywhere.  Looking through the always-helpful SEAA finding aid for Rathbone DeBuys, I found a reference to an American Architect and Building News listing for a “Hancock County Bank, Pass Christian, Miss.” from 1909. Luckily I was able to find a digital copy of American Architect and Building News V. 96 No. 1762.

Hancock County Bank Pass Christian MS American Architect and Building News 9-1909

Hancock County Bank Pass Christian MS American Architect and Building News 9-1909

This looks to be not only the same building, but the same image of the building in the office photograph. In the process, I learned that Rathbone Debuys designed this great little bank.  The structure has weathered one hundred plus years of hurricanes and is still standing on Davis Avenue in Pass Christian.

Here is what the MDAH HRI has to say about the structure.

One of two very similar buildings in Pass Christian, this is a small temple-form building with a Tuscan tetrastyle portico supporting a parapeted flat roof. It is distinguished from the similar building at 203 East Beach Boulevard (047-PSC-0090-NRD) by having one central door on the facade, with a semicircular arched transom, projecting front steps, and no modillions on the cornice. It was identified as a bank on the 1930 Sanborn map.

Sadly the mentioned structure at 203 East Beach Boulevard, Pass Christian was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.  You’ll have to judge from this photograph on the structures’ similarities.  What do you think? Same designer? Or did one building inspire the other as we’ve seen before?

Lang-Bohn-Allen-Bulidings from passhistory.org accessed 12-1-2015

Lang, Bohn, Allen Buildings, Scenic Drive, Pass Christian, MS from passhistory.org, accessed 12-1-2015



Categories: Architectural Research, Banks, Historic Preservation, Hurricane Katrina, Pass Christian

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10 replies

  1. I love this story of architectural discovery, beginning with your eagle-eyed focus on that bank in the background of the office picture. Thanks for sharing your findings with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much! I am always glad to share. It never fails that the things you’re not looking for are more interesting than what you’re hoping to find. :) The photo to the right of the Hancock bank on the office wall is a New Orleans house designed by Debuys that is also featured in the same edition of AA&BN.

    Do you have any thoughts (unofficially of course) on the authorship of the similar Lang building?

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  3. What an all around interesting story! Amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! What do you think about the two buildings being so similar in design?

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      • They are very similar. I think the steps on the extant building give it a dignified approaoch. I’m glad the bank building has retained pretty much it’s original look, less the iron rail fence. The handicap access ramp was added so subtly that it doesn’t detract. Wish we could see more of those pictures on the office wall!

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        • Excellent points about the building retaining its original look and the handicap ramp.

          The photo to the right of the Hancock Bank on the office wall is a New Orleans house designed by Debuys that is also featured in the same edition of AA&BN.

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  4. I think it is interesting how the earlier black and white photos look so different from the later color photos. I am sure it is just the angle of the photographer, but it makes them seem shorter and “square” in the b/w and tall and narrow in the color.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the shape of the building might have been WordPress’ fault. I’ve changed the type of gallery so the images don’t appear so square.

      Do you have any thoughts on the authorship of the similar Lang building?

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  5. The proportions on the Lang building seem less developed than DeBuys’ bank: the columns are too thin, the cornice too deep and not built up enough, the façade isn’t symmetrical. That all adds up to a suspicion that it is not an architect-designed structure, but I’ve been wrong before, so if you find evidence, feel free to prove me wrong!

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    • I think you’re on point. Unless it was moved to that location the Lang Building was built sometime between the 1918 and 1924 Sanborn maps. If it was moved and received some rehabilitation that could attribute some of the proportions and the columns being somewhat off. I am not so certain of the 1905 date of construction given for the Lang Building in the NRN and HRI db. So until contrary evidence surfaces I would agree that it is a builder-esque imitation of the Hancock County Bank.

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