Thursday, August 29, 2013

Art Deco Delights: First Trust & Deposit Wolf Street Office

Syracuse, NY. former 201 Wolf Street. Wolf Street Office, First Trust & Deposit, 1929. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013.

Syracuse, NY. former 201 Wolf Street. Wolf Street Office, First Trust & Deposit, 1929. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013.

Syracuse, NY. former 201 Wolf Street. Wolf Street Office, First Trust & Deposit, 1929. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013.

Art Deco Delights: First Trust & Deposit Wolf Street Office
by Samuel D. Gruber

As a follow up to my recent post on the Art Deco Grant School, let me bring attention to a much smaller, but more charming example of Northside Deco at 201 Wolf Street, on the NW corner with North Salina. This is the Wolf Street Office of the First Trust & Deposit Co., the last in a series of branch offices the bank opened in different neighborhoods across the city after its creation in 1919 through the merger of The First National Bank of Syracuse and the Trust & Deposit Company of Onondaga.  These branch offices were an early version of what we now recognize as chain stores - where each store or office has similar architectural features to create brand recognition. Drugstores and Five and Dimes were doing the same thing - but in a different style.

Generically, almost all banks of the first decades of the 20th century had this branding feature - since they favored the stately classical style that linked banking to the broader civic culture. Government buildings, libraries, and schools also often adopted classicism, especially after the success of the 1893 Chicago Exposition (the White City) and the spread of the "City Beautiful" Movement.  Architectural "branding" was nothing new. The main building of First Trust & Deposit is also classical - a huge Downtown Roman temple at 201 South Warren Street; now Key Bank.  The building was erected in 1915 and then doubled in size in 1928.

As far as I can tell the establishment of First Trust & Deposit offices in neighborhoods - taking banking to the people - was something of an innovation in Syracuse at the time, though Melvin L. King also designed at least one branch (is it still extant?) for the City Bank Trust Company (see photo below). Elsewhere in America branch banking - with scores of branch buildings - was common for big banks in the period after World War I.


 Syracuse, NY. former 201 Wolf Street. Wolf Street Office, First Trust & Deposit, 1929. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

Syracuse, NY. former 201 Wolf Street. Wolf Street Office, First Trust & Deposit, 1929. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013

The first four First Trust & Deposit branch offices are all designed as nearly identical classical style structures by leading local architect Melvin L. King, but the Wolf Street branch takes a stylistic departure. It is built of brick and glass, with its facade and especially its entrance portal decorated with lively Art Deco motifs.  Is it also a product of King's office - but just a stylistic upgrade? I hope a little research in the archives of King + King will tell. 


Syracuse, NY.  First Trust & Deposit East Side Office (still extant facing Loguen Park). Photo from Melvin L. King : Architect. (Syracuse: Architectural Catalog Co., 1925).
 
Syracuse, NY.  City Bank Trust Company, West Side Branch. Photo from Melvin L. King : Architect. (Syracuse: Architectural Catalog Co., 1925).

We are fortunate that the building found new life as Brian's Fine Art Gallery & Custom Framing, operated by Brian Wood who has beautifully maintained the building - inside and out.  Other 1920s banks have not fared so well.  Word is, however, that the building will soon be listed for sale.

The little bank sits on the center of an historically and architecturally rich intersection.  This was the heart of the old commercial area of Salina - first the village laid out by James Geddes, beginning in 1798, and then later, after its merger in 1848 with Syracuse to create the modern city, of the old First Ward.   By the late nineteenth century the are was more industrial.  The Moyer Carriage Factory (now the Penfield Building) was located just behind the bank site, and Kearney's Brewery was across North Salina (where the new Family Dollar recently opened).  Streetcar lines ran on North Salina and Wolf Streets and the main terminal and car yards of the People RR company of Syracuse were at Wolf between Fourth and Fifth North Streets. 

 
Syracuse, NY. North wall of former Wolf Street Branch of First Trust & Deposit, with view of Penfield (former Moyer Carriage) building in rear.  Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013.

 
Syracuse, NY. 200 block of Wolf Street looking north. In the center is former Engine House #4. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2013.

The 1600 block of North Salina Street and the 200 block of Wolf Street still preserve some of the oldest non-residential structures in the area. Some of these buildings date to the last quarter of the nineteenth century once housed grocery stores, dry-goods establishments, taverns, and cooper shops. Immediately to the west and north of this intersection Harvey Moyer developed his carriage factory (in what is now the Penfield Building), and then later his automobile works in three large buildings erected on with side of Park Street between Hiawatha Boulevard (formerly Free Street) and Wolf Street.(see below).  Visit Brian's Art Gallery, the nearby Antiques Exchange on North Salina Street, and take a walk up Wolf Street. Then head a block east to Washington Square and look at the Kirkpatrick Monument, or head west to the Regional Market.


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