Merchants National Bank, 1911-12
Purcell, Feick, and Elmslie
102 East 3rd Street, Winona
Purcell and Elmslie designed several Midwestern banks; these square, brick buildings with art-glass windows embodied the qualities of solidity and stability important to bankers and their customers. Purcell and Elmslie's largest and most elaborate bank was the Merchants National Bank of Winona, which still functions as a bank. As in many of their banks, local agriculture is represented on the exterior by stylized grain motifs executed in glazed terra cotta, while murals of farm scenes adorn the inside walls. The iconography of American business and values continues in the elaborate glazed terra-cotta decoration over the entrance, featuring an American eagle. Piers, a somewhat classical architectural detail that signifies strength and solidity, are part of the facade, where they are capped with the organic ornament typical of progressive architecture.
The unified design continues on the inside. Light from the art-glass window walls and skylight brings the outside in. Vertical light standards with round globes, similar to those used in the Purcell-Cutts House a year later, echo the geometry of the building. Albert Fleury, a Chicago artist patronized by Sullivan as well as Purcell and Elmslie, painted the mural. (Purcell purchased Fleury's painting Chicago River for his own house in Minneapolis.) Even the chairs for the bank directors' boardroom are cubelike, a reference to the building's shape; two of these chairs are in the collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
The building's interior had been "modernized" over the years, and in 1972, it was extensively restored to replace and uncover interior elements such as the skylight, which had been covered over, and the light standards, which had been removed. In the 1990s, the bank was expanded to the rear in a manner that maintained the spirit of the original building. next stop >