February 7, 2022
Today, in our continued Centennial Year countdown of our 100 greatest projects, we feature project #23, 1924’s Live Stock National Bank, located at the corner of Halsted Street and Exchange Avenue in Chicago. This Colonial Revival building, which was designed to replicate the grandeur and timelessness of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, served as the bank for the cattlemen and meatpackers doing business within the adjacent Union Stockyards. To get some perspective on how important and influential this bank was in the early 30s it had nearly 2,500 industrial and manufacturing companies as depositors and was Chicago's largest bank outside downtown.
Built for $500K ($8.1M in 2022) and marketed as ‘absolutely fireproof,’ a claim that would be proven true when 10 years later a massive fire swept through the Stockyards incinerating much of the packing yard, but not the Bank. In fact, the Bank, except for some charred outdoor furniture, was open for business the day after the fire!
Unlike banks of today the Live Stock National Bank was truly an ornate place featuring a spacious, 200' by 75' floorplate, marbled décor and classical moldings including fluted pilasters and capitals, raised panels, and a substantial cornice molding all rendered in ornamental plaster. The building also featured red-brick cladding, symmetrical facades, Palladian windows, hipped roof and a central tower topped by a steeple. Each doorway at the Live Stock National Bank was flanked by an attached Doric column and topped by a Classical entablature.
This facility remained a banking institution until the late 60s and over the past 40+ years has had a series of occupants but, alas, is vacant now and in serious distress. Some of the exterior alterations to the original design include the removal of all of the original entrance doors, a roofline balustrade, the tower’s uppermost cornice and balustrade, and its mechanical clock parts. As for the interiors, though the original fixtures and furnishings are lost, its Classical Revival-style interior architectural design and details are more or less intact including the original interior woodwork and white marble wainscoting.
On the positive, in 2008 the Chicago Commission on Chicago Landmarks designated the Live Stock National Bank, along with seven other architectural significant Chicago Banks, a Landmark. Meaning, that for now, the wrecking ball is being put at bay, but if a developer/user is not found in the near future, it’s only a matter of time before this truly influential and important structure is demolished.