SULLIVAN, Louis Henry
(b. 1856, Boston, d. 1924, Chicago)

Purdue State Bank

1914
Photo
210 West State Street,West Lafayette, Indiana

The last phase in Sullivan's career was largely devoted to designing banks in small towns in the Midwest. Midwestern agriculture thrived in the early 20th century, leading to a revolution in rural banking and the proliferation of small institutions sympathetic to local needs.

Sullivan's first commission in this field was the magnificent National Farmers' Bank (1907-08) in Owatonna, Minnesota. It was followed by the People's Savings Bank (1911), Cedar Rapids, Iowa; the Merchants' Bank (1914), Grinnell, Iowa; the Home Building Association Bank (1914), Newark, Ohio; the Purdue State Bank (1914), West Lafayette, Indiana; the People's Federal Savings and Loan Association (1917-18), Sidney, Ohio; and finally the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank (1919) in Columbus, Wisconsin.

These buildings posed no problems in the expression of structure, as they were all low, load-bearing brick constructions; they did, however, raise important questions of institutional expression. Sullivan's solution was to make them monumental, as befitted banks, but 'modern' and unrelated to historical precedent in order to communicate their transformed character. They are the final and most richly impressive demonstrations of his ornamental skill, with their rich use of polychromy in brick and terracotta. Furthermore, the design of each was sensitively adapted to its setting, usually at the end of the main street facing the town square (as at Owatonna, Grinnell, Newark, Sidney, and Columbus).

Completed in 1914, the Purdue State Bank is the smallest and least expensive of Sullivan's "Jewel Boxes," a series of Midwestern banks designed in the modern style at the end of his career. Built on a tiny, trapezoidal lot between two streets, the structure is less ornamental than most of the architect's other work; it includes only a few terra cotta panels. During the 1950s, a stone portion was added to the back of the building, and the original doorway was converted into a window and then an ATM.

The photo shows the southern side and the former main entrance to the Purdue State Bank (now a Chase bank).