Dollar Savings Bank Building, Pittsburgh
Completed in 1871 and located in downtown Pittsburgh, the Dollar Savings Bank Building is still the Pennsylvania headquarters for the venerable bank. Construction on the Beaux Arts style building was delayed by the Civil War and the lack of building materials afterwards. The Dollar Savings Bank, which was founded in 1855, began construction on their building in 1869 at the corner of 4th Avenue and Smithfield Streets in Pittsburgh’s financial district and expanded the building in 1906. The building was designated a Pittsburgh landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 1970 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Backstory and Context
The bank, originally known as the Pittsburgh Dollar Savings Institution, was founded by Charles Colton in 1855 and rented space along 4th Avenue. Colton’s goal was to create a savings and investment institution for the city’s working class which was experiencing a tremendous growth rate at the time and by all accounts, he was successful in this endeavor. He later changed the name to the Dollar Savings Bank in 1858 and it has remained such ever since. Plans for the building began as the Civil War ended in 1865 and lots were purchased between Wood and Smithfield Streets for $12,000. The bank hired architect Isaac Hobbs from Philadelphia to design an ornate building that would inspire confidence among its patrons and construction on his design began in 1869.
The original building, prior to expansion, was built using 14,000 tons of Connecticut brownstone, pink granite from Massachusetts and black and white marble for the interior flooring. The most prominent features of Hobbs’ building are its four massive Corinthian columnns, its large entryway and the lions. Dollar Bank contracted with sculptor Max Kohler to carve two lions to sit at the entrance of the bank to serve as ornamental guardians of the people’s money. Kohler then sculpted each lion, one couchant and the other recumbent, from single blocks of brownstone. As for the original lions, they were shipped off to Ohio in 2009 for restoration and now reside within the bank, safe from the ravages of the elements. The lions that currently sit at the bank’s entrance were carved by Nicolas Fairplay and are exact replicas of the originals.
The bank’s Victorian interior features a grand central room that measures 38 x 60 feet with a soaring 30-foot ceiling, complete with large chandelier and a diagonal black and white floor pattern. It also encompasses a large, rectangular teller counter. A $37,000 board room and executive offices were added in 1896 and east and west wings, designed by Pittsburgh architect James Steen were added in 1906. The bank also houses the Dollar Bank Heritage Center which displays antique banking machines, examples of vintage Dollar Bank advertising through the years, portraits of former bank officers and trustees, and original hand-written bank ledgers complete with authentic signatures of early depositors. The Center also provides examples of how Dollar Bank has contributed to and invested in various local communities since its inception.
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"The Dollar Bank Building." Brookline Connection. Accessed May 18, 2017. http://www.brooklineconnection.com/history/Facts/DollarBank.html
Rosenblum, Charles. "The Enduring Dollar: Pittsburgh's oldest bank restores its historic headquarters." Pittsburgh Quarterly. Fall, 2014. Accessed May 18, 2017. http://pittsburghquarterly.com/pq-culture/pq-architecture-and-neighborhoods/item/889-the-enduring-do...
"Dollar Bank." Doors Open Pittsburgh. Accessed May 18, 2017. http://doorsopenpgh.org/sites/dollar-bank/