In the early 1950s, the design of the Irwin Union Bank building at Washington and Fifth streets was nothing short of revolutionary.
The Eero Saarinen project, a one-story structure with glass walls, clashed with the prevailing attitude that banks needed imposing brick walls and iron bars in front of teller windows to project power and security.
The late J.I. Miller, president of Irwin Union at the time, was looking for something dramatically different.
“We wanted to change — insofar as architecture could change it — people’s concept of banking, which we thought was on the whole unfavorable,” Miller said, according to the National Historic Landmark nomination.
The building was named a Landmark in 2000 because of its “highly innovative design (and because it) was possibly the first financial institution in the United States with glass walls and an open plan ... and influencing the future of bank design.”
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