Designed in 1907-1910 by Louis Sullivan, Peoples Bank is an intact example of Sullivan’s jewel box banks. The two-story bank epitomizes the Prairie focus on horizontal lines while celebrating Sullivan’s passion for detail. Fifteen shades of brick were used, reminiscent of an oriental rug. Four towers project from the first story roof beyond the second story and feature signature Sullivan terra-cotta embellishments. The clerestory above the main bank-telling area contains four regional murals depicting life in the Midwest.
On a national level, this bank building reflects the early twentieth century movement away from storefront banks to a free-standing financial center. While many banks of this time were designed in the neoclassical style, many Midwestern financial firms embraced the regional architectural style and employed architects like Sullivan to design their buildings. For decades, Midwest banks had to borrow money from those on the East Coast. However, the early twentieth century saw a great agricultural boom that crested during World War II. The flourishing economy caused the Midwest banks to accrue a great deal of wealth that could be invested back into their structures. Bank buildings functioned as a means of demonstrating the community’s prosperity.
Having outgrown two prior buildings, Peoples Bank and Trust Company Vice-President, Fred Shaver, hired Louis Sullivan in 1909 to design a new building at 101 3rd Avenue, SW. The first design was deemed too expensive and, after omitting much of the terra cotta ornamentation, the revised design was agreed upon. Peoples Bank was the last commission on which George Elmslie assisted Sullivan. Two sensitive additions were place on the building in 1950 and 1978. The building functioned continuously as a banking structure up until the 2008 flood and it has remained shuttered since.