Which American company designed and constructed over 5,000 new structures between 1900-1990? Which company took a new process in the 1950s called “design-build” and did it so well that the company was sued by local chapters of the AIA to prevent them from working in several states? And which company pushed the limits of mid-century technology with their architectural design while doing the above?
These are just some of the amazing achievements that can be discovered on the website Defining Downtown at Mid-Century, which chronicles the rise to prominence of the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America. With generous funding for research and creation provided by the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation, the website was launched in June 2010 by Kirk Huffaker of the Utah Heritage Foundation. The intent was to provide a history of the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America, its leaders and architects, and show many of the projects that were designed or built by the company.
While the website can certainly be enjoyed as easy reading and browsing, the rich resources in banking history, profiles of architects, designers, and builders, and library of historic and current photographs should also serve as a source for research and local banking context as well as a guideline for the evaluation of mid-century bank structures. While National Register policies such as the 50-year rule continue to exist, friends of bank preservation have no other choice than to seek exceptions. The website also documents stories of preservation success, such as First Security Bank (1955) in Salt Lake City, Utah, which was listed before it reached 50 years of age and while the designing architect is still (very much!) living, and rehabilitated despite being reputed as the “ugliest building in town.”
Starting in 2011, the Recent Past Preservation Network began operating and managing the website, which can be found at www.midcenturybanks.recentpast.org. RPPN maintains this website as a unparalleled source of information on modernist bank design and continues to welcome contributions to the site’s building database.