Of the millions of people who died during the 1920s, none of them has had as bad of a 21st Century as architect Louis Sullivan. Consider: Three of his Chicago buildings, including the masterful Pilgrim Baptist Church, were destroyed by fire in 2006.
Sullivan designed his vacation home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. As you can probably guess, it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The 1880s and 1890s were Sullivan's most productive period. His works from that period included the Auditorium, the Carson Pirie Scott building (both in Chicago), and the Wainwright Building in St. Louis.
Amazingly, many Sullivan buildings, in the name of "urban renewal," were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s. The 17 story Garrick Building was torn down in 1961, a parking garage replaced it.
In the first decade of the last century, Sullivan was viewed as a has-been. Styles were changing, and Sullivan didn't help his cause. He frequently bickered with clients and developed a nasty drinking problem.
Chicago and St. Louis were no longer interested in Sullivan, but small Midwestern towns were. Eight banks were designed by Sullivan for towns such as Grinnell, Iowa and Sidney, Iowa, the eight are known as Sullivan's "jewel boxes."
The first of the banks was the Farmer's National Bank of Owatonna, pictured above.
It's now a Wells Fargo branch. Not only is it a functioning bank, but the staff welcomes sightseers--with the request that no employees are photographed.
Inside the bank are two murals of showing early 20th century agricultural life.
Sullivan was the building's architect, but the inspiration for the bank was Farmer National's Carl Bennett. He wanted a new bank for his town, but he wanted something different.
And he got it.
I visited Owatonna on my way home from the Republican National Convention two months ago. The town is south of the Twin Cites, not too far from Interstate 35.
If you are anywhere near Owatonna, visit the bank.
Helmut Jahn's nearby building
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