Union Trust Bank Company Building
The Union Trust Bank Company Building, a significant historical structure located in downtown East St. Louis, Illinois, offers a fascinating glimpse into the architectural and economic history of the area. This blog post delves into the building’s origins, architectural style, operational history, and the factors leading to its abandonment.
Images by: lorenzo savage
Images by: lorenzo savage
Historical Context and Construction
The Union Trust Bank Company Building was constructed between 1922 and 1926. It was designed by architect Thomas Imbs in the Classical Revival style, a choice reflecting the era’s architectural preferences, especially for financial institutions. This style, popularized in the 1800s, symbolized permanence and trust, fitting for a bank’s image. The building was established to house the Union Trust & Savings Bank, founded in 1901 by August Schlafly.
The building’s Classical Revival design was a prominent choice for banks beginning in the 1800s. This style, characterized by its grandeur and emphasis on symmetry and proportion, was deemed appropriate for institutions that wanted to project stability and reliability. Interestingly, the Union Trust Bank Company Building was the first and only bank in East St. Louis to be built in this style, making it a unique architectural specimen in the city.
The Union Trust & Savings Bank played a significant role in the economic landscape of East St. Louis. Its establishment came at a time when the city was recovering from a series of corruption scandals and a major race riot. The building’s construction marked a turnaround for the city, which had been struggling economically. In the years that followed, the building and the bank it housed helped inspire confidence in the city’s downtown area, leading to the construction of several landmark buildings in East St. Louis.
However, the building’s life as a financial institution was not infinite. The bank underwent several name changes over the years and eventually relocated its headquarters to Swansea, Illinois. By the mid-1990s, the building was vacated and has remained empty since, standing as a solitary reminder of its past glory.
Reasons for Abandonment
The abandonment of the Union Trust Bank Company Building can be attributed to broader economic and urban changes in East St. Louis. Beginning in the 1960s, the city experienced a dramatic decline. Several key businesses left for other suburbs, and the rise of the automobile along with the construction of new expressways reduced foot traffic in the downtown area. These changes, coupled with urban decay and blight, led to the abandonment or demolition of many commercial buildings in the district. The city’s population dwindled to a third of its peak in 1950, leaving many of its buildings, including the Union Trust Bank Company Building, empty and at risk of major decay.
The Union Trust Bank Company Building is a testament to the architectural and economic shifts that have shaped East St. Louis over the past century. While currently standing empty, its historical and architectural value was recognized when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 27, 2014. This building not only reflects a bygone era of architectural design but also tells the story of a city’s rise, decline, and ongoing struggle to redefine itself.
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