Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost Building of the Week-- March 7th

Western Saving Fund Society

1000 Walnut Street

Should have called it Second National Bank of Badassery.
                          Right here we have a cool-ass local bank building from the late 19th Century. When this thing was built, banks were a symbol of civilization and power in the city. Nowadays, bank branches and even some bank headquarters buildings look like any crappy suburban storefront. How the mighty have fallen.
                       In the 1840's, there was a shitload of banks in the city and MANY super-rich investors were profiting from them. Then, a new idea came along... a bank that would be considered "unselfish". On February 8th 1847, the state legislature chartered a new kind of bank, one without stockholders. This new bank was targeted to mechanics and tradesmen that lived in the western part of the city, which back then was anywhere west of 9th street. The name of the bank would describe this and the bank's main service:
saving money. It would be called the Western Saving Fund Society.
                      After 4 decades, the WSFS was doing so well that they commissioned Megatect to the Stars John Hamilton Windrim to design a Mega-Castle of Savings Kick-ass at the Southwest corner of 10th and Walnut Streets, at that time a residential neighborhood that was about to explode with progress. The granite ashlar fortress was completed in 1887. This banking mausoleum's location was one of the best in the city. The short-lived Central Business District was in transition from 8th and 9th Streets to the new one near the new City Hall.
                   The next two decades after the bank was built, the neighborhood it was in became a short-lived upperclass playground. Alterations of the facade took place in 1902 and 1909, spearhead by none other than the Furness and Evans Company firm. By 1910, the place was doing so well that an addition was built on the western side, designed by the original architect's son, John Torrey Windrim. He doubled the size of his Pop's masterpiece.

 Building as depicted on a celluloid "dime bank", whatever the fuck that is.
                  Even as the neighborhood started to fall into decline in the 1920's and 30's, the bank prospered. Branch offices started popping up all over the city, and huge bank buildings were constructed in Kensington and Frankford bearing their name. They even had a branch at the motherfucking Hale Building! Ads from the era brag about how you could open a savings account with them with just one dollar.
                After that, things started going to shit. The bank floundered and moved out to Haverford, PA in attempt to save its own ass, leaving the Tomb of King Moneybags behind. It was demolished in 1967 to make way for Jefferson University's semi-successful 1960's expansion. Moving to Haverford only delayed the inevitable... the bank was acquired by the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society in 1982. If the building was still standing today, it would be a really good-looking Citizen's Bank branch.
                  What a bummer. It would be great if this thing was still around. The crappy Jefferson dorm that replaced it can't hold a candle to the design of this Multi-Windrimed masterpiece. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

In its final days. 

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