Thursday, May 07, 2009

We drove to Columbus for the Red Bud trees, but then we stayed for the architecture

Farmers and Merchants Union Bank
The annual Red Bud Festival is this Friday and Saturday in Columbus, so we thought we'd get a head start by driving up today to take a look around. We were a bit early on the Red Buds. Columbus is just a few days behind Madison in the leafing-out department. So we checked out the landmark Farmers and Merchants Union Bank instead.

Farmers and Merchants Union BankIt was the first time we've been in Columbus during normal business hours, able to tour the inside of the 1919 Louis Sullivan building. It was the last of eight Midwestern "jewel box" banks designed by the great Chicago architect. It's still a functioning bank with people going to teller windows to do their banking as if ATMs had never been invented. The ornate exterior was spruced up for the Johnny Depp film, Public Enemies, that opens this summer and parts of which were filmed in Columbus (standing in for a small town in Indiana) last year. Our guide, who showed us around the lobby and the second-floor mezzanine that houses a small museum, told us that the filmmakers had wanted to film in the lobby shown here, but it was just too narrow for all their lights and equipment.

City HallThe bank is on the National Register of Historic Places, but so is much of the entire downtown.
The Columbus downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Columbus presents an almost perfect portrait of the late 19th century, and features over 200 turn-of-the-century commercial and residential buildings, which have been carefully preserved. Several buildings, such as the 1892 City Hall, 1916 Park Pavilion and 1912 Carnegie Library, all still serve their original purposes.

The 1919 Farmers and Merchants Union Bank is Columbus' greatest claim to fame. Every year architects, students and enthusiasts come to view and photograph the building, one of the last designed by the great Louis Sullivan. The tapestry brick, elaborately decorated with terra cotta ornamentation, is truly something to behold, and the five arched, stained glass windows cast a gorgeous light as the sun is setting. The bank maintains a small museum collection related to its history, and to Sullivan and his works, that is open and free to the public during regular banking hours.
The 1892 City Hall shown here is by architect Truman Dudley Allen, born in New York in 1829.

1 comment:

Grinder said...

Glad You liked C-bus. You missed the trees by 2 days. Saturday they were all blooming. plus the MANY other (and better) Flowering Crabs were in full bloom.

If you ever want a tour of the City Hall Auditorium give a shout.

Plus - put July 25th on your calendar for the huge Public Enemies Celebration.