Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Old Banks

Hm, August has not been a good month for Time Fishing. Anyway, my last post (most likely) for August! But not my last post forever.

Today I'm going to talk about banks. Not banks that look like this:

But banks that look like this:

This is the original Bank of Searcy, which I've mentioned before. Old banks tend to be monumental and neoclassical, usually austere and colossal to evoke feelings of strength and resolve. Though most of the time these buildings are not banks anymore, having either failed or gotten absorbed into a corporation (the Bank of Searcy eventually became Regions), their ageless shells still tend to remain in downtown areas.

Here is one of my favorites, haunting desolate downtown Newport. It's an imposing Roman temple, proclaiming its power to streets long deserted. These buildings, though forboding, remind me of a time when a person could call a bank and speak to an actual banker, rather than navigating a labyrinth of pre-recorded phrases.

One of my favorite towns for old banks has been Mt. Carmel, a town very close to my wife's hometown of Albion, IL. I found at least four of these old guys on the city's main street.

This building, whose ingrained letters simply read "Bank," dwarfs the crumbling shop it shares a block with. I have a feeling that this row used to be a bit more substantial.

The Mt. Carmel Trust & Savings Bank, its identity betrayed by the gorgeous carved letters on its facade, distinguishes itself from the other downtown banks with its hard-edged pilasters rather than rounded ionic columns.

This bank, its identity lost except for its date of construction, features two floors of ionic columns and a pair of carved draperies near the top of the facade. The idea of a hair salon in this building seems humorously disparate.

This "American National Bank" (also pictured at the top of the Mt. Carmel section) uses two-story ionic columns and tall, spartan windows to create feelings of power and fortitude.

Most banks of this nature have been replaced by comparatively faceless big-corporation bank systems, but in a few places in the nation (Maine) the locals have kept their old buildings in order. Here's my last example.

Hyde Block (built when the term "Block" actually meant "Building") is still home to the Bath Savings Institution and probably could whip all of the other bank buildings on this page in a round of fisticuffs. It's a combination of Italianate and Gothic Revival styles, and probably some other things I don't recognize. Note the old vault alarm: it's the little black box with the white face on the right side of the building, just above where the white stone changes to brick.

So there's my little vent of Old Is Better Than New for the end of August. Let's see if we can make it through September, okay?


Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Snapshots

My first post for August of 2009! I have a lot of pictures, but right now I'm a little bit at a loss for what to post (I haven't been exploring in a while), so here are some snapshots.

Old Ford dealership, Conway

Abandoned gas station, Beebe

The Gray Mansion, Grayville, IL

The Arlington Hotel, a former hideout of Al Capone, Hot Springs

Drive-in movie theater, Mountain View (still in business!)

Train wrecker, Railroad museum, Pine Bluff

The Old Port, Portland, ME

Abandoned storefronts, Grayville, IL

Highly unusual bridge, somewhere in Maine

25 Fullerton Street, Boothbay Harbor, ME (my childhood home; beige when I lived there; historically a mid-1800s carriage house)