John G. Waite Associates, PLLC HISTORIC PRESERVATION • RESTORATION • ADAPTIVE USE
 
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adaptive use

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Farmers and Merchants Union Bank
Columbus, WI
Client: Farmers and Merchants Union Bank

Project Type: Restoration; New Design in Historic Context

One of America’s most innovative and influential architects, Louis Sullivan emphasized the structure of buildings and the properties of building materials, including steel, brick, and terra-cotta cladding. The legacy of Sullivan’s later years included a group of small, richly-detailed banks, one of which was built in 1919 in Columbus, Wisconsin.


A view of the front entrance to the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank shortly after construction.

John G. Waite Associates, Architects surveyed the bank’s terra-cotta masonry and made recommendations for its restoration. The firm examined Sullivan’s construction drawings and shop drawings for the production and installation of the original terra-cotta units, and compared this information with site conditions exposed through a series of investigative building probes.  It was discovered that significant deterioration had been caused by contractor error during the original construction of the bank. JGWA corrected this problem and reassembled the façade according to Sullivan’s original specifications. Brickwork on the front façade was also cleaned and pointed.

In 2004 Farmers and Merchants Union Bank commissioned JGWA to design a bank operations center that would be contiguous with the original Sullivan Bank.  The new building was to be an infill project to replace an adjacent building the bank had acquired and demolished.  The new banking operations center would need to incorporate two previous additions, constructed in 1960 and 1980.  The contextual design of the new facility responds to design elements of both the Sullivan bank and the streetscape of Columbus, Wisconsin.  The new building is a modern commercial structure that acknowledges regional vernacular tradition; it is constructed of buff-colored Cream City brick with limestone trim and steel accents.

Completed in 2006, the new building has tripled the bank’s functional space, providing a modern facility that complements Louis Sullivan’s “jewel box” on the corner of West James Street and Dickason Boulevard in downtown Columbus.