The lunchtime tourist

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February 26, 2002 // UPDATED 1:14 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

Farmers & Mechanics Bank

With the inventions of drive-through banking and ATM machines, opulent banking halls fell by the wayside. No longer did banks need dramatic spaces and ornately carved architectural ornament to grab a customer's attention. A few mortgage-and-loan posters, free checking, and racks of brochures are what lure customers to a bank today. Enter the Farmers and Mechanics Bank (now a US Bank branch) to experience the glory of mid-20th-century banking.

The building was designed by McEnary and Krafft architects and built in 1941. A 10-story tower was added in 1961 and used to look much less drab in its original blue color. For maximum effect, enter the building through the main entrance on 6th Street. On either side of the doors are classic WPA-style sculpted reliefs honoring a farmer and a mechanic. Pure strength is portrayed in the figures surrounded by icons of their profession: wheat, chickens, vegetables, an anvil, gears, and a heavy, clunky chain. A spectacular 30-piece thick art-glass window over the door features an owl-and-flower motif. You can take a closer look at one of the glass panels at the back of the banking hall. It was one of several extras Corning Glass in New York cast in case of breakage.

The banking hall is a two-story space with wood paneled walls, second-story balconies and six brass chandeliers that look like abstract tropical flowers. Even though it has a small case of cubicle encroachment, the banking hall still exudes a sense of financial importance. Wood relief carvings on either side of the hall are tributes to the bank's customers who worked in fields relating to mining, agriculture, forestry, lakes, milling and manufacturing. Historic photos hang on both the first and second floors. Take the stairway up to the second floor to get an overview of the hall.

Farmers and Mechanics Bank is located at 90 S. 6th St.

LUNCH TIP: Although there isn't a restaurant in this building, it doesn't mean you have to skip lunch today. Head over to the 4th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue for a salad or quiche in the little-known Cafe SFA.