A Glorious Facade

May 2015, photograph by author.

May 2015, photograph by author.

One of my favorite facades for rarity in South Dakota is the Farmers State Bank in Platte.  In Platte, it sticks out like a beautiful, over-the-top sore thumb.  It was built in 1909 by Bill Boland, according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination approved in 1983.  In 1933, the Depression forced the bank to close.  It reorganized in 1934 and opened as The Farmers and Merchants Bank.  The glass block infilling the entrance bay dates to the 1950s.  There’s now a coffee shop in the ground floor and, beyond the delicious cafe selection, the interior details are worth stopping for.

I’d call the facade “Beaux Arts” — the highly elaborative brand of Classicism that became the trend following the 1893 Exposition in Chicago.  The National Register nomination for the bank calls it “Renaissance Revival.”  From my readings of architectural history, I’d come to think of Revival styles as attempts to bring back designs of a past era, the purists who constructed buildings in keeping with those historic styles.  And then I’d understood Neo-Classical, Neo-Colonial, etc. styles as the use of past design vocabulary with less attention paid to proper design grammar…  What I’d read on Beaux Arts (as manifest in the U.S. after 1893) put in on another level, a veneration of the Old World aesthetics with the mix-it-all-together-at-once of American grandiosity.  Thoughts?  Suggested reading on historicist architectural styles?


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