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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

It used to be that the exterior and interior of a bank were designed to convey the impression of solidity, of stability and strength, of a place where the customer felt secure in trusting hard-earned money or valuables for safe-keeping. Such a place is certainly the old Charlotte National Bank building on the northwest corner of Tryon and Fourth Streets. Built in 1918-19 it combines the impression of the strength of a fortress with the symmetry and scale of a Greek temple.

Alfred Bossom, a noted New York City architect, designed this ornate bank building. The temple-like design is the city's finest Neoclassical commercial structure. The massive columns of Carolina granite, each one weighing twenty-six tons, were carved by the master masons of Charlotte's John J. Morton and Company. Oversize bronze replicas of ancient coins decorate the terra cotta entablature. The interior has been much remodelled, but a large golden glass dome is said to still exist, hidden by false ceilings.

Charlotte National was one of the major banks of the textile boom years, and later became part of Wachovia Bank and Trust. Architect Bossom, by the way, eventually emigrated to England where he was knighted for his efforts to foster ties between the architectural communities of England and the United States.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • The frieze on the Fourth Street side contains seven large metal replicas of famous coins as part of its decoration.
  • The granite of the frieze is cut into a rigid geometric pattern which complements the coins.
  • On either end the year construction began is recorded in large raised bronze Roman numerals: MCMXVIII.
  • The terracotta entablature is richly embellished with Greek motifs such as lion head spouts and stylized flowers.

    ACTIVITIES

    At the site...

  • Sketch a Doric Order column. Label the capital and the shaft. By the way, the shafts of the columns have false seams in them. In ancient days, shafts were built up of drums of stone stacked on top of each other. To give the look of these drums, seams were added at regular intervals to the shafts.
  • Sketch the shell and wave pattern you see in the entablature. Notice how it is similar to the pattern you saw at the Johnston Building a few minutes ago. Also sketch the leafy swag pattern in the entablature. Label each sketch.
  • Sketch a coin from the frieze of the building.

    On your own...

  • Compare this building to the Johnston Building you saw a few minutes ago. Notice similarities and differences in orders, entrances, columns/pilasters, and decorative details.
    Use a Venn Diagram to illustrate your observations of these two buildings.
  • These two photos show the building as it was in 1924 and as it is today. Though greatly changed by expansion and remodeling, much of the exterior of the building remains (the interior space is completely changed from the original). Compare these two photos. Describe how the building has changed since 1924.


    Charlotte National Bank in 1924


    Charlotte National Bank in 1998


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