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Connecticut Savings Bank

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1905–1907, Egerton Swartwout. 45 Church St.

The Connecticut Savings Bank was designed by Egerton Swartwout in downtown New Haven. Swartwout paid careful attention to proportion and detail when designing the Classical Revival bank, using the Erechtheion Temple on the Acropolis as a rough prototype. The building serves as an important example of American Renaissance architecture at the turn of the twentieth century.

Swartwout graduated from Yale University in 1891 and secured a position at the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White in New York shortly thereafter. He stayed with the office until he established his own firm with Evarts Tracy in 1900. Swartwout won the Connecticut Savings Bank commission in the spring of 1905. The design process was halted several times because of changes requested by the Building Committee and by what Swartwout called “the curious conception of the building line held by the New Haven authorities.” The modifications resulted in a simplified version of Swartwout’s initial design with fewer windows and panels, as well as a slightly raised and extended portico.

The Connecticut Savings Bank’s interior features a high barrel-vault ceiling, ornate coffering, and skylights. While the main counter inside the building consists of marble, the director’s room was furnished entirely with mahogany. Four manganese steel vaults secured the bank holdings at the rear of the building. Swartwout chose Alabama marble for the main facade and bronze for the ornamentation and window and door frames. Four fluted, Ionic columns support the entablature above the Church Street entrance. In his ambition to master classical architecture, Swartwout spaced the columns unequally and gave the axis a slight inward inclination. He wanted to “recall the asymmetry usually practiced by the Greeks”—a technique that offers the impression of perfect symmetry to the human eye.

Six engaged columns are located on the building’s Crown Street facade. They are separated by seven large windows and are flanked by two dates in Roman numerals: 1857, the year the Connecticut Savings Bank was established, and 1907, the year the building opened. Underneath each numeral are three words, respectively: “Safety, Fidelity, Efficiency” and “Thrift, Industry, Enterprise”—a pithy articulation of the ideals of the building’s original resident.

Today the building no longer houses its eponymous institution and the original bronze lettering above the entrance has been removed.

References

Caplan, Colin M. A Guide to Historic New Haven, Connecticut. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.

Brown, Elizabeth Mills. New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976.

“Portfolio of Current Architecture.” The Architectural Record 31, no. 2 (February 1912): 183.

Scully, Vincent. American Architecture and Urbanism. New York: Frederick A. Preager, Inc., 1969.

Stewart, Nicholas. “End of an era: the abandonment and sale of 45 Church St.” Yale Daily News (New Haven, CT), December 1, 2016.

Swartwout, Egerton. “The Classic Orders of Architecture,” The Art World 3, no. 4 (January 1918), 284-91.

Swartwout, Egerton. “How Some Building Conditions Have Been Met.” The New York Architect 2, no. 12 (December 1908), n.p.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Patricia Seto-Weiss
Coordinator: 
Emily Chace Morash
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Data

Timeline

  • 1906

    Built
  • 1930

    Expanded to the rear
  • 1962

    Second floor expanded
  • 1991

    Bank closed
  • 2015

    Sold to private investor

What's Nearby

Citation

Patricia Seto-Weiss, "Connecticut Savings Bank", [New Haven, Connecticut], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/CT-01-009-0055.

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