This Prairie bank was the second that Sullivan designed and saw built in the Midwest. He took the format often used in Beaux-Arts Classical bank buildings—a two-story clerestory-lighted banking room flanked by low, one-story open office space. In contrast to his earlier bank at Owatonna, Minnesota, where he encompassed the two functions within a single volume, here in Cedar Rapids he created two highly separate volumes. In fact, they are so separate that they almost read as two independent buildings. The separateness of the high public room is accentuated by the four perpendicular chimneys and vents at its corners, a design device often used by English Arts and Crafts architects, especially Charles F. A. Voysey.
Though Sullivan had a sympathetic client in the bank's vice president, F. H. Shaver, he was forced by cost considerations to reduce substantially the richness of his first scheme; this is especially apparent in the reduction of terracotta ornament. Thus, as the critic Montgomery Schuyler observed in a 1912 article, “the exterior is the envelope of the interior reduced to the simplest expression.” 11 However, the interior when built still exhibited a wonderful array of Sullivan's ornament, accompanied by Allen E. Philbrick's murals on the theme of an allegory of seasonal changes expressed through scenes of agriculture, commerce, and industry.
Numerous changes have been made in the building over the years, especially with the exterior and interior alterations that took place in 1951 and 1966; gone are the four brickpier streetlights that so tellingly reiterated (on a small scale) the four vertical chimney/vents of the bank building, and the richness of the interior is a ghost of its former self. In early 1990, Norwest Bank Iowa, which now owns the building, announced that extensive restoration would take place under the direction of Wilbert R. Hasbrouck of Chicago. The restoration, together with additions to the building, were completed in 1991.
Montgomery Schuyler, “The People's Savings Bank of Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” 78.