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Portal State Bank

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1903. 19 Main St.
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)

This bank is a remarkably fine example of Classical Revival commercial architecture in a remote small town founded by the GN in 1886 that is now an important border crossing from Canada. The front elevation is composed of three Ionic columns marking two bays, and the bank’s name is carved into the sandstone entablature. The pediment is detailed with a degree of classical faithfulness, extending to the cast-metal acroteria atop the pediment. This temple of finance follows a stylistic formula popular in the early twentieth century throughout the nation. Portal State Bank thrived during the Second Great Dakota Boom as a financial service center for farmers and ranchers from Burke and Divide counties. The bank closed in 1924, but reopened briefly later that year and served the community until 1929, when it failed once again to guarantee the deposits of local families. The bank’s interior appears frozen in time, with several carefully preserved architectural features including the tile floor, tellers’ windows, and various fixtures. A sealed glass “fire grenade” bulb containing carbon tetrachloride alongside the front door constituted leading-edge emergency fire suppression technology in 1903. Though the bank building has not held cash deposits for many years, it continues as a repository of local memories and stories about the growth and decline of a speculative border-crossing community. The building, with historic furnishings intact, now serves as a museum.

Writing Credits

Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay


What's Nearby


Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay, "Portal State Bank", [Portal, North Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of North Dakota

Buildings of North Dakota, Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 144-145.

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