Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harris Trust & Savings Bank Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Harris Trust & Savings Bank Building (1911) Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Norman Waits Harris arrived in Chicago in 1882 after a successful 14 year career in the Cincinnati, Ohio working in the financial industry. He had just returned from a long tour of Europe and instead of returning to the Queen City on the banks of the Ohio River, he decided to start a bond brokerage house in the City of Big Shoulders along the shores of Lake Michigan.

  [Harris Trust & Savings Bank Building, 119 W. Monroe Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1907 N.W. Harris & Co. had sold over $700,000,000 in municipal bonds when the company was given a state charter to organize as the Harris Trust & Savings Bank, with Norman W. Harris ensconced as president. The company was the primary bond trader west of New York City, and Harris was ready to spread his wings into the ever expanding world of American capitalism. After getting the new operation up and running and making even more money, he hired the very prestigious architectural firm Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge in 1909 to design a building where he could house his burgeoning business enterprise. The heavy, marble sheathed, column-arcaded base with it's deep-set entry ways gave the building a substantial foundation to sit on, which you might say, was a nice visual statement declaring that this was a rock solid financial institution and a safe to put your money.

  [Harris Trust & Savings Bank Building /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In today's branded and marketed obsessed world, it's hard to imagine that we haven't always lived like this, but there was a period in history when branding was a relatively new concept. When Harris started out in Chicago he decided that a letterhead comprised of some elaborate script wasn't going to be enough to make him stand out from the crowd, so he joined the majesty of the king of the forest with the Harris name. Shepley and associates gave the company symbol a powerful presence on the bank's Monroe Street headquarters by including space for an 8x8 foot bronze bas-relief panel depicting a lion perched proudly on a rock, which was a bit more dramatic than the polished bronze lion's head on the door plates of Harris Co.'s previous offices in Holabird & Roche's 1895 Marquette Building. The lion became so identified with the Harris brand that 100 years after it first appeared, Leo is still maintains a prominent place in the institution's corporate identity.

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