The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously yesterday to protect the former Citizens Savings Bank, 54-58 Bowery, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. The 1924 gold-domed, Beaux Arts-style building (now an HSBC branch) is one of the neighborhood’s most conspicuous landmarks. See extensive excerpts from the LPC’s press release, after the jump.
Citizens Savings Bank, chartered in 1860 to serve small depositors such as clerks, mechanics and servants, originally opened at 13 Avenue A. The bank moved to 58 Bowery in 1862, occupying a building at the site that was torn down to construct the existing one to meet an increase in demand for services. The bank commissioned architect Clarence W. Brazer to design the new building. Brazer spent part of his career in the offices of the noted architect Cass Gilbert, where he worked on such buildings as the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota and the U.S. Customs House in Lower Manhattan, a New York City landmark.
Located on a roughly square-shaped lot across from Carrere & Hastings’ ornate Manhattan Bridge Arch and Colonnade (a New York City landmark), the comparatively restrained granite building is 110 feet high and capped by a low dome. The street facades feature rusticated bases and an enormous arched window framed by pilasters. The cornice is decorated with beehives _ symbols of thrift _ an eagle and seated figures of a Native American and a sailor, all derived from the bank’s seal. Charles Keck, whose work became well-known in mid-20th century, is responsible for the sculptures, which were intended to be visible to passengers on the former Third Avenue elevated rail line.
“The design and materials were meant to convey the bank’s financial stability and assure the public that their deposits were safe,” said Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney. “At the same time, the building was a strong visual anchor for pedestrians, El passengers or anyone coming on and off the Manhattan Bridge.” Citizens Savings Bank merged with the Manhattan Savings Institution in 1942 and became the Manhattan Savings Bank. The bank was acquired in 1990 and later renamed the Republic Bank for Savings until it was bought by HSBC Holdings in 1999.