Maplewood History: Built Plain or Became Plain Over Time? The Maplewood Bank

In my last post, I reprinted an email from reader Melissa in which she posed the question: Were our buildings “built plain or became plain over time?  I gave her four examples which you can review here.

Another very good example of how a building may change dramatically is that of the first Maplewood Bank building.

The Maplewood Bank

This image from the Christmas edition of the 1904 Suburban Journal is the oldest image that I have of the Maplewood Bank building and companion storefronts.  This building is also referred to as the Swink block in other pieces of historic literature. J.L. Swink, the first president of this bank, no doubt owned a large portion of this real estate.

This excerpt from the Maplewood map (in the 1909 Plat Book of St. Louis County) very clearly shows the prime spot that this bank once occupied.  The NE corner of Oakview Terrace and Manchester.  It’s a parking lot today.

In the image on this early postcard, the photographer was standing in the 7200 block of Manchester and looking west. The Maplewood Bank building is on the right with the horse and carriage parked in front.  The turreted building on the left, recently home to Foundation Grounds now the Maplewood Deli, lost its turret at some unknown point in time.  The next three buildings on the left have all been demolished.  Citizen’s Park is now on that site. Courtesy of Donna Ratkowski.

This image I altered some time in the past.  The T. Rohan building now holds the Tale To Table store.  The ornamental parapet has been removed.  The Bank of Maplewood building in this 1909 image is the first of three that the bank would eventually occupy.  The other two would be on the NE corner of Sutton and Manchester. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

This excellent undated image is courtesy of Wanda Kuntz of the Kennedy Music Family.

Also from Wanda, a nice view from a different angle.

Such a beautiful building.  What could possibly go wrong?

Unstable soil is my guess. We now know that this exists in that immediate area. The Foundation Grounds building, directly across Manchester, has had a few problems as has the modern strip of storefronts (home to Mystic Valley) just east of there.

I have no clue as to just where exactly this cave was/is.

Photographs like this are heart breakers to us preservationists. Surely, this is the end of this once magnificent building.

Nope. Seen from the air the shape of the building and the fenestration are the same as is the chamfered corner. The first Maplewood Bank building has been shorn of its Victorian trappings and remodeled into a mid-century modern looking building to hold a Western Auto store!

Take another look at the earlier photos of the building.  Even in the last one where the building is propped up with a beam, it might have appeared to be unsalvageable.  It wasn’t and the folks who were working on it knew that.  They had been preparing it for it’s new flat (modern) facade.  The brick pilasters, their capitals and the round brick arches that had graced both doorways had been broken off. The parapet that once held the name of the building had been removed.  This sort of treatment was very common on commercial and residential buildings in the mid-twentieth century when they were updated…modernized.  Just about any architectural details that projected even a few inches were likely to be smashed off so a new perfectly flat facade could cover it.

I don’t like it either.  It is the history of architecture, though.  Here from our lofty perch in the twenty-first century it seems like architectural vandalism.  Even though many great buildings were irretrievably altered, the folks that did the altering were just doing what they had to do in order to stay current and appealing.

So what finally became of the Maplewood Bank Building?  Fire.

Looking at the building in this image, it looks as if the new covering could have been Vitrolite.  I don’t have to tell most of my readers that the nation’s last Vitrolite specialist is Tim Dunn, Maplewood resident and former long time councilman in our fair city.  Tim is still traveling all over the nation, repairing and installing Vitrolite on everything from the facades of historic theaters to the rest rooms at the Hoover Dam. Vitrolite can be attached directly to brick walls.  This undated image is courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.


The war in Ukraine drags on.  Putin is pure evil to cause so many to suffer so much.  I sure hope he doesn’t last much longer.

Summer turns to fall.  These fall days are beautiful.  Then fall turns to…I don’t want to think about it.  Just enjoy the fall.

Doug Houser          October 11, 2022


2 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Built Plain or Became Plain Over Time? The Maplewood Bank

  1. Doug, I’m in Laurel, MS working on a Home Town, HGTV storefront of Cobalt Blue Vitrolite. Great update on your site. Tim

    • I bet that’s a pretty one, Tim. We’ll have to get together and do a blog post about your Vitrolite business and experiences with the same. I know we talked about it once but it’s my fault for never having chased you down. Let’s do this as soon as we can. Good to hear form you.