Irwin Union Bank and Trust

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Irwin Union Bank and Trust
Irwin Union Bank and Trust is located in Indiana
Irwin Union Bank and Trust
Location Columbus, Indiana
Coordinates 39°12′13″N 85°55′17″W / 39.20361°N 85.92139°W / 39.20361; -85.92139Coordinates: 39°12′13″N 85°55′17″W / 39.20361°N 85.92139°W / 39.20361; -85.92139
Architect Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, Dan Kiley
Architectural style International Modern, Bauhaus
MPS Modernism in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Design, and Art in Bartholomew County, 1942-1965 MPS
NRHP Reference #


Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 16, 2000
Designated NHL May 16, 2000[2]
Floor plan

The Irwin Union Bank building in Columbus, Indiana, was built in 1954. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2001 for its architecture.

The building consists of a one-story bank structure adjacent to a three-story office annex. A portion of the office annex was built along with the banking hall in 1954. The remaining, much larger portion, designed by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates, was built in 1973.[3]


Irwin Miller became president of the Irwin Union Trust Company after his father's death in 1947. Three years later, he hired Eero Saarinen to design a new building for the bank. The building was designed to distance the Irwin Union Bank from traditional banking architecture, which mostly echoed imposing, neoclassical style buildings of brick or stone. Miller wanted the building to symbolize the bank's progressive mission, which included offering some of the first credit cards and earliest drive-through banking.[4] Instead of having tellers behind iron bars and removed from their customers, Saarinen worked to develop a building that would welcome customers rather than intimidate them.

I fly from Dallas to Columbus, Indiana where before the war we built a church. Perhaps you remember it. The same family, only a younger generation, wants to build a a bank. We now have what I think is a very good scheme. I don't think it would be just the way it is unless you and I had been to Cordoba and seen the mosque. It is a wonderful opportunity to do something really good and different because the client is simply out of this world. It is going to be a bank without any pompousness, absolutely no intention to impress. All it is is a very low glass enclosed marketplace-like little building in the middle of the town.

— Eero Saarinen, to his friend Astrid Sampe, with whom he had just spent a few days in Spain[4]


The glass building may look simple, but like all Saarinen's projects, every aspect of the space was designed after extensive research of its use. The ceiling was designed at eleven feet, six inches in height so the space would not feel oppressive. A freestanding structure for files was built in the center in the building, so that the rest of the office floor would be open and uncluttered. The colorful counters the tellers worked at were equipped with removable plastic hoods for when more counters were needed. A small elevator and spiral staircase gave tellers private access to the cash vault below and two steel and glass vestibules connect the glass pavilion to the three-story office annex, where more private transactions take place.

The grid of large domes on the roof of the bank was a source of amusement for the townspeople, who jokingly called the bank a "brassiere factory". Nevertheless, they loved the building and customers increased fourfold.[4]


The bank building only took up the front third of the site, the rest of devoted to a drive-through window and large parking lot surrounded and intersected with trees. Landscape architect Dan Kiley chose specific types of trees and foliage in order to integrate the bank with its neighboring buildings and help shade the inside of the bank. Littleleaf linden trees were used as the basis of the space, with euonymus as ground cover and seasonal spring bulbs, begonias, geraniums, and chrysanthemums as accents.[5]

The goal was to create a green space in the middle of downtown Columbus and provide the city with some breathing room. Since the bank building is lower than the buildings that surround it, the landscape around it feels more like a park. As the number of automobiles on the streets grew in the early 1950s, spaces like this helped relieve the congestion of busy downtown areas.[4]


On Friday, September 18, 2009, Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company, Columbus, Indiana, was closed by the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver.[6] First Financial Bank of Hamilton, Ohio, purchased all deposits and virtually all assets of Irwin Union Bank and will participate in a loss-share transaction jointly with the FDIC. The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) for both institutions will be $850 million.[7]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ "Irwin Union Bank and Trust". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  3. ^ Thayer, Laura. "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Irwin Union Bank and Trust". National Park Service.  and Accompanying eight photos from 1999
  4. ^ a b c d Merkel, Jayne (2005). Eero Saarinen. Phaidon Press. pp. 153–154. ISBN 978-0714842776. 
  5. ^ A Look at Architecture. Columbus Area Visitor Center. 1998. p. 26. ISBN 0965929914. 
  6. ^ FDIC. 2009-09-18 |url= missing title (help). 
  7. ^ FDIC. 2009-09-18 |url= missing title (help). 

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