875 Elm Street

/ Monday, April 2, 2012 /
875 Elm Street by Manchester Oblique.
Manchester has a lot of historic and interesting buildings, but there are few that can contend with the downright classy aesthetic of the Citizen's Bank building at 875 Elm Street.

The Citizen's building stands on the southern corner of Elm and Hanover Streets, at the mouth of the Opera Block, the city's crown jewel of side streets. The building stands like a textbook pillar of early skyscraper construction, a style straddling the tail end of industrial revolution and modern architecture, its stone masonry hanging from a hidden steel frame with stone lions watching stolidly from the building's ornate cornice.

A corner of 875 Elm's cornice by Manchester Oblique.
Built in 1913, the building housed the now defunct Amoskeag Bank and was bought by Citizens Bank in 1993. When the Amoskeag Bank was built, architecture was in a precarious place with the idea of "form following function" hanging heavy over many drafting tables in America while the heavily ornate style of art nouveau ramped up in the upper echelons of Europe. The debate of ornamentation versus "pure function" raged in the architectural circles around the world, the most vocal argument being made by an Austrian architect, Adolf Loos, in his 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime". Skyscrapers (defined as anything ten stories or taller), were born out of the paradigm shift in building materials, favoring new steel super-structures in place of wood and stone, allowing the stone masonry and other materials to hang from the building as opposed to supporting it. The Citizen's Bank building embodies this time period very well.

A drawing of 875 Elm Street by Unknown.
The Amoskeag Bank being constructed in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.
The building stands ten stories tall and is a text book example of a Chicago Style skyscraper, a column divided into three distinct parts: the first floors utilized as a store front, the middle floors lacking any decoration while the top floors have some ornementation. The whole building is capped off with an elaborate cornice, balancing form and function, albeit neo-classical form.

The cornice by Manchester Oblique 
The seemingly functionless balcony hanging from the facade by Manchester Oblique.

Corner mantelpiece by Manchester Oblique.
Pseudo-Corinthian columns emblazoned on the sides of the first floors. If you look close, you can see small beds of spikes atop ideal pigeon landing spots. Photo by Manchester Oblique.
Inside the original Amoskeag Bank in 1913 via Manchester Historic Association.


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