Jewel Box Bank/Merchants National Bank Historic Tour – Grinnell, Iowa

Jewel Box Bank/Merchants National Bank Historic Tour – Grinnell, Iowa


Merchant’s National Bank is notably the
most iconic architectural work in Grinnell. Louis
Sullivan designed the bank in 1913, it was built in 1914, and its grand
opening was New Year’s Day 1915. It remained a bank until 1999, when the space became Grinnell’s visitor
center. The north addition to the building was added in 1974, and the Merchant’s National Bank Building
was named a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Sullivan was considered the spiritual
leader of the Prairie School of Architecture and young Frank Lloyd Wright began his
career working for Sullivan. This is one of a series of eight Jewel Box
Banks that Sullivan built in the final 18 years
of his life. The building is in essence a simple
brick box. It’s set apart by the terra-cotta entrance
and rose window, the stained glass, the low horizontal
windows, and the terra-cotta bands across the top
and bottom of the building. Light streams in through the stained
glass windows, the skylight overhead, and the rose
window in the front of the building. Sullivan was not only an architect, but he
was a designer- creating everything from the
embellishments around the terra-cotta to the check-writing table found at the
center of the lobby. It’s Sullivan’s unparalleled ornamentation that has made the building an
international attraction. From the awe-inspiring stained glass
windows, to the majestic griffin’s standing guard
at the entrance, to the geometric organic explosion of
terra-cotta that dominates the facade, the building is the centerpiece of
global marketing efforts and it’s the focus on the city’s Jewel
of the Prairie theme.


2 thoughts on “Jewel Box Bank/Merchants National Bank Historic Tour – Grinnell, Iowa

  1. I STARTED MY ACCOUNT IN THE 40'S AND CONTINUED INTO THE 60'S WHEN I MOVED AWAY FROM GRINNELL.  IT WAS THE POWSHIEK COUNTY NATIONAL BANK.  MAX SMITH WAS THE  OFFICER.   

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