1356 Broadway: A History
Constructed in 1922-24 as The Greenwich Savings Bank building, the imposing new headquarters was to mark this institution’s progress from its modest Greenwich Village origins to a prominent midtown location, is one of the refined examples in the impressive corpus of bank buildings from the firm of York and Sawyer, both architects, initially employed by McKim, Mead & White.
In keeping with the American tradition of bank building, Philip Sawyer displayed his knowledge of ancient Roman prototypes. In the adaptation of the Greenwich Savings Bank’s great, elliptical banking room and its accessory spaces – to the bank’s irregular four-sided site the elliptical plan is characteristic of ancient amphitheatres; the Flavian amphitheatre – the Colosseum – is the prime Roman example. The interior of the Greenwich Savings Bank displays a spatial allegory – a veritable temple to thrift – in limestone, sandstone and steel. The tone of the inscriptions and the personifications of Minerva (wisdom) and Mercury (commerce) in the bright-bronze tellers’ screen suggest Sawyer’s elements of allegory and the evocation of the ancient monuments, the inscriptions and the antique attributes of “Wisdom” and “Commerce”.
The round plan, covered with a dome, was an ancient Roman innovation and a form often repeated subsequently. In this country it was employed by Jefferson, Bullfinch, Larobe and Strickland. Town & Davis’ Federal Hall (1834-1842) at 28 Wall Street is a good example. Philip Sawyer would have known the banking hall of Isaiah Roger’s Merchants’ Exchange (1836-1842) at 55 Wall Street, the great dome of which McKim, Mead & White replaced with an upper addition for the National City Bank 1907.
Greenwich Savings Bank remained in the building until 1980, at which time it became several other banks as it changed owners. The building was bought in 2000 by Haier America for its corporate headquarters. They subsequently lease space to the venue now known as Gotham Hall. Gotham Hall management team is made up of seasoned professionals with many years in hotel restaurant and venue management