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The Bankers Trust Variations

Construction photographers take a series of shots – usually on a regular schedule, like once per day or twice per week – to show progress of a building. Irving Underhill achieved something of the same effect on a few buildings that he photographed multiple times. Here are some of his views of the 1912 Bankers Trust building at 14 Wall Street. The photo above is from shortly after completion, looking north on Broad Street past the New York Stock Exchange.

Here’s the site, at the northwest corner of Wall Street and Nassau Street, in 1906. The Gillender Building was beautiful and in structural terms dramatically slender, but it was uneconomic to operate and lasted only 13 years before being torn down for the less-slender Bankers Trust. The taller building on the right, the Hanover Bank, would eventually be torn down for an addition to Bankers Trust; Trinity Church at the head of Wall Street is visible to the left, and Federal Hall is at the lower right.

Here’s the state of things on March 28, 1911, some four months after the completion of the foundations. Note the deep plate girders that were used for the spandrel beams. This building was constructed some fifty years before Fazlur Kahn invented the tube frame, but here’s a distant ancestor to that structural type: a regular moment frame with deep girders at the perimeter. The rather complicated stonework from the second to sixth floor is in place.

By June 16, 1911, the steel frame had topped out (hence the flag tied ot the roof peak) and the complicated stonework of the upper colonnade was in progress:

By July 5, 1911, the stone veneer was catching up with the steel framing. Note that the pyramid stone is stepped, but the supporting steel rafters are straight.

The exterior was just about done by November 29, 1911:

And here’s 1912 again, complete. The pyramid, like the rest of the facade, is limestone, so it doesn’t contrast well against the sky in black and white photos. This angle shows the Singer and City Investing Buildings to the north west.

Finally, in 1920, a view from the other direction: past Broadway looking east. The back facades, on the north and west sides of the tower, were both largely removed by the 1930s expansion. The top, where the upper colonnade is, sticks up above the expansion and has not changed. The sidewalk bridge on Broadway is for the demolition of the small building at the center of the block which was soon to be replaced by the expansion of the American Surety Building on the left.

Personally, I find a sequence of illustrations over time – either photos or drawings – to be one of the best ways to understand changes to a building.