Filed Under Economy

United Bank Building

The nine-story, $1.5 million United Bank Building opened in 1925 as the tallest and largest commercial building on Cleveland's west side. It was one of the last of a series of classical bank buildings constructed in Cleveland during the 1910s and 1920s, a golden age for the city's banking industry. The selection of Cleveland in 1914 as one of twelve cities to house a branch of the new Federal Reserve Bank helped fuel this growth, as did the city's emergence as a major industrial center around the turn of the 20th century. Many of the city's banks, however, did not make it through the stock market crash of October 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. The United Banking & Trust Company, founded on Cleveland's west side in the 1880s, was a victim of the crash, and it merged with Central National Bank just a month afterwards in November 1929.

The Cleveland architecture firm Walker and Weeks designed the United Bank Building and nearly 20 other banks throughout the city in the 1910s and 1920s. Though perhaps best known in Cleveland for its monumental public buildings like Severance Hall, Municipal Stadium, and the Public Auditorium, Walker and Weeks eventually became one of the most sought after bank builders in the Midwest, designing scores of them across the region. Still standing in Cleveland today are, most notably, the Federal Reserve Bank (1923), the Superior Building at 815 Superior Avenue (1922), and the Guardian Building at 629 Euclid Avenue, which the firm remodeled in 1915. Nearly all of the firm's banks from the pre-Depression era, including United Bank, were classical in design, resulting in imposing and dignified buildings with stone facades that featured tall columns or arches. The United Bank Building's main entrance sits under two columns framing a temple front facing West 25th Street, while its Lorain Avenue side features six arched windows. The main bank lobby was itself richly adorned with marble columns, a coffered ceiling, and twelve bronze light fixtures--all ornamented with gold.

The grandeur of these banks was meant to instill confidence in depositors who often worried about losing their savings if a bank were to fail. When the stock market crashed in 1929, however, marble columns and gold detailing were not enough to save a number of banks from going under. Classical architecture declined in popularity around this time, too, as more modern styles like art deco took hold.

Today, the United Bank Building, now occupied by county offices, provides a window into what was perhaps the city's most prosperous era. While the good times didn't last, at least some of the magnificent banks built during this period have.


United Bank Building
United Bank Building The United Bank Building was constructed of granite and limestone and featured a rusticated (as opposed to a completely smooth) masonry facade. The bank and its offices occupied the basement and the lower two floors, while the rest of the building was leased as office space to various professionals. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: ca. 1925
United Bank Lobby
United Bank Lobby The United Bank Building's street-level banking room, where the public came to conduct transactions, is pictured here. Its lavishness was meant to instill the customers with confidence in the bank. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
National City Bank, 1950
National City Bank, 1950 Walker and Weeks added this classical facade when they remodeled the Guardian Savings and Trust Building (originally built in 1895, it later became known as the National City Bank Building) at 629 Euclid Avenue in 1915. The firm designed a colonnade of four three-story high Corinthian columns to frame the building's entrance. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Guardian Banking Room, 1956
Guardian Banking Room, 1956 Walker and Weeks also redesigned the interior of the Guardian Savings and Trust Building in 1915, creating this banking room full of Corinthian columns, pink Georgia marble, and bronze detailing finished in gold. Guardian Savings and Trust, founded in Cleveland in 1894, was ordered to liquidate after the March 1933 bank holiday, and its president later served 2 years in prison for bank fraud stemming from his activities at Guardian. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Federal Reserve Bank
Federal Reserve Bank Walker and Weeks designed the Federal Reserve Bank at Superior Avenue and West 6th Street, which opened in 1923. The structure was built as a modern Italian Renaissance palazzo, and was inspired by the Medici Palace in Florence. The elaborate fortress reflected the soundness of the institution and spoke to the safety of its holdings. Image courtesy of the Cleveland Public Library
Discount Building
Discount Building The Cleveland Discount Building (now the Superior Building) at 815 Superior Avenue opened in 1922. Walker and Weeks designed the building with a gray granite facade featuring four Doric columns. An ornate banking room covered in marble and mosaic tiles was located just off of the main entrance. The Cleveland Discount Company was a mortgage corporation that handled construction loans. It went into receivership in 1923, just two years after being formed, and its owner later ended up in prison for fraud. The structure became known as the NBC Building beginning in the late 1930s when the network's local affiliate was located there. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Garfield Savings Bank, 2011
Garfield Savings Bank, 2011 This branch of the Garfield Savings Bank at St. Clair Avenue and East 79th Street opened in 1915. The two Tuscan columns framing the building's temple front demonstrate how Walker and Weeks incorporated classical architecture into even the smaller banks that they designed during this time. Image courtesy of Christopher Busta-Peck Cleveland Area History


2012 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113


Michael Rotman, “United Bank Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 28, 2024,