November 1988 | Volume 39, Issue 7
When the Bowery Savings Bank joined the rush to crowded midtown after World War I, it had to make do with the ground floor of an office building on Forty-second Street. But York and Sawyer were not defeated by the constraint; the architects produced, in 1923, a formidable Romanesque-Byzantine banking room whose sumptuous furnishings were as functional as they were decorative. All this splendor was in the service of a new style of banking based on speed and efficiency in taking care of a new clientele —those savers who stood in line at tellers’ windows with their deposit books in hand. The Bowery had moved to its uptown site because commuter trains, subways, and a Third Avenue El spur converged here, and with them two sources of customers: the old carriage trade that had begun to settle in the suburbs and workers drawn to the area’s new offices. Old money or fledgling money, the basilica-like banking room welcomed every depositor with a grandeur to match the grandest ambitions.