There was a time when banks were considered to be impenetrable fortresses where our hard-earned savings were kept, insured against robberies, eminently trustworthy and impregnable. Bank architecture reflected that belief and the bank buildings themselves were designed as concrete fortresses.
All this went out the window, of course, with bank, real estate and investment firm failures of 2008-2009, but the old fashioned money fortresses are still around to remind us of when things were regarded as steadier, though ow we know they never were.
The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn was founded in 1859 and 50 years later constructed what many still regard as the classic temple of banking at DeKalb Avenue and Fulton Street in Brooklyn. The rotunda features crimson-colored supporting columns and large Winged Liberty or “Mercury” dime reproductions. They were added later on, as “Mercury” dimes entered circulation in 1916.
Here at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue J, we have a Moderne-style fortress bank that is no less intimidating in style. The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn was acquired by Washington Mutual Bank in 2002, which then rebranded itself “WaMu” and produced some of the most obnoxious commercials in television history. In karmic justice, “WaMu” became the largest bank failure in US history in September 2008, and its assets were purchased by JPMorgan Chase.
More than anything else, banking is the story of one fish swallowing the other, to be swallowed by another and another. But the bank buildings themselves were built to be timeless.