Passing Laurium’s incredible redstone clad village hall, you find yourself arriving at the corner of 3rd and Hecla Streets – the centerpiece of Laurium’s commercial district. Like Oak Street was to neighboring Calumet, 3rd Street was the main avenue along which most visitors to Laurium would first enter the village. Just three blocks to the west of Hecla Street was the Mineral Range Railroad’s depot, where daily trains would disembark a throng of people into the village’s waiting arms. When the village’s first commercial district gingerly began along Osceola Street, it was the 3rd Street intersection that garnished the highest real-estate prices and it would be the 3rd street intersection that did the same along Hecla Street. In the case of Hecla Street, however, the intersection attracted the interest of a higher class of institution – banks.
The first bank to call the intersection home was the State Savings Bank of Laurium, which first opened its doors in the village in 1897. The bank was established by a group of Laurium’s most prominent citizens, including Captain Vivian of the Vivian Department Store, Mr. Thielman of the Armstrong-Thielman lumber company, and Mr. Carlton of Carlton Hardware. The bank began rather modestly, housed in a petite little one store wood-framed building down near 4th Street. As the bank – and Laurium along with it – grew and prospered the directors elected to build a brand new grand structure at what was considered to be at the time the entrance to Laurium’s commercial district. The result was the impressive three story brick building seen at the corner still today, though the bank itself no longer exists.
The State Savings Bank’s most iconic element is its gracefully curved corner facade complete with iconic corner entrance. We’ve featured this impressive sandstone ornamented entranceway – along with a few other of the building’s more interesting aspects – in a post previously here on CCE (HERE). Originally the curved corner would have been home to a trio of name plaques – one on each floor – that spelled out the bank’s name. Only the last plaque above the door remains, which now says the whole name by itself. A dark stained area up below the cornice on the top floor is where another one of the those plaques once sat. There seems to be no sign of the central plaque.
The majority of the first floor was taken up by the bank itself, which would have once been visible through large windows looking out along the 3rd Street. Today those windows have been hastily closed in, leaving much smaller windows in their place. By the size of those wood areas, it looks as if those original windows were simply immense. In addition to the bank the first floor housed two other businesses, one more along Hecla Street and a smaller commercial space found back at the building’s rear along 3rd Street. Today that rear space houses Laurium’s post office, with an attorny’s office taking up the remainder.
The upper stories of the building featured even more window openings, two lines of them that run along the entire facade on both Hecla and 3rd Streets. Luxurious sandstone headers top the second story windows, while graceful brick arches top the upper story ones. Those arches connect a series of pilasters set between the windows each topped by what was meant to look like a carved capital. The second story housed office space, while the third offered what Sanborn maps refer to as “Club Rooms” – probably meeting spaces used by various local organizations.
Providing access to those upper story club rooms and offices is this first story entrance, flanked by a pair of sandstone columns. Another similar entrance sits over on the 3rd Street side, that one used to access the storefront located on that side. Such a grand entrance is fitting, considering a great many of the second story offices were occupied by layers, physicians, and other high-level services.
High up top of it all the building’s original cornice is still relatively intact – providing the icing to the cake of a great architectural structure.
Yet as impressive as the State Savings Bank may be, it was upstaged rather boisterously by a competing structure built just across the street. That structure belonged to the First National Bank of Laurium, a building that was and continues to be the villages most impressive structure.