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Madison State Bank
Purcell and Elmslie
Madison, Minnesota   1913  [demolished]

Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1910
Text by William Gray Purcell
for 1913

Job Date (in Parabiography): April 24, 1913

MADISON STATE BANK, Madison, Minnesota (O. G. Dale)

Mr. O. G. Dale was a great, hulking, raw-boned, good-natured Scandinavian country banker who had been told by someone that we were the best architects, so no further salesmanship by us was required.

The shoemaker next door was fired with artistic zeal when he saw our plans for the bank, so we ordered extra brick and made simple designs for a store front that would harmonize with the bank.

Like Elman [Elgar] Greening at Grand Meadow, Dale said, "Our bank is a one-man institution, and you must arrange it inside so that this man can see his cash drawer from every part of the building, even from the safety deposit vault and the seat in the toilet room."

We planned accordingly. Mr. Dale wanted his own desk at the back of the building placed so that he could greet all his farmer customers as they came in at the front door, and we provided a broad sliding door to his private office which could be left wide open to accomplish this end.

This open plan for banks was a new idea based on the protection required against bank robbers, but the best arrangement is insufficient, and in 1933 this bank was successfully held up in an episode that made exciting local history.

Bank robbers were accustomed to lock their victims in the vault, and due to the time required to bring from St. Paul bank-vault mechanics who could open the doors or break them down, the victims often died of suffocation. We, therefore, introduced the practice of installing a 2-1/2 inch wrought iron pipe through the concrete foundation of the vault connecting with the cellar. Another ran through the ceiling slab opening into the attic space. A couple of right angle bends in this pipe baffled fire entering the vault through this opening, but tended to keep the vault cool in case of fire, aided in cooling it down afterwards, and of course, provided enough air to keep a man alive.

A vault specialty company later patented a conical hand hole, with a plug removable from the inside, together with a fan housing that fitted the opening. An electric outlet provided light and power. Food and drink could be passed when the fan was temporarily withdrawn. In this way was avoided the necessity of destroying the expensive vault doors before the time lock was ready to release them.


   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.7]


research courtesy mark hammons