People’s State Bank

Peoples State Bank photographed in 1920 by Hugh McKenzie. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

1336 Commonwealth Ave. | Architects: Francis H. Fitzgerald | Built: 1921 | Extant

Members of the Banker’s Mortgage Loan Company organized People’s State Bank in November 1916 to serve the growing population of Gary and New Duluth, most of whom worked at the nearby Minnesota Steel Plant. The bank opened in 1917 in a building at 1418 Commonwealth Avenue. In 1919 its officers announced they had hired architect Francis Fitzgerald to design a modest Neoclassical building for the bank to stand at the southeast corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Dickson Street. The two-story building is faced in red brick laid in both Flemish and English bonds and trimmed with Bedford limestone. Classic elements include Doric columns and an entrance portico topped with a cartouche in a shell motif (much of the stone surrounding the entrance has since been removed.) The bank’s name is carved in stone along its north and west façades, and the northern façade includes carved stone medallions. The bank opened its new facility in February 1921. Five years later, head cashier George Lorence embezzled an estimated $100,000 by intercepting checks for deposit from over seventy-five clients, all for sums between $500 and $2,000, and depositing them in his own account. The financial institute was closed by the local bank examiner, and the People’s president told reporters he feared the bank would not survive. He was right. In 1928 Citizen’s State Bank, organized in 1912 to serve those building the steel plant, moved into the People’s building. In April 1960 the bank was closed; services were relocated to Lakeside where it reopened as North Shore State Bank. The 1921 building then sat vacant until 1988 when it became home to Puglisi Gun Emporium, which continues to occupy the building today.