Western National Bank

Western National Bank ca. 1928, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

5629 Grand Ave. | Architect: Ernest Erickson | Built: 1928 | Extant

Advertised as “the oldest bank west of the ore docks,” Western State Bank opened in 1904 at 317 Central Avenue. In 1927 the institute merged with West Duluth’s Home State Bank, established in 1920, to form Western National Bank. The new bank immediately made plans for a building at the convergence of Grand Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Avenue West. Architect Ernest Erickson created a trapezoidal building to fit the triangular lot, and his design won an award from the New York State Board of Architects. The two-story building’s entrance porticos along Grand Avenue and its “clipped” end where the avenues meet are each crowned with cartouches, while friezes containing carved medallions separate windows on the first and second floors. Faced with white stone, the Neoclassical-inspired building also includes modern Art Deco elements, such as tall, narrow piers separating window bays, as if Erickson—who designed the Medical Arts building a few years later—was combining the old with the new as architectural tastes evolved. Like the Duluth National Bank, the first floor would be used by the bank while offices on the upper floors were rented. Over the years tenants included dentists, lawyers, optometrists, accountants,the Oneota Cemetery Association, and the Spirit Valley Citizens Neighborhood Association. The bank remained in the building until 2007, when it moved to a new facility on Central Avenue. Since then it has been occupied by a variety of businesses.