The Louis Sullivan Bank of Newark

A look at the Louis Sullivan Bank of Newark (my somewhat hometown)

Although I am not from Newark, Ohio, I have many relatives who have moved there over time.  In its downtown courthouse square stands a jewel of a Louis Sullivan bank building that he designed in 1914 for the Home Building Association of Newark. While it has fallen into disrepair over time, the building has been taken over by The Licking County Foundation as a restoration project since 2013.  The restoration is still a work in progress as money is continually being raised to complete each stage of construction.

An article in The Newark Advocate below speaks to its current state, completion of its exterior restoration of the terra cotta and glass. The interior, however, remains a work in progress. The article does raise some confusion as it mentions a piece of terra cotta that was included in an auction of the building’s artifacts, when I believed the terra cotta was being replaced rather than sold.

The prime corner of the building was visibly removed some decades ago and replaced by an entrance to a jewelry store, and later by an ice cream store. The photo in the article reflects this but has since been filled in to match the original design, as shown in contemporary photographs to follow.

A lot of credit goes to the Licking County Foundation for what they have achieved, for I know personally when I had visited relatives in Newark and asked to visit the building, it was known to most as just another vacant run-down building downtown. There has been a lot of publicity regarding its restoration; my sister and my cousins have kept me up to date on its restoration progress.

Article from The Newark Advocate, April 30, 2023

The bank in Newark was just one of eight Sullivan banks he designed throughout the Midwest in the early part of the 20th century. As mentioned in the Auditorium blog post, the world had admired the interior of the Auditorium Building that Sullivan designed in the late 19thcentury in Chicago. Unfortunately after his firm Adler and Sullivan went under, these small banks were his only projects up until his death in the 1920’s.  

An important mention is Frank Lloyd Wright visited Sullivan and tried to help him out during these later years as he struggled to survive. Wright was one of his first employees back in the 1880’s and claimed to have learned architecture from him, which is quite a thing to say.

Below are some early images of the Newark bank for the Home Building Association, now called the Sullivan Building.

The Newark bank for the Home Building Association, 1920's
The Sullivan Building 2000 (left) and restored (right)
The Sullivan Building interior restorations to come
The Sullivan Building, original working drawing

The other 7 bank buildings designed by Sullivan late in life are in the chronology below (credit to Alexander Balloon).

And finally Louis Sullivan himself: 

To those who would like to learn more about Sullivan, I recommend the Kindergarten Chats as well as to read about how he worked with Frank Lloyd Wright when Wright apprenticed with Sullivan for 7 years as his first job. Wright called him Lieber Meister (German for “beloved master”) for the rest of his life.

The last decades of Sullivan's life were less notable, though his own Autobiography of an Idea was published the year of his passing in 1924. His remarkable legacy as a major figure of American architecture and his influence on modern architecture live on.

Blog post written by David Tritt, Senior Architect.

Sign up for updates.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.