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On numerous occasions, I have walked by Stillwater National Bank (just recently renamed BankSNB) at 6th and Main in Stillwater, OK. I never before took note of the building that stood there. I originally thought I was doing a report on what turned out to be the drive-thru branch Stillwater National Bank at 3rd and Main, which is why I chose it… It was directly out my bedroom window. I thought it would be easy to analyze and research…Boy was I wrong, not only was that not the correct building, but there was nothing to be found regarding Charles L. Monnott, Jr. and Associates. The firm responsible for the design of the 6th and Main, Mid-Century Modernist’ branch of Stillwater National Bank.As I said, even though I walked by this bank many times, I had never really noticed it was there. I want to say that it is because of the sheer inundation of Mid-Century Modern that I have been subjected to throughout my lifetime (especially growing up in Tulsa, OK). For me, it is almost too familiar. And for that reason, I sometimes miss what truly is a spectacular chapter of history for architecture. Unfortunately, there is not much information available about the man who designed Stillwater National Bank’s current location, but there is a wealth of information in the edifice, itself. The architectural drawings were a big help, too. The gist of what is known about Mr. Monnott is found in his obituary.“[…] age 75 of OKC; died June 9, 1988 in OKC. He was a member of Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Born and raised in [OKC]; graduated from Classen High School in 1930; graduated from University of (NOTER DAME)Notre Dame in 1934. "Bucky" was an All State baseball player and remained an avid sports fan and fisherman all of his life. He founded Charles Monnott and Assoc., Architects; designed and built over 80 banks, numerous churches and hospitals. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects or the AIA, Chairman of Okla. City Board of Appeals, (NOTER DAME) Notre Dame Alumni Assn.; and an active member of Our Lady's Cathedral. He is survived by his wife of over 50 yrs, Hester; their 3 children, Charles III, Michael and Mary; 12 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be left to the Our Lady's Cathedral Building Fund.” There was actually slightly more information on his father than there was on him. (Well.. as in two whole articles, as opposed to an obituary and a sound bite in your dad’s article.) Charles Sr. built several cathedrals across western Oklahoma and Texas. His most famed being the Corpus Christi Cathedral in Corpus Christi, TX, and the Corpus Christi Church in Oklahoma City. He was a self-taught architect, and the one article mentioned that his mathematics were amazingly precise, and that his drawings were like works of art. Nothing on the son… even though he built 80 banks, numerous churches, and hospitals across the state of Oklahoma.
Here we see a photo of Stillwater National Bank’s original building circa 1899. If I were to imagine what a bank would look like from this time, I definitely would picture something like this. It would be this color, too. The sky, also.It’s almost as if, I’m waiting for the bank robbers to come riding into frame on horseback…By the way, Stillwater National Bank was founded in 1894 by the Keiser family, but sold to the Berry family, shortly thereafter. Obviously, the architecture of the bank has changed radically between its inception, and its current form. This one was razed in 1925 to make way for the next stage of SNB’s architectural lifecycle.
And here is the second incarnation of Stillwater National. This building’s architecture, this photo taken by William E. Bell circa 1950, is a fitting stepping-stone between the turn-of-the-century bank, we just saw, and the Mid-Century Modern bank… that is to come. Here we see what I would like to refer to as a Federalist style, maybe neo-Federalist would be more fitting. I’m not 100 percent regarding that attribution, but it reminds me of a style that is popular in the Georgetown neighborhood in the District of Columbia (which is far older than this bank…circa late 18th c., early 19th c. I think more like 1780s or 90s was the height of that architectural style. Hence the addition of the neo prefix.) In a similar fashion, we see classical elements such as the Ionic and Doric columns, arched windows, and a traditional pediment-capped entryway being used in this 1928 edition of the bank, as we would see in that earlier Federalist style.
This building stood as the home of Stillwater National Bank for almost 40 years until 1967 when SNB took its image into the future (but not quite as futuristic as some banks), landing on the corner of 6th and Main.And I quote, “The southeast corner of Eighth and Main was changed drastically […], when for the first time in 73 years Stillwater National Bank was no longer located [there].”
Mr. Berry Writing the Check seemed to be a better sounding title…But this is actually a news clipping of Mr. Berry, president of Stillwater National Bank, signing the half-million dollar contract between the bank and H. W. H. Construction Company… The company that built the bank that Charles L. Monnott, Jr. designed.
It was during the building of this bank that James Berry handed over the reigns to his son, Frank Berry.Frank Berry, subsequently, oversaw the majority of the construction process.
Just a fun staged promo shot for the building of the new bank.We see Frank Berry on the left.
The sign that is currently on the corner of 6th and Main was the solution that SNB arrived at when the original clock and thermometer quit working in the early 90s. The expense of preservation was cost-prohibitive.
Ok, so this is the official ribbon-cutting ceremony promotional image, but…Look beyond the “money ribbon,” and take note of the original light fixtures. This is the only photo that I know of that shows these fixtures, and they are truly important to the vision of the architect, as I will explain in more detail when I discuss Monnott’s attention to symmetry and the “echoing” of elements throughout his architectural renderings, but keep these in mind when we view other images of his exterior fixtures.A quick side note: If I were to oversee a preservation effort for the bank’s architecture, I would either try and track down the location of those original fixtures, or have new ones fabricated because I believe they are such an important part of Monnott’s vision. It’s like listening to Beethoven’s 6th and someone decided to write out the “raindrops.” Such a small, but integral, part of the author’s aesthetic intentions.It also completes this idea of symmetry and echoing and pairing that we will see throughout the rest of this presentation.
And the finished product.This photograph is circa 1970. The photographer is unknown.But, as one approaches the bank from the north, the sight is filled with several geometrically shaped umbrellas atop black poles with silver fins.
These orderly features surround the small aboveground parking area, and wrap along the front of the establishment.
A closer inspection reveals a vertically layered façade of terrazzo and black marble, giving the bank a dignified appearance.
Immediately upon entering the lobby, the “echoing” that I previously mentioned……of the exterior elements…They begin on the interior. Although several changes have been made throughout the years including removal of the original entryway light fixtures that were announced like a leitmotif above the main street entrance, the floors mirror the exterior through the use of light terrazzo and dark slate, while the walls are faced with a terrazzo wainscoting, and dark woods. Daryl Ross, Senior Vice President at Stillwater National Bank explained that the overall feel of the architectural aspects of the bank had been preserved to the best of the bank’s ability, but that several changes and minor additions had been made over the history of the building. The carpet that is found in the main lobby is not original, but the terrazzo underneath has been preserved. Along the north wall are a cluster of offices, and partitioned spaces, that were added later, which seemed obvious since the support beams did not match the structure of the offices. (and Mr. Ross later confirmed this suspicion.)
A detail of the ceiling pattern that “echoes” the exterior umbrellas.
…as we can see from the underneath of the umbrella structures, but in the inverse.
Mr. Ross was kind enough to provide me with digital copies of the original architectural drawings for the bank, which were a huge help in providing detailed information about the building that I was unable to find anywhere else.As I mentioned earlier, there is a hushed repetition that is found throughout the building.And it is even more evident in his architectural drawings. The other element that is not readily available until inspecting his architectural drawings is the amazing, almost obsessive, attention to symmetry. As we will see…From the umbrella elements, to the façade, to the layout of the terrazzo, to the windows, and the building itself, everything is swathed in symmetry. These classic architectural practices not only fit within the ideas of the Bauhaus (I think of the Fagus Shoe Factory), but within the traditions of the ancient Greeks.
Notice this light fixture outside the main entrance in comparison to the ones earlier…And take note of the fins attached to the supports for the umbrellas.
A close up of the terrazzo that is used extensively.
Again we see the echoing of, or pairing of, the elements throughout the construction of the building.
As is evident in these images of the front entrance (or main entrance), and the side entrance nearest the parking lot.
Another repeating theme of brass… I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but I think that is brass.
One of the really interesting things that I noticed in the architectural drawings that I wouldn’t have otherwise… was the use of Corinthian columns in the parking structure. These elements were not seen when I toured the building. I believe these are purely functional load bearing structures that were not meant to be seen, but instead, provide a restrained homage to an architectural style that Monnott admired and reflected in his own work. It also could be a reference to the bank that stood before it?As pointed out by Dr. Louise Siddons, the finned poles of the umbrella elements reflect the Greek column by widening in the middle, and thinning at the ends. Was this a nod to the classical architecture that was so deeply rooted in symmetry, or was this a reference to the past that provided support for the future? I think it is a little of both.It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but if any architect has achieved a fusion of seemingly antithetical styles it is Charles L. Monnott, Jr. Is there a subset of Mid-Century Modern that should be called Classical Modern? I definitely believe that Monnott, Jr. found a niche, but whether there are enough architects working in this style to warrant a designation, I am unsure.
Take note of the umbrella figures. When I was interviewing Mr. Daryl Ross, Senior Vice President of BankSNB, he mentioned that they were constantly having to reattach the fins. The screws kept rusting out. At the time I thought that was odd…the umbrella like structures I figured would protect the fins from a majority of the rain that could hit them, so why were they rusting out. Wasn’t until I was reading the architectural drawings that I realized that they were the equivalent of “French Drains” for the roof. All of those umbrella-like structures collect rain off of the roof, which is ingenious because flat pitch roofs are a nightmare to maintain, but Mr. Monnott thought of that and included the drainage into a seemingly decorative architectural element.
So if they actually serve a very important functional purposeas a disguised, vertical French drainage system for the flat-pitch roof, then, I believe, this further serves to connect the ideologies of Monnott to the theories of the Bauhaus, and furthermore, the ancient Greeks.
These connections are NOT seemingly coincidental. There is a purpose.I believe, with an elegance that is unrealized in the architectural art history community, Monnott avoided the extremes that we are about to see with other examples of banks in the area to create a sincere and all-encompassing example of what Mid-Century Modern can be.
Although, originally two floors with a full parking garage, later additions have included a basement suite of offices, and a reduction in underground parking – by almost half. Mr. Ross mentioned that the ramp into the parking garage was rather innovative for the time. It was constructed with warmers built into the ramp so that ice and snow could be repelled, allowing customers and employees to use the garage year round.
Again function without sacrifice of form.
Again, we see a repetition in the decorative elements of the parking garage (previous) and the
say the stairwell railing that encases the elevator at the front of the building. I took the picture of the image on the left because I immediately thought of Barbara Hepworth when I saw that, and her interest in negative space. Any ideas on whether its purpose is aesthetic, practical, or maybe a little of both?
Mr. Ross commented during the tour that parking at the bank was compact and tried to be efficient with the space that it was allocated, but that frankly, it was kind of a disaster. He pointed out that cars or trucks of any length were constantly at an impasse because of the small space between parking spaces. These are all concerns that an architect must take into account. Although not as OCD about his creations as say Wright was as with his heinous (individually designed) secretary chairs at what was the H. C. Price Company in Bartlesville, OK, Mr. Monnott asserted a control over the space going as far as appointing the landscape architecture including the type of rock used in the flower beds.
In contrast to Monnott’sclassical realization of Mid-Century Modern, there are two other banks built during the same timeframe and only 60 miles away, but they encompass a completely different approach to Mid-Century Modern.
State Capitol Bank and (formerly) Citizens State Bank are two examples of architecture that rely on their view of the future, rather than their admiration for the past.
This style is affectionately known as Googie architecture, or (what I like to call) Jetson’s style. Where Googie is the Dada of Mid-Century then Monnott’s work is the De Stijl of it.
As I was researching the architecture of Stillwater National Bank, I came across a report released just prior to the building of SNB, by Charles L. Monnott, III (the third), regarding the connection between a bank’s assets and the building of a new building. He points out that a bank sees a marked rise in their assets after the building of a new building, at least in the 1960s. He attributes this to the publics perception of the new architecture signifying a move towards the future… almost as if the new bank provided a visual cue that their money was safer with them as we all moved into the New Frontier. Besides a few lawsuits in the 90s and a divorce, the Monnott’s completely fall off the map as an influential Oklahoma family.The reason I titled this article The Lost Architect: The Mid-Century Architect Whom Disappeared is because the entire paper relied on second hand accounts, architectural drawings, comparative, and formal analysis. As I mentioned at the beginning of this presentation, Charles L. Monnott, Jr. was survived by an obituary in the Daily Oklahoman from 1988 that mentions his prolific work in the state of Oklahoma, building over 80 banks, along with several churches and hospitals. Which I believe poses the question, how does an Oklahoma architect with such a prolific career disappear completely from the archives, databases, and collective memories? Who is Charles L. Monnott, Jr., and what other pearls are confined in his seemingly discarded œuvre?
Special Thanks to:Dr. Louise SiddonsMrs. Susan BoboMrs. Malinda Berry FischerMr. Charles Barraclough & the Sheerar Museum staffMr. Daryl Ross, SVP BankSNB & the BankSNB staff
APPLICABLE COPYRIGHT INFORMATION –‡ These images are copyrighted and remain with the copyright holder, but are covered under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act of 1976 because:The images are important to this article for scholarly research purposes. These are images of important historical value and cannot be reproduced by any other means. There are no known public domain or free-use images available. These are low-resolution images and as such will not affect the commercial value of the respective works in any significant way. These images do not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the original image in any way. These photos are used for non-profit, educational, and informational purposes only.