Monday, June 01, 2009

Nothing Becomes Them So Much As Their Leaving

35 years ago this THING was the most shocking piece of new architecture in the City of Charleston. For those who sipped the traditional tea of grace and beauty in the Holy City, this was a Jolt Cola. Some dropped dead on the spot at first sight of the new bank. There was widespread wringing of hands and much hell to pay in the matter. Actually, we grew to like this odd looking building over the years, but we're not sad to see the current tenant leave before their lease is up. Nothing becomes them so much as their leaving.

Bank of America is shutting down its Charleston Medical Center Branch at 281 Calhoun on the corner of Gadsden Street for good on Aug. 21. That leaves, but one location in the Charleston, SC, peninsula: 200 Meeting Street. It would require special planning to find a more inconvenient location which suggests that B of A must want more privacy from its annoying smaller customers. We'd suggest an unlisted phone number to maintain a proper level of contempt. How about "SORRY, WE'RE OPEN" on the door?

In 2004 B of A showed award winning contempt for our area by luring the Johnson and Wales culinary institution out of Charleston and up to Charlotte, NC. That move was expected to generate nearly $60 million in annual economic activity for Charlotte. It was also quite a threat to Charleston's restaurant and hospitality industry upon which we heavily depend for the tourist dollar. But, the heck with them as it's the building which interests us.

Perhaps the building grew on us because it was first occupied in 1974 by the old Bankers Trust. It was a nice bank staffed and run by nice people. No deposit was too small and no customer unworthy of their full attention. Perhaps the courtesy and accommodation which they showed all customers created such good will as to gradually soften the community's view of the building. If Frankenstein's monster had been a nice cheerful Rotary Club sort of fellow, he, too, would have grown on his community. It's all in how you treat people.

Frankly it reminded us more of a Department of Corrections gun tower than a bank, but we began to admire the place. We secretly wondered what it might be like to live there. It's very secure and perfect for the flood prone area in which it sits. There's adequate parking for entertaining and we'd have a built in carport for the Mustang. Deliveries would be assured since no one could possibly fail to find the place. It never needs painting and the vault is roach proof.

The best feature of this dramatic structure is that you would never have to worry about the place losing its good looks.


Blogger Agricola said...

Of course, back when the building was built, the BAR was only concerned with the historic area, which then did not include the northernmost reaches of Harleston Village. Who could know that the Great Joe would proclaim Calhoun Street as the grand entrance to Charleston in later years? On the other hand, I spent many pleasant hours in the office of the branch manager as we plotted various social activities. Sic transit gloria....

6:04 PM  
Blogger stico said...

My business partner designed this building back in the early 70's. Back then "modernism" was the prevailing architectural style...granted not in Charleston, which has a great history of exceptionally designed historic buildings of all styles.

The previous post is correct, at that time the BARs jurisdiction did not include this part of the city. The site's setbacks and zoning limitations required the building be raised up off the ground to obtain the square footage our client at the time was requiring. I suppose the building could have had traditional elements "stuck on" to imitate a historic buildings, but it really would not have been appropriate, given the scale and mass of the building. I believe the design was quite a unique approach. Other than a few surrounding buildings (Seabring-Aimar House, etc.) this section of Calhoun, with a growing MUSC at the time, was, and remains, a collection of not so notable "modern" structures. I believe the building's design fits in its context. However, I can appreciate that it's aesthetic is difficult for some to agree with.

It should be noted that the building was one of only a few structures in Charleston to be included in the SC American Institute of Architect's book on the 25 year history of Architecture in our state.

10:24 AM  

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