Revisiting Gravois Bank

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Intersection of Gravois & Heege
South St. Louis County, MO

In 2008, I wrote a piece about this intersection, and the bits about the former Gravois Bank have generated comments and updates ever since.

Here’s the original post.

And here is that post, printed out and hanging in the lobby of the very same bank! Look how long it is when printed out. And I am touched that someone took all that time to cut it down and tack it up.

But they’re pretty cool about the pride in their building. Not only does this lobby retain easily 90% of the original fabric from the mid-1950s remodel, they also have this tacked up on the bulletin board:

It’s a capsule photographic history of their building! They’re only 4 years away from their centennial – how cool is that?

I learned about the bank posting my blog post from my friend Rob Powers, who stopped by to get photos of its Emil Frei stained glass panel. The panel can be seen just to the right of the motorcyclist in the photo below.

I had no idea it had Frei glass until Rob stated his mission. This is why he is such an architectural treasure. And this bank building just gets cooler by the minute, right?

Here’s his detailed photos of the bank and its Emil Frei stained glass.

Since I was alreadyin the lobby, I walked into the bank to take a quick snap of that stained glass. Only when they stopped me did I realize that we just can’t do things like taking pictures in a bank anymore. We’re a security-crazed society now, like it or not.

But when I told the bank manager about how great it was to see a post I wrote about their bank in the lobby, he immediately put 2-and-2 together, figured out I knew Rob, and he allowed me to walk up and take this photo of the Frei glass:

It was wonderful of him to allow another building geek to take photos of this art glass, and he does so while completely protecting the security of the bank.  Proving once again how much these people love and respect their building, and that they know some things are just as important as money.

5 thoughts on “Revisiting Gravois Bank

  1. I worked there from 1970 until 1986 and was the a VP and IT manager until Mercantile Bank bought us and we shut down the computer operations. I transferred to the Mercantile downtown location and spent two years there until I was released from employment. Everyone had two year guarantees of positions within Mercantile but once that two years ended most of the higher end employees were discharged, typically the higher paid you were, the sooner you were let go.

    The building was really a neat place to work. The vault, the Board of Directors room which was in a second level on the northeast side of the building was accessible by an outside door just north of the main lobby doors. If you walked straight back through the lobby you entered the “Bookkeeping” Department and the back far left was a door to a glassed walking bridge to get you the the drive through building. To the right of the Bookkeeping area was the Computer Room that had glass windows where you could see all equipment. I started there in 1970 as a part time computer operator working the second shift. Under the Bookkeeping area was two drive in windows which were accessed by two spiral staircases. There were two drives that allowed cars to access those windows. My desk used to sit right next to one of those staircases. We eventually needed additional IT space and decided to take the area below bookkeeping tear out the two drive in’s and enclose that area to become a new computer facility, IT offices and storage. Brick walls were added to that lower area to close it in. There we built a very modern IT area with the raised computer floors an office for the manager and programmers,data entry area and computer supply storage. The IT department became a service bureau where we did IT processing for Gravois Bank, Southern Commercial Bank, Southside Bank, and Bank of Hillsboro. We also processed Payroll Services for some south county school districts and many of our business customers. We also in conjunction with LK Wood reality developed an automated real estate service where area relators could used computer terminals to asset them in locating properties for sale. I wrote some of the software for that service. When I graduated from College I was hired full time as a Computer Programmer and asst Manager. Eventually I became a VP & IT Manager. To accommodate the need for an expanded programming staff we moved the programming function and personnel to an old building on the east side of Gravois at the corner of Seibert Ave. That building is still there today.

    Underneath the lobby was the Safe Deposit area and its vault. There was also a small storage closet area and access to the HVAC system. The lobby was two buildings. The south side where the stained glass is at was the newer building addition. It had a balcony which housed the Installment loan department. The teller line was part of the original building and what was especially interesting was the stone flooring in that teller area. If you looked carefully each teller window, the customer side had small depressions that were made many customers shoes which wore that stone down over the years. I you moved your foot from right to left you could feel the ripple in the floor which corresponded with the customer’s shoes as they stood at those teller windows. Underneath the teller line and the customer waiting area was the basement of the original building. The walls were hand cut rock of large sizes that are present in my old buildings prior to concrete foundation walls. As you moved towards the front of that basement towards Gravois you realized that that area was the old bookkeeping area where we had lots of vintage equipment and chutes from the teller line where documents were dropped from the teller line to bookkeepers where there was accounting equipment. That equipment would post each check and deposit to customer’s accounts on statement paper cards. The cards had vertical perforated lines so you had a left side and a right side. Each side was a duplicate of the other. So when statements were rendered the cards were separated. One side sent to the customer and the other side being the bank’s record.

    All in all I loved working there and would have been happy to be there for the rest of my career but as the President and son of one the bank founders retired. A new president who used to work at Mercantile Bank replaced the former President. The ownership of the bank was fairly closely held by the heirs of the founders and the only thing I can speculate was that there was no direct family involved in the bank, and we now had a President who came from the Mercantile system. I’ll never know how much influence that new president had in the sale of the bank. The family felt or was convinced it was probably in their best interest to sell the bank and capture the value built up over the years.

    Quite honestly the Affton community lost a real asset when Mercantile took over and a the dynamic presence Gravois Bank had in the South County community. Years later I heard that family did regret that they sold the bank and truly didn’t realize what the impact of the sale had on the community and many of their long term former employees.

  2. It’s nice to see a few pictures of Gravois Bank in Affton Missouri. I remember it well. I wish there were some more pictures of the old bank at the Gravois and Heege location. The picture on the left at the bottom of the stained glass was actually taken at Gravois and Seibert, just down the street. That building is still there and various businesses were in there threw the years after the bank moved further up Gravois.
    The bank at Gravois and Heege, which is now a U.S. Bank, was doubled in size when the original bank had become too small. The bank at one time had a computer room, outside walk-up windows and several drive-up windows to do business. It was the main bank for Gravois with 2 other branches. It is now just a branch of U.S. Bank.

  3. Pingback: The Artwork of Emil Frei Art Glass Company - Sappington-Concord Historical Society

  4. now talk about validation of your efforts! you must be grinning and chuckling still over learning they posted that on their wall.

  5. Umm, having grown up in a banking family, you’re most certainly able to take pictures in most banks without people getting nutty. I imagine it’s some kind of ridiculous corporate directive. Local community banks should have no issue! Yay local.

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