DES MOINES – As Iowans move into the new year, a new addition to the National Register of Historic Places offers a glimpse into the state’s past.
The Farmers’ State Bank building in Volga has been added to the National Register for its Beaux Arts-style architecture and its role in the community’s agriculture and railroad development in the early 20th century.
“It is a wonderful honor for the Farmers’ State Bank building to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places," said Susan Kloewer, administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa. “With the tools available to National Register properties, this recognition will help Volga preserve its history for future generations of Iowans to enjoy. Congratulations to all who worked to make this a successful nomination."
Built in 1912, the one-story building was completed during a prolonged period of growth and development from about 1890 to 1920 in Volga, a small Clayton County community once situated on the Volga Branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.
The bank was Volga’s second financial institution and reflected the rural community’s economic strength in the early 20th century. It remained in business for the next 20 years, even weathering the post-World War I agricultural depression.
The building is cited as a well-preserved example of a small, early-20th century Main Street commercial structure with a well-executed Beaux Arts-style façade that includes a large elliptical-arch window, Ionic granite columns, classical entablature and a stone garland-framed circle window.
“Like all banks of the period, investors in the newly incorporated Farmers’ State Bank would have wanted to express stability and prosperity to potential depositors, and the classical details and ornate embellishments of the Beaux Arts-style façade would have helped convey these attributes to the Volga community,” according to the building’s nomination form.
The building’s period of historic significance begins in 1912 and runs until 1931, when Farmers’ State Bank merged with the town’s other bank and became Iowa State Savings Bank, which operated for about a year in the building until it failed.
In 1935, the city of Volga bought the building to house the public library and town hall. Later, from 1947 to 2015, it housed the Volga State Bank and a branch of the Central State Bank of Elkader.
Today, it houses a law office, and the owner hopes to use historic preservation tax credits and grants for rehabilitation work such as exterior tuck pointing, roof maintenance and the installation of historically appropriate light fixtures throughout the interior, according to the nomination form.
The State Historic Preservation Office oversees the National Register of Historic Places program in Iowa in conjunction with the National Park Service. The State Historic Preservation Office is part of the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.