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Jan 29, 2019

DES MOINES – As Iowans move into the new year, a new addition to the National Register of Historic Places offers a glimpse into Iowa’s past.

The First National Bank of Davenport building has been added to the National Register for its modernistic design, specifically its principles associated with New Formalism.

"The recognition of the First National Bank of Davenport in the National Register of Historic Places is significant for Davenport as it continues to preserve its history for future generations of Iowans," State Historian Laura Sadowsky said. "Congratulations to everybody who worked so hard to make this a successful nomination."

Designed by the local architectural firm of Stewart-Robison-Laffan, the three-story concrete and steel frame building opened in 1967 at 1606 Brady Street in Davenport and retains a high level of historic integrity, according to its nomination form.

“The (building) remains defined by its modern character on the exterior and on the interior, with a minimum of alteration made subsequent to its completion in 1967,” the nomination form said. “As a result, it remains a significant example of the shift to a modern architecture that threw off the historic precedents, which, prior to the mid-20th century, dominated American architecture.”

New Formalism emerged in the 1960s as a rejection of the more restricted expressions of Modernism, which characterized formal minimalism. With a focus on spatial hierarchy, New Formalism emphasized a building structure and construction grid on a raised base. The First National Bank of Davenport and the Davenport Public Library are two of the community’s most significant examples of New Formalism.

Originally, the bank was part of a planned commercial development that called for construction of multiple buildings following mid-century design principles. When those plans changed, the bank construction was self-financed independently of the larger vision.

Today, it is the only remaining building from that development along with the Professional Arts Building, according to the nomination form. The rest of the original development site is now occupied by contemporary structures.

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.