The Union Trust Bank Co. building in downtown East St. Louis, Illinois, recently was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The well-preserved structure at 200 Collinsville Ave. (map here) was listed May 27, according to an email last week from the National Park Service, which runs the National Register.
The building was on a corner of Route 66 from 1957 to 1961, which went over the Veterans Memorial Bridge into St. Louis. The bridge later was renamed the Martin Luther King Bridge. That section also carried U.S. 40, also known as the National Road.
The nominating documents for the building contain a multitude of fascinating details about the building, including:
- The building was built between 1922 and 1926.
- It is on a corner of the last historically intact intersection in East St. Louis.
- It was in continuous use as a bank until 1996.
- The bank was built by southern Illinois banking mogul August Schlafly.
- The bank’s dignified architecture was fueled by fallout from the Panic of 1893. Bankers were motivated to show — if not through balance sheets — how sound their banks were.
- During the teens, Schlafly replenished East St. Louis’ corruption-exhausted coffers through part of his personal fortune and his bank, and was deemed the city’s savior.
- Schlafly made sure construction on his bank was done by local contractors.
- The bank’s construction helped bring a boom to East St. Louis during the 1920s and remained prosperous through the 1950s.
The entire document is worth reading, if for no other reason it brings much-needed historical context that East St. Louis was dealing with corruption and deep social problems over 100 years ago. Those things haven’t changed in the modern day, and have deepened with the evaporation of industry.
The document also mentions two other nearby landmarks, the Spivey Building skyscraper and the Majestic Theatre, both which are on the National Register but are in much worse shape than the bank building. In fact, though it’s decaying, large swaths of East St. Louis contain architectural wonders that await saving or rejuvenation.