Published on September 2nd, 2015 | by AberdeenMagazine
Six Stories of Potential
Citizens Building Marks Aberdeen’s Financial Boom
By 1909 Aberdeen’s population had risen to 12,000 (a bit shy of Sioux Falls’ 14,000). In that year, a banking newcomer was about to substantially impact the architectural landscape of downtown Main Street. The institution was Citizens Trust and Savings Bank, and they were in the midst of constructing our first high rise.
The Citizens was organized on February 15, 1906 by C.A. Russell (president), C.N. Herreid (vice president), R.A. Townsend (cashier) and R.G. Townsend (assistant cashier). They knew growth was on the horizon so they wanted to build a new bank building. And they wanted to build big.
The Citizens Building was the largest and most modern building between the Twin Cities and the west coast when it opened in the early spring of 1910. The community was skeptical that a six-story building could be developed in Aberdeen, but the bank proclaimed, “six stories or nothing!” The size was planned because Aberdeen was booming and many of the other small commercial block buildings had simply become too small for our swelling town.
The building was designed to occupy 50 feet of Main Street frontage and 142 feet of Second Avenue.
Early plans for the building called for modern amenities of its day. Two electric elevators would travel the six floors (plus a usable basement level), and most importantly a soft water system would supply treated water to the whole building. The basement offices would be lit with skylights in the sidewalk and a basement freight entrance would be on the avenue side. The actual bank would be on the corner while stores would be across the hall to the south, and in the back on the avenue side.
In looking at the architect’s rendering one can see the grandeur that was envisioned. I can find no pictures showing the “shell” accents on the roofline, but there definitely was a broad overhang capping the building. If you stand back and visually dissect the brickwork, you can make out the three horizontal patterns of brickwork as depicted in the drawing.
The Citizens Building has gone through a lot of “remuddling” over the years in multiple attempts to modernize specific entrances and storefronts. Fortunately the Second Avenue entrance is pretty much intact in its original state.
As with any Main Street building, the Citizen Building has potential. It obviously needs a lot of work, but any old building does. There are lots of office spaces vacant inside the building as well as in our entire historic downtown. But, the best way to look at it is, it’s not a lot of vacant spaces, it’s a lot of opportunity. //