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National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna

Location: 101 N. Cedar St., Owatonna, Steele County
Built: 1908
Architect: Louis Sullivan and George Elmslie
Listed on NRHP: August 26, 1971

One of the first American architects to break free from the influence of classical revival styles, Louis Sullivan completed a series of eight banks in small Midwest towns during the last years of his career. The National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna is arguably the best. Sullivan, known for a “form follows function” philosophy epitomized in his prototype skyscraper designs, applied those principles to the smaller scale of the Prairie School bank's still-monumental form.

Sullivan designed the bank to resemble a jeweled strongbox, giving depositors a sense of security. The building is bathed in a symphony of color, as Sullivan described it. Green and brown terra cotta panels and blue and gold glass mosaic bands contrast with the reddish brick walls and the red sandstone base that anchors the bank to its site. Elegantly arched stained-glass windows are mirrored on the interior by murals of dairy and harvest scenes painted by Chicago artist Oskar Gross. The lavish organic ornamentation, designed largely by Sullivan's partner George Elmslie, carries through all interior elements, from 18-foot-tall light fixtures down to the tellers' window grills.




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Click to go to larger photo of National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna.
Click to go to larger photo of National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna.
Click to go to larger photo of National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna exterior.
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