by Linda (minnemom) of Travels with Children
In many American towns in the past century, banks were the nicest-looking buildings, and you can often spot a bank building in a small town even if it’s no longer serving a financial purpose. But how many banks have you been to that are architectural gems, with stained-glass windows, murals painted on the walls, and a balcony for viewing the detail?
Designed by architect Louis Sullivan, what is now the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Owatonna, Minnesota, has been called “the most beautiful bank in the world” and is the largest and most elaborate of eight “jewel box” banks that he designed in the Midwest in the early 1900′s.
Still operating as a bank, the building is open during business hours. When we visited, a friendly employee greeted us and took us into the bank president’s office, where she showed us the mural and told us the legend of Princess Owatonna and Mineral Springs Park before telling us about highlights of the rest of the building and showing us how to get a better view of the larger murals from the balcony.
The letter “B” in much of the metalwork throughout the bank is for Carl Bennett, the bank’s president when the building was constructed.
This work of art is tucked away in downtown Owatonna, off the town square. If you’re traveling on I-35 through Owatonna, Minnesota, be sure to detour through town and stop to see the Jewel Box.
Have you ever been to one of the Jewel Box banks?