Historic Structures

Troutman Building - First National Bank, Connellsville Pennsylvania

Date added: April 24, 2018 Categories: Pennsylvania Commercial Bank Department Store

This building was the historic headquarters of the First National Bank of Connellsville and home to the Wright-Metzler Department Store. Wright-Metzler was eventually absorbed by the equally successful Troutman Department Store in 1925. The building was abandoned in the early 1980s. While historically known as the First National Bank Building, it was commonly referred to as the Troutman Building since 1949.

According to The Daily Courier, of 8 June 1900, the initial scheme for the First National Bank Building was for a three story combination bank, office, and opera house. The newspapers describe the bank portion of the building as measuring 30'-0" x 85'-0" and the opera house measuring 66'-0" x 80'-0" feet. The exterior facings of the building were to be polished granite, white marble, and red Pompeiian brick. The building was to have a steel skeleton, making it "as fireproof as possible." The interior of the banking hall was to be fitted with San Domingo mahogany cabinet work, marble wainscoting, marble counters, mosaic floor tiles, bronze metal screens, and ornamental plaster work. The upper floors were to be designed with interconnecting offices accessible from a separate entrance vestibule and stair. The plumbing and waste systems in the building were considered the "most advanced" for the day. The building was to be lit by both gas and electricity.

After discussion among the bank directors, it was decided to erect a six story building with a bank, offices, and a department store rather than an opera house. The switch from opera house to department store seemed practical, however no agreements had been made with any department stores prior to construction of the building. Mowbray and Uffinger essentially took the same plans they had already prepared and expanded the three story building to six stories with much of the same detailing as was described in the newspaper account of 1900, the major exception being the structure was built using structural masonry with an interior of cast columns and wood floor construction. The footprint of the new building required not only the space provided by the demolition of the banking room of the then existing two story bank building, but also the adjoining vacant lot. Once the site was cleared, construction began in May of 1901.

Upon completion, the six story facade had two asymmetrical portions joined by horizontal bands in the form of an entablature above the first floor entrances. The first floor facade had an entrance in the eastern portion and two entrances in the western portion. The eastern portion, flanked by two plate glass display windows was originally the entrance to the department store. The frieze of the entablature above the western portion originally had "First National Bank" carved on to it. This western portion was divided into three parts by means of two ionic columns resting on stone bases. On the east was the original access to the bank offices on the upper floors. The largest of the three bays, the central bay, served as a display window for the bank and the western bay was a recessed entrance to the First National Bank (FNB). The copper cornice of the building was decorated with lion heads, dentils, brackets, acroterion, and two flag poles.

The west elevation of the building originally had seven first floor openings into the banking hall, the central four of which had large tripartite, transomed window configuration with a steel lintel and stone sill. The two southern most windows were transomed, and divided, and the northern most window was a one-over-one light double-hung with transom.

The new building was finished in February of 1903.

On-site exploration inside the banking hall revealed original marble wainscoting and marble baseboards intact behind a later false wall. Some of the original mahogany windows divisions and trim on the west wall were found. They were initially stained and later painted before their eventual removal.

In June of 1903, the First National Bank Building opened a foreign department to buy and sell foreign bills and to sell steamship tickets. According to the Connellsville Centennial History, this portion of the bank's operation expanded quickly and in March of 1904, a space in the basement, under the banking hall, was turned into an office with a separate entrance from Meadow Lane. Physical evidence of this change includes the remnants of a plaster finish on the walls and ceiling of this portion of the basement and an intact hexagonal marble floor with a mosaic tile border.

Although space had been provided for a department store, it was not until circa 1905, that the Wright-Metzler Department Store was established and took over the remainder of the first floor space not occupied by the bank. The Connellsville Centennial History states that in the summer of 1906, due to demand for additional space, a second story was added to the existing one story rear of the Wright-Metzler portion of the building. Physical evidence indicates that to access the addition, a wide opening was cut through the exterior brick wall. Several original window openings were enclosed. The construction methods, material, interior finishes, and details in this addition were very similar to the original first floor, also confirming that this addition must have been built shortly after construction of the original building. A staircase similar in materials and detail to the main office lobby stair was built along the east wall to connect the first and second floors of the department store. The Sanborn Map of March 1908 indicates that this second floor addition had five skylights. These skylights were removed when new roofing was applied. The date of the removal of these skylights is unknown.

The 17 September 1913 edition of The Morning Herald of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, reported that the remainder of the second floor of the building, which was previously divided into office space, was taken over by the Wright-Metzler Department Store.

In 1947 a wide opening with a ramp was installed between the first floor of the Troutman's Department Store and the former banking hall. The date of this opening is based upon the fact that 1947 was the first year that Troutman's occupied the former FNB banking hall, and the presumption that Troutman's would want a connection between all retail spaces. The opening is indicated as an existing condition on the 1954 renovation construction drawings.

An article in the 8 September 1954 The Daily Courier stated the intent of the Troutman's Department Store to renovate the existing building. The Daily Courier reported that the general manager of the store, R. M. Evans, initiated the renovation. He retired just prior to the beginning of the actual work.

On the exterior, the street level of the facade of the building was modernized with a metal marquee or canopy, new pink polished granite cladding, and reconfigured entries and display windows. Two fire escapes on the west elevation and one on the east elevation were removed at this time.

Interior renovations included the reconfiguration of the stair and elevator at the south end of the six story portion of the building. This included the installation of a concrete block wall to separate the stair and elevator from each of the floors, a new stair to replace the original wood stair, and a new, slightly larger elevator to replace the original freight elevator. The new stair was concrete from the basement to the first floor, and metal pan from the first floor to the sixth. The first floor entry to the stair was altered and had new metal doors installed in the opening. The new elevator was installed inside a new block shaft wall which extended above the roofline to a new penthouse which contains the elevator equipment. Original window openings at the third through sixth floors were enclosed on the east wall of the new elevator shaft. At the same time a door from the third floor to the roof of the two story portion of the building was enclosed. Adjoining office partition walls were slightly altered on the fourth and fifth floors to accommodate the new configuration.

An freight elevator at the southeast comer of the building was removed as part of this renovation. This elevator served the basement through the second floor of the department store.

Renovations in the basement included the installation of a new conveyor belt, reconfiguration of the south end of the floor, the enclosing of light wells at the north end of the building, and enclosure of the stair to the first floor along the east wall. The conveyor belt went from the first floor receiving area to the southwest comer of the basement. In this area concrete block partition walls were added, a concrete floor was poured, and additional electrical service was installed. At the north end of the building, the light wells which had served the bathrooms and the basement were enclosed from the inside. The sidewalk grates above the light wells were sealed. The stair along the east wall was enclosed with birch plywood clad frame partitions and double doors.

First floor renovations included the installation of new receiving doors on the south elevation, the encasement of the stairs from the first floor to the basement and from the first floor to the second floor, the installation of new built-in birch plywood display cabinets, the installation of new fluorescent lighting, and the installation of concealed air-conditioning units.

Second floor renovations included the relocation of the bathroom at the southeast comer of the building, the installation of a new opening between the office lobby stair and the northeast department store space, the redirection and enclosure of the stair along the east wall, the installation of new lighting, and the installation of new concealed air-conditioning units. The bathroom at the southeast comer of the building was moved south from its former location to the comer where the freight elevator had been removed. Physical evidence indicates the fixtures were reused. The stair along the east wall, which originally had turned west at a landing, was reconfigured to travel south along the east wall. This stair was encased and enclosed in a manner similar to that of the stair from the basement to the first floor.

The third floor had all partitions removed and an opening installed in the building's central bearing wall. The plan of the partitions were similar to that of the fourth and fifth floors. This open space was used by the department store as additional retail space.

Major work on the fourth through sixth floors in this renovation was limited to the new stair and elevator configuration at the south end and the removal of the fire escapes described above.

The renovation construction drawings show a new stair to the basement from the office lobby, however, this was never installed. In addition, the drawings do not show the reconfigured stair along the east wall of the second floor, however, based on physical evidence, it seems that this work was done during this renovation.

In 1960 The northwest retail space of the second floor was partitioned to provided storage and an employee training space for the department store.

In 1970 the seven openings that lit the former banking hall, which were shown as existing-to-remain on the 1954 renovation construction drawings, were filled with concrete block. At the same time, a false wall was built across the length of the west wall of the banking hall and fitted with display racks.

The west elevation originally had five light wells to the basement at the street level. The well closest to the facade originally provided an exterior public entrance to the basement. All the openings were enclosed and paved in 1980.

In 1992 the City of Connellsville removed all the windows on the east, west, and south elevations of the building, since they were beginning to fall into the alleys.