The now-iconic Empire State Building was under construction in New York, but here in Fort Wayne another impressive building opened Nov. 16, 1930: Lincoln Bank Tower.
People lined up down the block as a crowd of 38,289 visited the tower in 13 hours on its opening day to marvel at its spaces finished with marble, bronze, mahogany and murals. Flowers sent in congratulations filled the lobby and an orchestra played on the mezzanine throughout the day.
At 22 stories and 312 feet to the tip of the flagpole, the tower would remain Indiana's tallest building until 1962 and the city's until 1970. It was designed by A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne and Walker & Weeks of Cleveland. Among Strauss' other designs are Memorial Coliseum, Clyde Theatre and Emboyd Theatre (now Embassy).
Among features of the tower noted in Journal Gazette stories previewing the opening were high-speed elevators with uniformed attendants. The elevators automatically leveled themselves off with the floor they arrived at and opened doors, speeding up the process and reducing chances of tripping over uneven surfaces.
The York Safe and Lock company of York, Pennsylvania, had been selected to build and install the vault, which was divided into sections for securities and safety deposits. A solid steel door of about 33 inches weighing 29 tons sealed the safety deposit section, which contained thousands of boxes.
The only business conducted on the site on opening day was the creation of 1,600 new accounts.
The bank gave out a leather wallet with every safety deposit box rented or savings account opened of at least $3. The wallets, in a variety of styles for men or women, were designed for the new size of currency notes, which had been made smaller in the late 1920s.
Opening day also marked the bank's 25th anniversary. Regular business began Nov. 17.
The historic Pixley-Long block of East Berry Street was razed to make room for the building. For years, the Pixley-Long block was a retail center and at one time was Fort Wayne's most prominent office building, according to a 1930 story in The Journal Gazette.
There were no photos of the Lincoln Bank Tower opening in The Journal Gazette in 1930. But included here are some pictures of the building from over the years.
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“Crowd of 38,289 Visits New Bank” (Nov 16, 1930)
A crowd which numbered 38,289 by actual count attended the formal opening and dedication of the new banking home of the Lincoln National Bank and Trust company in the Lincoln tower on East Berry street yesterday.
Throughout the day, from the time the doors opened at 9 o'clock in the morning until they closed at 10 o'clock at night, a steady stream of humanity poured through the portals of the new building. Last night men and women stood in line for nearly a half block waiting for an opportunity to enter.
The day had a double significance to the Lincoln bank. It also marked the observance of the silver anniversary of the institution which was founded in 1905.
Visitors were profuse in their compliments on the beauty of both the exterior and the interior of the building which is Indiana's tallest skyscraper.
The spacious lobby teemed with flowers, which were sent with congratulations by other business institutions of the city and from out of town. Wilbur Pickett's orchestra played on the mezzanine floor throughout the day and evening.
Harrold Greegwood, automobile dealer of Harlan, presented his congratulations in a novel manner. He flew over the tower in his airplane and dropped the message.
The officers, directors and employees of the bank, headed by S.M. Foster, chairman of the board of directors, and Charles H. Buesching, president of the institution, served as the reception committee.
Practically all the banks in northeastern Indiana and northwestern Ohio sent personal representatives to the opening, as did banks in Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Toledo and New York.
Oscar H. Bushing, cashier, had charge of the plans for directing the guests through the building. Uniformed cadets of Concordia college acted as traffic officers, and added a military touch to the occasion. The crowd was handled with dispatch.
No business was transacted at the new home yesterday, except that new accounts were opened there. The total number of new accounts opened was 1,600.
Charles H. Buesching, president of the bank, spoke over radio station WOWO by remote control from the mezzanine floor of the bank building, reviewing the history of the bank, expressing appreciation to all who have contributed to its success. He also paid a tribute to the high standing of all the banks of Fort Wayne, saying:
“The Fort Wayne banking public may well be proud of the record of Fort Wayne banks. Not a single dollar of loss has ever occurred to a depositor of a Fort Wayne bank.”
Others who spoke briefly over the radio from the bank were S.M. Foster, chairman of the board of directors; Mayor William J. Hosey; Mont J. Gable, vice president of the Fifth-Third Union Trust company of Cincinnati; Oscar G. Foellinger; B.F. Geyer and A.G. Burry, directors; A.M. Strauss, architect; A.H. Schaff, president of Hilgeman and Schaaf; and Clem J. Steigmeyer of the Steigmeyer advertising agency.
The Lincoln bank transacted its business yesterday in its old quarters on Court street and on Wayne street. After 3, o'clock the work of moving the records and securities into the new home began and will be completed today. Brink's armored express was used in taking the millions of dollars in cash and securities from the old quarters to the new bank building. The Fort Wayne police force also furnished protection.
A 32-page brochure with a silver cover entitled “Twenty-five Years of Progress,” which gave the story of the origin and history of the bank, with graphic illustrations, was distributed as one of the features of the silver anniversary observance. The brochure was designed, written and produced under the direction of Clem J. Steigmeyer, or the Steigmeyer Advertising agency.
The flowers which adorned the banking quarters during the day were to be delivered this morning to the various churches and hospitals of the city.