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Reflections in the PNC Bank Building.
By Chris Young | SJ-R
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It's all in the details
By Chris Young

Next time you walk around downtown Springfield, try to take in your surroundings in a different way. 

Look at downtown from an upper-story window, or pay attention to the details on the buildings as you walk from place to place.

In some ways, Springfield architecture can act as a community timeline that starts in the early- to mid-1800s at Lincoln's Home State Historic Site. The outbuildings there are simple, utilitarian structures, but they still represent the building styles of the day.

Often when we think of Springfield's architecture, we are drawn to buildings of Abraham Lincoln's time, and our sense of the city's architecture becomes linked to historic preservation.

But that's not the whole story.

Fast-forward more than 125 years. On the north side of the Old State Capitol sits the PNC Bank building, the downtown skyline reflected in its glass windows.

The bank was designed by the Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and built in 1974. SOM also designed the Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) and the John Hancock Center in Chicago.

"We have fabulous modern architecture," says Charles Pell of CJP Architects Inc. "From pre-Civil War buildings to current times, there is a wonderful array of structures that no question speak to their times."Pell is the immediate past president of Downtown Springfield Inc.All the downtown banks offer interesting and "expressive" architecture, Pell says.

"Each one was very progressive," Pell says. "Each one of those banks and bank boards had the foresight to create fabulous pieces of architecture."

Another significant modern building is the corporate headquarters of Horace Mann Insurance Co.

It was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, who also designed the World Trade Center in New York and the main terminal building at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

"The Horace Mann building, as a late '60s urban renewal project, wiped away a significant number of properties," Pell says. "But ultimately how it was done and how it was created were far better than what was there previously, and the community should be very proud of it."

He recommends people take advantage of the Pied Piper Architectural Tours offered by Downtown Springfield Inc.

The tours, which are free, are held from May through October on the first Wednesday of each month. Tours start at 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office.



About the photographs

Paul Findley Federal Building and U.S. Court
600 East Monroe St.


  • Built in 1930
  • Combines three architectural styles: Federalist, Neoclassical and Art Deco.
  • Gray limestone exterior with decorative terracotta crests
  • National Register of Historic Places (1978)


Source: U.S. General Services Administration


Outbuilding behind the Harriet Dean Home
Lincoln's Home National Historic Site


  • Board and batten siding
  • Popular style of siding in the mid-1800s.


Source: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

Old State Capitol


  • Built between 1837 and 1853
  • Cost $260,000
  • Greek Revival style
  • Constructed with locally quarried stones  Source: Springfield Historic Sites Commission



PNC Bank Building
1 Old State Capitol Plaza


  • n Built in 1974
  • n Designed by the renowned architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)


Source: Downtown Springfield Inc.


Kerasotes Building
Sixth and Washington streets


  • Light terracotta finish
  • Designed by architect Carl T. Meyer
  • Contract to build awarded in 1926


Source: Illinois State Journal


Union Station Clock Tower


  • Renovation of Union Station included the re-creation of 140-foot tall tower
  • The original tower was removed in 1946
  • The clock tower has four working faces


Source: The State Journal-Register


Wrought iron decorative hinge
Grace Lutheran Church, 714 E. Capitol Ave.


  • Decorative metalwork appeared in the Middle Ages in Europe, but designs also had to be functional, because the hinges needed to be load-bearing.


Source: History of the Hinge; www.thomasnet.com



Story published Friday, May 6, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 3 )

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