By Teresa B. Lachin, Ph.D.
The Pink Bank sits grandly at the intersection of North Washington Street and Beall Avenue, a site it has occupied since 1964, when it was built for the Suburban Trust Company. Known today as the Bank of America building, this innovative modernist office building is currently slated for demolition and redevelopment by its owner, KSI.
Designed by Arthur L. Anderson (1893?-1980), this 5-story building is constructed of steel, reinforced concrete, and brick masonry. Its most distinctive characteristics are rectangular curtain walls covering the facades of the upper four stories in a honeycomb grid of elongated windows and pink and white enamel panels. A flat-roofed brick monitor sits atop the central portion of the building’s flat roofline, housing the service core. “Toll gate” drive-through teller lanes and ample parking ensure easy access and suburban convenience. An imposing lobby area is faced with gray marble.
Anderson’s design is strongly reminiscent of contemporaneous works by Edward Durell Stone, whose designs for Lincoln Center in New York (1962), and the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1963) are recognized as landmarks of New Formalism, a style pioneered by Stone and others who introduced monumental form, ornamentation, and classically-inspired design into the modernist canon. In the Suburban Trust building, Arthur Anderson combined the use of urban scale, modern classical form, color, and ornamentation in his interpretation of the New Formalist style.
Suburban Trust Company was established in 1951, and, by 1960, it was the fourth largest bank in the Washington area and the largest in Maryland outside Baltimore. Post-war prosperity and rapid population growth fueled sweeping changes in the banking industry that led to mergers and created a network of regional banks to serve the needs of new suburban residents and businesses. Rockville’s stylish new bank was situated prominently in a redeveloped area adjacent to Hill and Kimmel’s “One Stop” Shopping Center, home to W.T. Grant and other retailers. The million-dollar facility was one of Suburban’s largest branches, surpassing both its Wheaton branch (designed by Arthur Anderson in 1958) and other banks in Rockville, including the 1930 Art Deco Farmers Bank (today M&T Bank) on Courthouse Square and the 1962 County Federal Savings & Loan building opposite the Red Brick Courthouse.
Original tenants included noted Rockville attorney Vivian Simpson (1903-1984), the first woman lawyer in Montgomery County, first woman president of the Montgomery County Bar Association, and Maryland’s first woman Secretary of State, among other distinctions. In 1999, Vivian Simpson was named 1 of 20 “Lawyers of the Century” by the Montgomery County Bar Association and she was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Pink Bank has been openly ridiculed as an “eyesore,” with suggestions for holding a raffle to “push the button” for its demolition. Ironically, these are the sentiments used to justify the wholesale destruction of Victorian buildings a mere 50 years ago before we learned to appreciate the character of late 19th century architecture. Indeed, it was during the urban renewal era that Rockville lost the imposing Montgomery County National Bank building designed by E. Francis Baldwin. The real lesson, however, is to learn to value all of our history and architectural heritage. Having survived 46 years of economic change and banking mergers, let us hope that the Pink Bank can withstand the “inevitability” of redevelopment and continue to occupy a prominent corner in Rockville’s evolving and dynamic streetscape.
“There is no art as impermanent as architecture. . . The monuments of our time stand, usually, on negotiable real estate; their value goes down as land value goes up.”
—Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic