People's Savings Bank

Also known as: People's Bank and Trust Company, Wells Fargo Bank
101 3rd Ave., SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

A Louis Sullivan "Jewel Box" bank, severely damaged in the Flood of 2008, undergoing renovation


Overview Looking South

Tough to shoot south on a sunny day, especially mid day. I'll try it again another time.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in March 2013




As Louis Sullivan's career wound down, following the dissolution of the Sullivan & Adler firm, he accepted several commissions to design smaller commercial buildings and bank buildings around the midwest. Although much smaller than his grandiose designs for urban settings and downtown Chicago, the buildings have become known as "Jewel Boxes" for the distinctive details that were Sullivan's hallmarks. When asked why the bank should buy his design, far more expensive than other architect's commissions, Sullivan replied, "A thousand architects could design those buildings. Only I can design this one."

Peoples Bank was acquired by Norwest Back of Minnesota in the late 1980s. The shadow of the Norwest brand can still be seen in some places on the modern addition to the original bank. Norwest later acquired Wells Fargo and adopted the Wells Fargo name. The old Peoples Bank logo can still be seen in Terra Cotta decor on the modern addition.

All of Louis Sullivan's Jewel Boxes still stand, although this one was in danger of being lost a few years ago. Severely damaged in the great flood of 2008, the building was in danger of being demolished for a flood plan in the wake of the flood. The building seems to have scored a reprieve, and owners of the bank, Wells Fargo, are renovating the building as of this writing.

Sullivan completed his initial designs for the People's Bank & Trust in 1909. He created the design from the inside out, starting with the large banking room and following the business path. Sullivan once said, "Form ever follows function" which has been shortened to "Form follows function" and the Peoples Bank building is a perfect example of his philosophy.

He completed an exterior that called for 15 multiple colors of bricks to simulate an oriental rug. In order to reduce costs, Terra Cotta ornamentation was scaled back. Sullivan's ID plaque, on the northwest face of the building, is dated 1910, however, the building was not completed until 1912. Inside, murals commissioned to Allen Philbrick to depict rural Iowa life. Whether or not the murals survived the flood is unknown.

Although the southwest and southeast faces of the original structure were obliterated by a modern expansion, the core of Sullivan's design can still be seen and appreciated on the northwest and northeast faces of this Jewel Box.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on March 29, 1978
Reference number
Architectural styles
American Movement; Other architectural type; Sullivanesque
Area of significance
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Financial institution
Current function
Financial institution
Period of significance
Significant year


20th Century (29,078)
American Movement (6,254)
Bank (1,365)
Brick (42,464)
Built 1911 (919)
Built during 1910s (8,866)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (43)
Commercial building (6,214)
Iowa (2,527)
Jewel Box (8)
Linn County, Iowa (115)
Louis Sullivan (21)
Private owner (54,399)
Stone (26,167)
Stucco (7,816)

Update Log 

  • August 31, 2014: Photo imported by Dave King
  • March 23, 2013: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added description and added photographs.