Trust Company of Georgia Bank Branch

The Story

Located adjacent to the Northeast Expressway at 2160 Monroe Drive in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood, this iconic round building was constructed as a branch bank for the Trust Company of Georgia in 1962.

In July of 2016, the BeltLine Design Review Committee (DRC) accepted a plan to demolish the building at 2160 Monroe Drive. This came as a shock to everyone who knew the building and it was soon revealed that the new owner planned to construct several self storage units on the property.

Representatives for Historic Atlanta, Inc. and the Georgia chapter of Docomomo (an international organization committed to the documentation and conservation of Modern architecture) quickly mobilized. After discussing the history and significance of the property with all of the stakeholders, it became clear that the building must be saved. In September of 2016 the UDC initiated the process to designate the bank building an Atlanta Landmark, but subsequently withdrew the nomination so that the property owners could pursue other preservation options, including nominating the property to the National Register of Historic Places and the donation of a preservation easement. 

In March 2017 the “Trust Company of Georgia Northeast Freeway Branch” was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. At the end of 2017, the owners donated a conservation easement on the property which was accepted by Easements Atlanta.

We at Historic Atlanta see this story as a model for preservation advocacy in the City; multiple organizations came together to provide education and advocacy efforts to demonstrate the significance of the building and the benefits of preservation and reuse, resulting in real protections for the property.

The News

History

The Following is provided by the Georgia Chapter of Docomomo, published August 10, 2016:

​The architectural design of banking institutions prior to World War II depended heavily on classical motifs. Temple-fronted banks of stone and brick evoke a sense of timelessness and sturdiness: characteristics aptly suited for the institutions entrusted with the life savings of their customers.

​However, changes to all aspects of banking, from the increasing use of automobiles to changes in banking regulations, “helped transform an institution that represented tradition in all facets to one that embodied a new American vision: the modern, progressive bank building as a powerful image-making and passive advertising tool.”(1) This modernization expressed itself no better than in the form of the drive-through teller and the car-centric bank branch building.

When the Trust Company of Georgia began planning for a new bank branch in the early 1960s, expression of modern ideals in bank architecture was reaching its peak. The selected site for the new branch building was a perfect expression of the needs of the modern banking customer: easily accessible and highly visible to commuters on the busy Northeast Expressway. For the design of the new building, the Trust Company hired Abreu and Robeson, with Henri Jova as lead architect. “Because of the site,” explains David Reinhart, “it was hard to figure out which way to orient the building. [Jova] decided a round building would be a solution. A round building would relate itself to the entire intersection of the Interstate and Monroe Drive.”(2)

The 56-foot diameter upper level of the exterior is clad in vertically laid white bricks and sits upon a 40-foot diameter base of dark glazed brick. The reinforced-concrete roof is an undulation of scalloped overhangs centering on a domed skylight. Tall, narrow windows bracket each bay of the 10-bay building. An array of three drive-through teller stations, round, of course, with overhanging round roofs, cascade west from the main building. To the east, prominent curved signage is mounted from towering trident prongs.

The bank’s open plan interior featured furnishings from BL Marble, Eero Sarinen for Knoll, and Herman Miller, all selected by interior designer Virginia Bowen, AID, then a head designer at the Ivan Allen Company. 

​Completed in 1962, the building was an immediate hit; the American Institute of Architects (AIA) South Atlantic Regional Conference issued an award of merit for the design. The building’s iconic form translated seamlessly into an advertisement for The Trust Company of Georgia.

In 2000, SunTrust Bank, the result of the Trust Company’s merger with SunBanks of Florida, sold the property. The bank was purchased by Inman Park Properties but sat vacant, so the Atlanta Preservation Center declared the building endangered in 2003. The bank building was soon adapted for restaurant use, opening in 2005 as Piebar, a retro-modern pizza restaurant. tTAtlanta Urban Design Commission recognized the Piebar rehabilitation with an award for adaptive use in 2007.  

In 2006, the building was chosen by the American Institute of Architects as one of Atlanta’s best buildings of the previous century. In 2007, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission (UDC) had given the then-owners an award for the successful rehabilitation of the building and reincarnation as Piebar. The building currently houses Cirque, a popular daiquiri bar and willing long-term tenant.

  1. Dyson, Carol J. and Rubano, Anthony. “Banking on the Future: Modernism and the Local Bank,” Preserving the Recent Past 2 (conference materials), pgs. 43-56.
  2. http://saportareport.com/appeal-save-henri-jovas-futuristic-round-bank-building-along-monroe-drive, accessed on 8/14/16