Photo credit: M. Larew , 1978

Property Name: Harford National Bank
Date Listed: 3/20/1980
Inventory No.: HA-1243
Location: Bond Street, Bel Air, Harford County

Description: The old Harford National Bank building is built in a modified Richardsonian Romanesque style, one story on Wall Street, with a full, day-light basement as well on Bond Street in Bel Air. Of glazed red brick laid in common bond, the building has a watertable, string courses, and trim of rusticated brownstone. While slightly squat in comparison to the Masonic Lodge next door, it gives an impression of strength and durability suitable for a bank. The Bond Street (west) elevation shows at basement level a low door flanked on each side by a double-hung, 6/6 window set in a wooden surround and barred. The windows and doors end in the rough thick stone of the water course. The basement level on the Courtland Street (south) side has two progressively smaller windows. The lot slopes sharply up toward Wall Street, and there is evidence of a basement on Wall Street. The main story of the building has four matching and massive round-arched windows, the top third of which have three panes over a smaller semi-circular pane arranged in a fan shape. The bottom two-thirds have three 1/1 sash windows. The wooden elements of the windows are thick, giving the impression of strength. A thin string course goes around the building and forms the sill of the windows. A thick, almost crude, second string course goes around the building at the level of the bottom of the fan portion of the windows, and then swings up and forms the Bond Street elevation, two windows and the entrance porch form the three bays on the Courtland Street elevation, and a window and the entrance porch form the two bays of the Wall Street elevation. A rectangular porch, in antis and supported by a massive square brick pillar, trimmed with two small bands of the rusticated stone, occupies the southeast corner of the building, terminating in the second string course. The doorway, set diagonally in the face of the building, is a modern replacement which consists of an aluminum-framed glass door, a single pane transom, and long, single-pane door lights. In the east and south elevation above the porch opening are two identical arrangements of three narrow 1/1 lancet-like windows, barred with three separate thick rusticated stone lintels. These windows, while providing light to the upper part of the banking room, give a fortress look to the outside. The slate hipped roof is pierced by three low, eyebrow-like dormers, the east and west ones having a long low window with small panes in two rows (10/10). The south dormer has three long, low windows with fewer panes of glass. A smooth, tapering but blunt interior end chimney without a cap rises in the southwest corner of the building.

Significance: The Harford National Bank building is the only example in Bel Air of the Richardson Romanesque, a style immensely popular in America in the 1880s and 1890s. The solidity of the style made it ideal for public structures, from churches and libraries to banks. It was also used, with perhaps less success, for domestic architecture, a prominent example being the Hay-Adams house in Washington, D.C. on the site of the Hay-Adams hotel. Nearer to Bel Air, the Lovely Lane Methodist Church (1882) by Stanford White and the first building of Dr. Goucher's Woman's College of Baltimore (1886) by Charles L. Carson were constructed in this style. When the Harford Bank directors accepted George Archer's plans in 1889, they chose the most modern style available. The building has more claim to architectural distinction than any other in town except the Odd Fellows Hall next door. The faintly Egyptian heaviness of the structure fitted it to be a temple of modern commerce.




close