Sunday, May 25, 2008

Austin Federal Savings & Loan Alone

Located at 5454 W North Avenue, this 1950s modern bank building was once known as Austin Federal Savings and Loan located on Chicago’s West Side in the Austin neighborhood. Austin, the neighborhood, began life as a suburb in much the same way that Rogers Park, Hyde Park and Lake View once had. Austin, the bank dates back to at least the mid 1950s and was a crucial part of a changing neighborhood for many decades. I happened to take these photos of the now boarded up bank some months ago when it was still cold out. About a couple of weeks ago when I passed it, it was completely boarded up, not even showing one hint of a colored green window. I am sure that back in its heyday it was a gorgeous place to bank.

Austin Federal Savings and Loan like other savings and loans back in the early to mid-1970s began branching out into suburban areas just as real estate redlining and white flight were taking hold of the neighborhood’s racial changes. By the early 1980s it had merged and became apart of Chicago Federal Savings and Loan. By the mid-1980s it was known as Pathway Financial and just a decade later the name had changed to Household Bank. After 1995, what happened to the bank is a mystery to me. I’m not quite sure what year this location ceased to do business of any kind nor do I know how long it has been sitting there abandoned. Please drop me a comment or an email if anyone out there knows exactly when the building closed up and what has happened since.

Austin like any other Chicago community with its grand Victorians, greystones, two flats and apartment buildings, was once the place where fruit men sold their commodities in much the same way milk men did: the obsolete concept of going door to door. It was and in some ways still is a family neighborhood, where families from all different racial and economic backgrounds came to raise their children into successful people. Maybe one of them one day will come around and rescue the old Austin Federal Savings and Loan building. I’d hate to see this building looking this depressed for the next decade.


Dave said...

Nice 50's modern building. The Austin bank used to be a huge player. It's tough to imagine anyone other than another bank that could reuse it, though. Even the sign could be restored.

Didi said...

I wonder what the inside looks like. If it was still operating as late as 1995 I am sure the inside may not be so bad and may be easily restorable but knowing the mentality of most developers these days, I am sure they have no interest in saving this retro relic and see it as a potential teardown. Weird thing is, a friend of mine used to live a couple of blocks from the bank and I used to pass by it frequently upon visiting her and going to hang out that way and I never really noticed the building until a couple of years ago which happened to be a couple of years after she moved away. Sad how lonely and unnoticeable it must appear to everyone else.

David said...

I drove past this a few weeks ago for work; there are a lot of great 50s& 60s buildings like this left that way, and it looked so sad and forlorn... In fact the south side, being economically depressed, is chock-full of them as wlel.

Didi said...

I know. I went that way last week on my way to Melrose Park. There is a lot of great buildings like this in Oak Park along North Avenue but for some reason this one is my favorite. Or was. It's not looking too great now that it is completely boarded up. Looks like I got the photos in time.

I was also driving through Cicero and Beryn last (although unfortnately not for a photo excusion) and I saw lots of great examples like this as well along Cermak.

The north side (closer to where I live) is also just littered with good 50-60s buildings. Especially if you travel west on streets like Diversey, Montrose, Irving Park, etc. I just love riding my bike through these neighborhoods. Somehow I can feel what they were like as brand spanking new places to live.

Anonymous said...

The last time this building was active was probably ten years ago when it was a Harris Bank office.

I worked at Austin Federal from 1975 to 1981 and it employed some of the nicest people to work with. In my case I met my wife there.

Didi said...

Anonymous, I always like a nice little story. I think that this is the first time in the history of my comments that it has generated with "I met my wife there." So I thank you for that wonderful little tidbit.