The souvenir building coin bank of the Union Dime Savings Bank is rare and sought after by collectors. The metal replica's base reads,
'Union Dime Savings Bank. Sixth Avenue and 40th st. New York. Established 1859' Made by Art Metal Works of Ohio, the replica is 2.5 inches tall, finely detailed with an aged patina and dates from the 1930's. The real building, which faced Bryant Park, is no longer standing. As you can imagine, a bank as old at this one (established in 1859 in a different NY location) has a long history and full of changes. I could not find much information about the real building, but it seems to have been built in 1906 and torn down in 1956. From The New York Times August,7,1906: Union Dime bought property at
'the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Fortieth Street, a plot fronting 98.0 feet on the avenue and 110 feet on the street, opposite Bryant Park, or Library Square. On the plot, the bank will erect a building of monumental character, solely for its own use.' In 1956 the building was sold and torn down in the name of
'progress.' From the New York Times January 18, 1956: 'The Union Dime Savings Bank will move out of its present home office at 1065 Avenue of the Americas next week-end to make way for a new thirty-two-story building, J. Wilbur Lewis, president, announced. The bank building and an adjoining office building on West Fortieth Street will be razed to clear the way for the new structure, which is scheduled for completion late next year. The new building will be constructed by the General Realty and Utilities Corporation. The bank will occupy the first three floors.' The new building in this location was unimaginatively named
'1065 Avenue of the Americas.' The 38-floor building, which was completed in 1957 and designed by Kahn & Jacobs, is now owned by The Swig Company. A newer 5-inch-tall plastic coin bank replica of the new building was produced in the 1960's.
From the Archives: Saved Dimes Turn into Prime Real Estate
In this post, BPC's archivist, Anne Kumer, shares some history that crosses the boundaries of two BIDs, the 34th Street District, and Bryant Park. This post also appears on NYC, Circa, a history blog about New York City and its public spaces.
In 1859, a group of thirty four business men founded and chartered a mutual savings bank. They named it Union Dime Savings Institute to show solidarity with the Federal Union as well as remind people that
'dimes saved increased to dollars.' They were also the first banking institution to use the word "Dime" in its title, though others soon followed. The bank first opened a modest office at Canal and Varick Streets. In 1867, they moved their headquarters to Canal and Laight Streets, and in 1876, to 32nd and Broadway:
Photo, NYPL Digital Collection (The sign on the left side is for Rogers & Peet, Clothiers which was at 1260 Broadway. It looks like Greeley Square on 32nd but the building must have been demolished.)
This six-story white marble building was built in 1874, and in October of that year, Union Dime Savings Institute bought the title of the property from Rudolph A. Witthaus, for $275,000, nearly $70 per square foot. This was considered a fair amount of money for a neighborhood that hadn't quite achieved its desired reputation.
Greeley Square, c. 1908, with the elevated 6th Avenue train station on the right.
The front facade faced Greeley Square Park and 32nd Street, and the building housed the Union Dime offices as well as apartments on its upper floors. The bank remained there for the next 34 years before moving uptown eight blocks to the corner of 40th Street and 6th Avenue. The old building at 32nd sold for a record high price of $1,000,000, or, about $250 a square foot. Aside from making news for its price tag, the deal aroused interest because the purchasers, City Investing Company, didn't own any adjacent property, or have any plans for the space or building, suggesting to many, an intention to flip the property for a higher price.
At around the turn of the century, the 34th Street district was going through a massive transition. Improvements in mass transit led to the arrival of retail giants Macy's, whose flagship store was built in 1901-1902, and Gimbels (1910). The 6th Avenue elevated train had been operating since 1878, but the early 1900s also saw the addition of the
'Hudson Tubes' (New Jersey PATH train), and the completion of Pennsylvania Station in 1910. Additionally, the Hotel Martinique on 32nd Street and Broadway finished its third phase of completion in 1910-1911, rounding out the district as a new hub for retail, transportation, and hospitality.
Regardless of the rise of the 34th Street district, in 1908, Union Dime purchased the corner lot on 40th Street and 6th Avenue, across from Bryant Park, for $1,000,000. (Many also know the block between 5th and 6th Avenue on 40th Street as the longtime home of the Tesla Society, named after the inventor of wireless communication and alternating current electricity, Nikola Tesla.) Five row houses were
demolished to make room for what The Independent referred to as 'one of the most imposing banking edifices in the city' (vol. 68, p. 664). The Italian Renaissance building was designed by architect Alfred Taylor, and featured a 96 x 85 foot main banking room with 48 foot tall ceilings.
View from Bryant Park (known then as Reservoir Square) looking towards 6th Ave. 40th Street is along the left. Photo, NYPL
View of the South side of the Union Dime building on 40th Street, looking east toward the park and the NYPL building. Photo, NYPL
I'm not sure when this building was torn down, but it was still there in the 1930s (upper left, just behind the 6th Avenue elevated train line in the photo below):
And, in the 1950s, when this subway map was published and distributed by Union Dime:
It was probably torn down sometime in the mid-1950s, to make way for a 34-story office building designed by Kahn and Jacobs, and Sydney Goldstone. The building was completed in 1957, and is still there, looking much the same as it did in 1959, when a photo of it was published on the cover of Union Dime's 100th Anniversary booklet.
**Special thanks to Mr. Boyd Lewis at Union Dime, Inc. for his insight and interest, and a copy of the Union Dime 1959 yearbook.
Union Dime Savings Bank was originally chartered in 1859 in New York City. By the time of bank deregulation in 1979 it started to suffer losses. With the direction of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, it was acquired by Buffalo Savings Bank. It along with the New York Bank for Savings became part of the renamed Goldome. In 1990 Manufacturers
Hanover Trust bought $2.8 billion in deposits in 24 New York City branches for $27.7 Million. By the late 1991, Goldome failed and its NYC assets were sold to Manufacturers Hanover Trust and the East New York Savings Bank.