The Rockville Historic District Commission says Rockville’s “pink” bank should be spared from demolition, a determination based largely on the building’s 1960s architecture and the its broader role in the development of downtown as a commercial center.
The commission on Thursday recommended giving a historic designation to the Suburban Trust Co. building at 255 N. Washington Street, The Gazette reports.
The building is at the northern end of Rockville town square, just north of the library. The pale pink squares that anchor the office building’s narrow rows of windows are what gave the building its nickname.
The property owner, Kettler, wants to build condominiums on the site and asked for the Historic District Commission to evaluate its historic significance before tearing the building down, according to news accounts and a report planning staff submitted to the commission.
>>> See: Historic District Commission Staff Report at the City of Rockville website.
Planners claim that the “pink” bank meets the Historic District Commission’s criteria for historic designation because it embodies an architectural style called “New Formalism” common to mid-20th century commercial buildings, according to a report planning staff submitted to the commission.
Why planners say the building should be saved
Commission members, The Gazette reports, said it was their job to determine whether a site deserves a historic designation based on specific criteria—not whether or not it was pretty.
New Formalism emerged in the 1960s and ’70s as an attempt to “bring pattern and classical proportioning back to an architectural vocabulary that had been dominated by International Style and “Bauhaus Box,” according to the staff report.
The National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC is an example of New Formalist style, according to records filed with the Maryland Historic Trust.
The Suburban Trust Co. building is also in good shape, planners said. There’s a Bank of America operating there now.
The building’s history
Back in the 1960s, Suburban Trust Co. purchased the land and asked Silver Spring architect Arthur L. Anderson to design the Rockville branch, city records show.
The building opened in 1964. Suburban Trust occupied most of the building and leased the rest as office space. At the time it was built, the Suburban Trust building was part of a downtown commercial hub that the city promoted as a shopping destination—like what was being built in downtown Wheaton, according to city records.
But that shopping destination is now defunct and desolate.
The Giant store—one of the last semblances of the old northern Town Center shopping district—has been torn down for a project to build a 190-apartment community for seniors.
The wrecking ball was supposed to be written into the Suburban Trust Building’s fate.
According to city records, the planning commission approved in 2004 a preliminary development plan that called for the demolition of the “pink” bank to make way for a development with as many as 325 residences and store and shops on the ground floor, city records show.
Now that the Historic District Commission has determined that the “pink” bank is worthy of a historic designation, the city’s Mayor and Council will have to decide whether to authorize zoning action, The Gazette reports.
>>>Speak Out: Do you think the “pink” bank is worth saving? Or do you agree with the Historic Commission’s determination?