Posts Tagged ‘old bank buildings New York City’

The vintage interior of a 1927 bank building that’s now home to a CVS

October 31, 2022

Repurposed buildings are the story of New York City real estate. New businesses moving into and taking over the space of a defunct company is nothing unusual.

But sometimes it can be startling—especially when the old company was housed in a fortress-like brick and limestone building resembling a Greek temple and as tall as a tenement, and the new business is a CVS.

That’s the case with a former bank branch on Amsterdam Avenue and 96th Street. Opened in 1927 as the East River Savings Bank and enlarged in 1932, the building is the kind of imposing edifice popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries with financial institutions that banks don’t construct anymore.

Neo-Classical in style with columns facing the street on two sides, the sober, solid building was meant to convey that your money and valuable were safe. In an era with fewer financial regulations and more bank failures, this must have been quite reassuring to potential customers.

The inscriptions above the bank’s entrance were meant to reassure customers as well. “Quotations from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln celebrating the virtues of saving decorate the bank’s principal facade, while Theodore Roosevelt’s words graced the West 96th Street facade,” notes the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s report.

The exterior of the bank has had landmark status since 1998, not long after the East River Savings Bank and a subsequent bank closed their doors, leaving the building empty.

The interior, however, is a different story. Off to the sides of the store shelves are some remnants of the former bank—perhaps very decorative entrances, or maybe areas where customers queued up for bank tellers.

A row of vintage wood phone booths (minus the phones, unfortunately) with those iconic folding doors are hidden behind an umbrella rack and halloween candy.

A bank clock with Roman numerals is set inside a lovely iron railing above the ice cream section, under florescent lighting and security cameras.

The CVS moved into the former bank building at least a decade ago, so it’s odd that they never bothered in all that time to renovate the interior. I’m not complaining; it’s a treat to see these remains of early 20th century New York City.

This isn’t the only old bank building repurposed for a drugstore chain. Downtown on Spring and Lafayette Streets, Duane Reade colonized another stunning old-school bank…also once home to an East River Savings Bank branch.

The most beautiful Duane Reade in New York City

October 14, 2013

Duanereade30springstreet2A Duane Reade store originally designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert?

It’s hard to believe. Gilbert is the genius who gave New York the Woolworth Building, the New York Life Tower, and other spectacular structures from the dawn of the skyscraper age.

But it exists, at the corner of Spring and Lafayette Streets, inside a repurposed East River Savings Bank building Gilbert designed in 1927.

The interior space is stunning, especially if you’re used to Duane Reade’s usual bad lighting and low ceilings.


Here are detailed ceilings, vintage chandeliers, a lovely old clock above the door, and a brass staircase to the lower level.


References to the building’s past as a financial institution are mostly wiped away, with the exception of the stenciling on the exterior, between the front door and the subway entrance on Spring Street.


The lettering is faint, but you can just make out “cassette di sicurezza.”


Google translate tells me this means “safety deposit boxes” in Italian—the first language of many neighborhood residents, as Spring and Lafayette Streets would have been squarely in Little Italy territory.

Check out some other old city buildings whose original tenants departed—and now are occupied by very different businesses.