By Mary Humstone
August 18, 2017
The Wyoming National Bank in downtown Casper celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1964 with a modern building complex unlike any in Wyoming. The bank was designed by Denver architect Charles Deaton, who also designed the so-called “Jetson House” west of Denver, which was featured in Woody Allen’s 1973 movie Sleeper.
The bank consists of a sculptured rotunda housing a two-story, domed banking lobby, emerging from a square, two-story modernist office block. Deaton called the bank “a sculptural concept in architecture,” while local residents dubbed it “the leafy rotunda” or “the peeled orange.” Originally 20 teller booths were arranged in a semi-circle along the outside walls of the 86’ –diameter rotunda, with a seating area in the center.
The bank complex originally included six, clamshell-shaped drive-up booths arranged across the north end of the site, and boasted “adjacent free customer parking” as well as the convenience of “modern drive-up banking windows.” Tellers accessed the drive-up booths through a tunnel from the main building. The drive-up booths were replaced in 1974 with a one-story, drive-through facility at the northwest corner of the property.
In 1968, a 177’-tall, free-standing pylon, advertising Wyoming National Bank and displaying the time and temperature, was erected to the north of the bank building. Designed by Casper architect Harold Engstrom, the tower is built of sculptured steel painted white, and was designed to complement the design of the bank. The tower rises on three legs which come together about one-quarter of the way up to form the fins of a single shaft, then separate again at the top forming an oblong space that originally held the 8’-tall time-temperature sign (removed in 1992). As Connie Thompson, Chair of the Casper Historic Preservation Commission noted, older residents of Casper recall the tower as “a sign of avant garde design coming to a rough-and-tumble oil town.”
In 2016, calling the tower a “public hazard,” Wells Fargo removed its signs from the top and announced plans to demolish the tower the following spring. Following an outcry from the City and historic preservation groups, the bank later reversed its decision, announcing that it would save and restore what has become one of Casper’s best known landmarks. “Understanding what the pylon sign means to community members, we’re moving forward with a significant restoration of the concrete pylon,” spokeswoman Julie Fogerson told the Casper Star-Tribune. City officials breathed a sigh of relief, since the tower is featured in the city’s logo, designed in 2015.
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