If you live in St. Matthews, it’s hard to miss the stately brick Independence Bank building, which sits at the corner of Shelbyville and Westport roads. But many people have yet to see the beautiful interior with art work and stained glass that memorializes St. Matthews.
The signature location pays tribute to the history of America; it’s designed to look like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. “The classic Georgian architecture melds into fabric of St. Matthews as a 200-year old timeless structure,” says Louis Straub, President of the Louisville market for Independence Bank. Louis, a lifelong banker, community leader, and Louisvillian, is happy to serve as the Bank’s unofficial tour guide.
Art history of St. Matthews
The interior of the Bank is elegant and simple, with dark wood accents and an open lobby that brings in the light. A series of paintings featuring historical people and events from the Revolutionary War hang throughout the building. The Bank commissioned world-renowned artist Peter O’Neill for the series of paintings. CBS has referenced Mr. O’Neill as one of the fastest rising talents in America and joins FOX, NBC, newspapers, and magazines in touting his success across the nation.
It’s impossible to miss the stunning stained glass in the ceiling over the lobby. Lynchburg Stained Glass designed, made and installed the feature, which took 31 skilled craftspeople to complete. While the exterior and interior design draw from America’s history, the stained glass draws from local history.
Twenty-five images visually convey St. Matthews from the past to the present. One image in particular ties the past to the present for Louis and all of the other Bank’s employees: Gilman’s Pointe Tavern, circa 1780. The stagecoach tavern did business approximately 240 years ago where the Independence Bank is now. In 1906, the corner became the home of the Bank of St. Matthews, and the corner has been a bank for over 100 years, (except for six years as Gross Diamonds).
For Erin James, a Teller at the Bank, that connection with the past is one of her favorite aspects of the location. “I like how the building honors the history of this space in St. Matthews through the stained glass windows,” she says. “Often the world around us is changing faster than we can keep up. This building is designed to have us slow down, take a seat and look up.”
The beautifully-rendered scenes show iconic locations — Plehn’s Bakery, Nanz & Kraft Florists, and Gerstle’s Bar — that are still serving customers today, and community favorites like White Castle, Bacon’s, and Thornbury’s Toys that were part of the landscape decades ago. They’re worth taking the time to look at, whether you know anything about St. Matthews or not.
“The interior stained glass pays homage to the many businesses and people that have made this neighborhood a wonderful home for generations,” notes Louis.
Erin and Louis both agree that stained glass is a resource for the whole community, not just the Bank’s customers. From Erin’s perspective, learning about the place we live can “help reconnect us to one another and open the door for discussions that will reignite our sense of community.”
A commitment to the St. Matthews’ community and the Commonwealth
While the design hails from Pennsylvania, the Bank brought in local and regional talent to make it a reality. Louisville-based Calhoun Construction Services served as the general contractor, leading the building of the two-story, 8,000 square-foot structure. Two Kentucky-based companies produced one of the Bank’s most distinctive features, the clock tower sitting atop the structure.
Campbellsville Industries created the tower, which weighs more than 16,000 pounds and took 1,600 hours to complete, and the elegant clock was made by Owensboro Concept Designs
The 1776 theme can be found even in the building’s surroundings. Thanks to a partnership with the Transit Authority of River City, the old TARC bus stop on Shelbyville Rd. was moved back from the road onto the Bank’s property and rebuilt in the same style as the Bank.
Whether you’re a customer or not, stop by during business hours with your family, classroom, etc., contact us. We’ll open it up and get people through the doors. You’ll find a slice of American history in the St. Matthews community.