Mercantile Bank Mercantile Bank Mercantile Bank Mercantile Bank Mercantile Bank

Mercantile Bank Building

Address: 1704 Main Street
Architect: Walter W. Ahlschlager of NY
Year Built: 1943

This 36-story building, with marbled lobby, Art Deco wood murals (the largest in the world at the time), and clock tower, was built for the Mercantile National Bank and designed by the architect who designed the Roxy Theater in New York. The Mercantile National Bank was started by R. L. Thornton and three friends in 1916, and grew to be one of the larger financial institutions in Dallas. The Dallas Times Herald described the building as "palatial, dignified, destined to be a showplace of the Southwest."

In addition to the bank and other offices, the federal government took 10 floors to office various war agencies. An illuminated tower was added in 1947, standing 115 feet above the clock., and KERA used the tower for radio broadcasts. In 1958, J. F. Zimmerman & Sons erected a new illumination tower to be used as a weather vane, changing colors for different weather conditions. Sometime in the 1960s, the original façade was removed.

The building has been vacant since 1993 when the last tenant, the Hartnett law firm, left. There have been many attempts to revitalize the block, including plans to turn the complex into a fashion district. After much negotiation with the City of Dallas, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises bought the building in 2006 and began converting the main building into apartments. While the original structure and its clock are under renovation, later additions to the building have been demolished and will be replaced with new retail and residential construction. During the demolition and renovation process, substantial pieces of artwork, including murals by California artist Millard Sheets, have been saved by Dallas investor Tim Headington.

For More Information:

Online:
Mercantile Place Residences
The Handbook of Texas Online: Thornton, Robert Lee
Resources at the Dallas Public Library, 7th Floor:
Vertical Files:
  • Banks & Banking -- Mercantile
  • Buildings -- Mercantile Bank Tower
Books:
  • Annual Report. Mercantile National Bank, 1946-1974 (various years). [332.1223 M553A]
  • The Growing Story of the Mercantile National Bank by John D. Francis. 1971. [338.761 F818G]
Magazines:
  • Just Folks. 1956-1977.
  • Mercantile Today. 1978-1984.
Photographs:
  • Please contact department to view additional photographs.

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Last revised on December 14, 2007