Karl Vitzthum

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Karl Vitzthum was Chicago’s most prolific bank architect prior to the Great Depression, having designed more than fifty in the Midwest. However, he wasn't a specialist and was equally prolific with other building types such as office buildings, churches, apartments, schools, and manufacturing plants. Some of his most well-known buildings include the Old Republic Building at 307 N. Michigan, Steuben Club at 188 W. Randolph, and St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 110 W. Madison.

The Rogers Park National Bank, founded in 1912, was located on the southeast corner of Clark Street and Lunt Avenue. For the five years prior to the construction of this building in 1917, it is probable that the bank occupied retail space elsewhere on Clark Street, although the exact location has not yet been determined. The building is notable as architect Karl Vitzthum’s earliest extant bank design.

Born in Munich in 1880, Vitzthum emigrated to Chicago in 1914, finding work with firms such as Graham Anderson Probst and White, Burnham & Co., and White, Jarvis & Hunt. He often worked with Fredrick J. Teich prior to establishing his own firm with J.J. Burns in 1919. In 1956 Vitzthum took on Robert Kill as a partner after the death of Burns. Vitzthum remained a practicing architect while concurrently serving on the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals from 1958 until his death in 1967.

Vitzthum’s earliest known commission is a high-rise building on Lincoln Park West built in 1916, one year before the Rogers Park National Bank. He was heavily influenced by the classical revival work coming out of the office of Graham Anderson Probst and White, an influence most strongly felt in the design of his banks. The later bank commissions he would receive were much larger both in scale and budget, monumental in physical size, and symbolic considerations.

K.M. Vitzthum & Company was a prolific architectural firm whose work represents a transition in both form and style from commercial structures expressed in traditional styles, such as the Classical Revival style of the Old Republic Building and the Gothic Revival style of the Steuben Club Building (188 West Randolph, 1929), to the sleek Art Deco-style verticality of the One LaSalle Street Building (1929). (Both the Steuben Club and One LaSalle Street Buildings are designated Chicago Landmarks.) Karl Vitzthum is especially noted for his bank architecture, having designed over fifty banks throughout the Midwest including the State Bank of Goshen, Indiana, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Home Bank and Trust Co. Building, Hyde Park-Kenwood National Bank Building, and the Marquette Park State Bank Building, all three designated as Chicago Landmarks.