Must-See RVA! — Morris Plan Bank Building

Must-See RVA! — Morris Plan Bank Building

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

July 2019
July 2019

AKA, Bank of Virginia, Signet Bank, 8th & Main
800 East Main Street
Build, 1931
Architects, Hoggson Brothers
VDHR 127-6031

Woohoo! Loans with NO collateral!

[ADR] — building in 1981 before the trees covered the exterior ornament
[ADR] — building in 1981 before the trees covered the exterior ornament

The Bank of Virginia, formerly the Morris Plan Bank of Virginia, was built in 1931 by Hoggson Brothers at 800 East Main Street. This three-story, seven-bay wide, limestone-clad Beaux Arts-style bank has a rounded corner with a shallow stepped parapet at the northeast corner of 8th and Main Streets. The first-story is six bays wide with rusticated limestone blocks.

July 2019 — showing door detail
July 2019 — showing door detail

Colossal fluted Doric columns that extend the full height of the building delineate the entrance bay at the curved corner and support the building‟s entablature. The door is framed by an elaborate limestone surround with griffins and carved stone cresting. On the second story, there are six bays, of which the four center bays are recessed behind the colossal columns.

July 2019 — showing roundel
July 2019 — showing roundel

There is a roundel with a carved eagle above the second-story window in the left bay. On the third story, there are five bays, four of which are recessed behind the colossal columns.

(Valentine Museum) — Hotel Stumpf exterior — Cook Studios
(Valentine Museum) — Hotel Stumpf exterior — Cook Studios

The Morris Plan Bank of Virginia was constructed in 1931 at a cost of $280,000by the Hoggson Brothers, an architectural firm from New York City that was active between 1922 and 1935. The bank itself was originally located in the former lobby of Stumpf Hotel, which stood at the northwest corner of Eighth & Main until the new building was completed. (VDHR)

(National Portrait Gallery) — Arthur J. Morris — painted by David Berney, 1949
(National Portrait Gallery) — Arthur J. Morris — painted by David Berney, 1949

A Morris Plan bank was a type of bank first established in 1910 to lend money to individuals who couldn’t obtain loans from mainstream banks. Fidelity Savings & Trust Co. was the first Morris Plan bank; it was founded by Virginia lawyer Arthur Morris. By 1931, there were 109 Morris Plan banks operated via the Morris Plan Co. of America. However, that number declined after the economy recovered from the Great Depression and commercial banks began offering similar loans.

July 2019 — showing entryway rosette
July 2019 — showing entryway rosette

Morris Plan banks were notable for their unique lending strategy, which benefited poor and working-class borrowers. Morris Plan banks did not require collateral for loans, but instead considered the character and community standing of applicants by requiring an applicant to submit two references from peers of similar character and financial status. (Investopedia)

July 2019 — window railing detail
July 2019 — window railing detail

Sadly, the exterior is all that remains of the Hoggson Brothers’ classical goodness. By the time Architecture in Downtown Richmond was written, no significant interior remained. [ADR] It served as office space to Signet Bank and the Virginia Department of Social Services, and then stood vacant until 2016 when it was purchased by The Monument Companies, and converted into a new downtown apartment space, 8th & Main. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

(Morris Plan Bank Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert Winthrop. 1982.

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