The Payne Avenue State Bank, a two-story brick building at 961-63 Payne Avenue, was constructed in 1923. With its four large classical columns it is probably the most impressive building on the commercial corridor of this part of the East Side. The building served as a center of commerce on a street that was, and is, a major contributor of the city’s immigrant history.
When it opened the avenue was filled with Scandinavian businesses and it became locally known as “The Swedish Bank Building. Over the years, the bank was the financial backbone of the early Scandinavians, Germans, Italians, and other settlers who established their cultural life in the neighborhood.
The bank was designed in a Beaux-Arts style by William L. Alban, who graduated from the Chicago School of Architecture. He began his practice in St. Paul in 1906 and specialized in church and school architecture with a concern for creating what was called “formal order.” He designed the Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church of St. Paul on Saint Paul’s East Side. He worked with a number of different architects and often teamed up with Charles Hausler. Alban died on July 1, 1961 and the bank he designed was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
By the mid-1990s, after years of neglect, the Old Swedish Bank had fallen into disrepair. The East Side Neighborhood Development Company (ESNDC) acquired the building in 1999, but the costs and challenges of redeveloping it proved so difficult that it stood vacant until 2005. ESNDC then partnered with the local Neighborhood Development Center and successfully created a plan for the building. It would mirror its historic role in the neighborhood as a trusted institution where residents could go for services to build assets for their families. It also provides financial planning and employment opportunities.
By 2007 they had completed an award-winning renovation of the historic bank. The building now houses a variety of finance related groups. There are small business opportunities as well as education and training. Different organizations provide financial services and counseling, economic development, business growth and individual asset building through providing culturally-specific training and education services.
The renovation of the Payne Avenue State Bank, which works for economic development, historic renovation, and revitalization, serves as a powerful symbol of economic re-birth and opportunity for the entire community. Today, Payne Avenue and the old “Swedish Bank” are renewing those collaborative roles.