First Federal Savings Bank Building (Charter One), Cleveland

First Federal Savings Bank Building (Charter One), Cleveland
First Federal Savings Bank Building (Charter One), Cleveland

The former First Federal Savings Bank Building was erected in 1987 at 1215 Superior Avenue, at what was then the eastward end of downtown Cleveland’s high-rise office and financial district.

The bank headquarters structure occupies a deceptively narrow parcel, elongated north-south along the eastern flank of East 12th Street, just north of Superior Avenue. Its neighbors at the downtown intersection include Reserve Square (the bank’s prior home), the Diamond Building, and the Eaton Building.

Designed by the architectural firm of Richard L. Bowen & Associates, under the direction of Bob Fiala, Randy Kaehr and Rick Zimmerman, the building was intended to address the desire of the bank’s founders for a significant visual presence on the city skyline.

Its seven stories and substantial atrium are thus wrapped in multiple narrow horizontal bands of reflective blue glazing, deceiving the public eye as to exactly how many (or how few) stories are within. The building’s base is wrapped in a crisp composition of white and gray marble, suited to the bank’s history and integrity, while its height is further accented by its bold atrium-entrance slash and the lesser notches and shard facets in the upper glass skin. First Federal’s striking color presence signaled its true emergence on the local banking scene.

In 1988, Charles “Bud” Koch became CEO of First Federal Savings Bank, a subsidiary of Charter One Financial, Inc., taking over the role from his father Charles Joseph Koch. Both had played a key role in the initial development and planning of the 1215 Superior Avenue headquarters building. By 2002, First Federal had outgrown its ‘thrift’ status and abandoned its Federal charter to become a national bank. Two years later, the newly named Charter One Bank was acquired by Citizen’s Financial Group, thereby becoming part of a much larger consolidated financial enterprise. The original bank headquarters building still operates today as Charter One Bank.

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