Valley National Bank (Tempe)

Valley National Bank served the Valley from its founding in 1900 through 1992; its iconic logo played a significant role in the region's development and its branches often had iconic architectural design. The Tempe branch was located at the corner of Apache and Rural; it was constructed in 1962 by local architects Weaver & Drover. Many people remember this particular location for the unique design of the building’s roof; the gold geodesic dome that was designed by R. Buckminster Fuller. The design of the geodesic dome by Fuller was first constructed in 1953 at a Ford Motor Company. Later in 1958 a bank branch in Oklahoma, Citizens State Bank, built a similar structure that became known as “The Gold Dome”. This design by the Valley National Bank was in response of the trends in branch banks of Phoenix Metro Area changing, by adopting a retail image to reflect the consumer services. The location of Apache Boulevard adopted many new strategies to become a successful bank.

Progression of the automobile culture in the mid 20th century set the path for some of these strategies used by the Valley National Bank. Where the bank was located was important to its success, by being located on the corner of Apache Boulevard and Rural Road it allowed easy access for automobiles. This easy access to the bank right off of the road was an uncommon theme in most urban banks at the time. Another relation to the expansive automotive culture during the middle of the 20th century, was the introduction of television bank tellers. The television tellers made it easy for customers to turn off of Apache Boulevard or Rural Road into the bank’s parking lot and complete their banking business without the need to get out of the car. Throughout the years this branch of bank was successful throughout the valley with several other locations in the immediate Tempe area. However, the branch soon came to an end and the Valley National Bank located on Apache Boulevard was transformed into a visitor center for Arizona State University. The bank was used still used for many years by the university until the addition of Hassayampa Academic Village housing in 2007 came into picture at Arizona State University; this additional housing of Hassayampa Academic Village was to be built at the Valley National Bank’s site. The growing enrollment of the university can be a reason for the addition of the Hassayampa Academic Village to accommodate the housing needs for incoming students coming to the university. The plan to demolish the Valley National Bank for the housing of Hassayampa Academic Village made people in the community and preservationist fight to try to keep the bank from being demolished because of the unique geodesic roof design. However, after a strong fight by the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission the building was not salvageable, but the university made an attempt to save the unique geodesic dome. The dome was relocated across the street of the original site of the Valley National Bank at the student housing complex Vista Del Sol as a cover for a ramada. The relocation of the dome was considered a way of preserving the popular building that once stood at the corner of Apache Boulevard and Rural Road by the university. However, some could say it was not a complete preservation of the location and deteriorated the uniqueness of the geodesic dome.

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