The floods that ravaged the Midwest in June did not discriminate between corn and soybean fields, aging riverfront downtowns and renowned architectural landmarks. Iowa was especially hard hit, with buildings by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Steven Holl, and Max Abramovitz taking on significant amounts of water. As the floodwaters receded, the overriding, still-unanswered question was whether the damage was structural or cosmetic.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second largest city, the raging Cedar River poured into Sullivan’s exquisitely proportioned Peoples Savings Bank of 1911 (now owned by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank). The two-story bank, which sits less than a block from the river and is clad in a ruddy tapestry brick, was painstakingly restored by Chicago architect Wilbert Hasbrouck in 1991. Water filled the building’s first floor and basement, according to bank officials. Preservationists held out hope that the water did not reach the bank’s upper level, which houses irreplaceable regionalist murals.