Filed Under Architecture

Valley National Bank (Tempe)

Tempe's Golden Dome

An iconic golden dome once covered the Apache Boulevard brach of Valley National Bank, until the building was demolished in 2007. The wrecking ball missed the golden dome, however, and it still lights Tempe's desert sky.

Valley National Bank served the Valley from its founding in 1900 through 1992. During this time, the Bank's distinctive logo was a common sight throughout the Valley. Its branches often had an iconic architectural design.

Located at the corner of Apache and Rural, the Tempe branch was constructed in 1962 by local architects Weaver & Drover. Many people remember this particular location for the unique design of the building's roof: a gold geodesic dome that R. Buckminster Fuller designed. This unique design choice by the Valley National Bank was a response to the changing architectural trends in the Phoenix Metro Area.

The Bank sought to adopt a retail image centered on consumer services. The location on Apache Boulevard also adopted many new strategies to become a successful bank. The progression of automobile culture in the mid-20th century set the path for some of these strategies used by the Valley National Bank. The Bank's location was essential to its success; it allowed easy automobile access by being located on the corner of Apache Boulevard and Rural Road. This type of auto-friendly access right off the road was an uncommon feature in most urban banks at the time. Another innovation resulting from the expansive automotive culture of the mid-20th century was the introduction of television bank tellers. Now, customers could quickly turn off the road and into the Bank's parking lot to complete their banking business - without leaving the car.

Valley National Bank was very successful and opened several other branches in the Tempe area. However, in the early 1990s, Valley National Bank was purchased by BankOne, and the Apache Boulevard location was subsequently transformed into a visitor center for Arizona State University. The bank building continued to be used by ASU for the next two decades. However, in 2007 the University began construction on the Hassayampa Academic Village on the site of the former Valley National branch. The unique geodesic dome had become a well-known and popular landmark in Tempe. Unfortunately, the building was ultimately deemed unsalvageable after an intense fight by the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission. The plan to demolish the building inspired the local community, with the help of historical preservationists, to fight to save the Bank from the wrecking ball.

Still, the University attempted to save the famous dome, even if they couldn't preserve the building. After two years of hibernation in ASU's surplus yard, the golden dome was re-erected in 2009 at Vista del Sol, a student housing complex across the street from the original Valley Bank site. Some might argue, however, that relocating the dome diminished its uniqueness. Even so, Tempe's now iconic dome still lights the surrounding desert sky, a memory of a bygone age.

Images

Geodesic Dome
Geodesic Dome For its Tempe branch, the Valley National Bank build a geodesic dome: a gold anodized aluminum dome spanned 91 feet and rose 16 feet above a concrete ring. It was pre-planned and manufactured by TEMCOR of Torrance, California. Source: Postcard, 1994.1.11.96, Tempe History Museum. Date: ca. 1971
Roof Construction of Valley National Bank
Roof Construction of Valley National Bank The Valley National Bank branch along Apache Avenue was prefabricated aluminum. Source: James G. Gardner Photographs, CP SPC 326.15, Item 4, Roof Construction of Valley National Bank, Arizona Collection. Arizona State University Library. Creator: Bob Markow Photography Date: 1962
Sign along Apache
Sign along Apache In addition to its signature architecture, the Apache branch of Valley National had the bank's familiar logo and sign standing out front. Source: Tempe History Museum, Tempe in the 1970s - Photos from the Community Development Department, 1992.2.46. Creator: City of Tempe, Community Development Department Date: 1972
Golden Dome
Golden Dome Source: Connie Lee Marie Graphic Design Date: n.d.
Valley National Bank Branch in Tempe
Valley National Bank Branch in Tempe Source: Tempe History Museum
Valley National Bank As ASU Visitor's Center
Valley National Bank As ASU Visitor's Center A view of the exterior after the branch had been repurposed as a visitor's center for Arizons State University. Source: Modern Phoenix: http://www.modernphoenix.net/vnb/tempedome.htm Creator: Walt Lockley Date: 2006
Interior View of Valley National Bank
Interior View of Valley National Bank Source: Modern Phoenix: http://www.modernphoenix.net/vnb/tempedome.htm Creator: Walt Lockley Date: 2006

Location

Metadata

Nick von Gnechten and Jennifer Schaper, “Valley National Bank (Tempe),” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/256.