Pueblo County, Colorado
The Thatcher Building

Pueblo Chieftain 10-11-1992

Pueblo's Thatcher Building Treasured For Art in Stone - If you haven't given a second glance to the stone carving above the first-floor windows on the Thatcher building in Downtown Pueblo, you've missed what a Chieftain headline writer on July 13, 1913, termed "Art that is art." 

H.J. Klein of Chicago was subcontractor for the stone-carving work.

In addition to Klein, the artisans who carved the design out of rough stone were Levi Faulkner of New York, A. Holz of Chicago and L. Schaeder of Denver. They were paid the princely sum of $1 per hour or $8 per day and were the highest paid laborers on the building.

The stone carving cost between $3,000 and $5,000 for the work alone.

In addition to the work above the windows, Klein also executed a border design just below the roof cornice.

Klein was not a stranger to Pueblo. His first contract had been the stone work on the Grand Opera House, 24 years previously.

At that time, he was not yet 30-years old.

It was believed there was not a building west of Chicago decorated with such elaborate stone cutting as on the new Thatcher building.

The design adopted for the Thatcher building was worked out by one of the architects and was recognized as art noveau.

The design was constructed in clay and a plaster of paris cast was made.

To convert the rough rock, which was already in place on the building, into the design was largely a work of the eye.

The stone was too rough to use stencils.

The guidelines were sketched by freehand drawing onto the stone, and the artisans chiseled it out. They sat on scaffolding with a canvas covering for protection from the sun and wind.

The Chieftain said that the tools used by the stone carvers were the same as were used by the ancient Romans.

These four instruments were the mallet, chisel, the compass and rule. Klein was reticent to discuss his achievements but he did confirm that he did the frieze on the exterior of the Chicago Athletic Association building and the decoration on the Wainwright mausoleum in the Belle Fountaine cemetery in St. Louis.

Pueblo Chieftain March 03, 2008 - Tower of power
By Peter Roper

When the Thatcher Building opened its elegant doors in April 1914, it was praised as "new and magnificent" - especially the gilded, high-ceilinged main room of the First National Bank.

Today, nearly 94 years later, the building isn't new, but it's still magnificent.

"I get offers all the time from people who want to buy it," said Louie Carleo, who purchased the Pueblo landmark in 1997, along with business partners Tony Fortino and Joe Giannetto. "After all, it is the Thatcher Building, the heart of Pueblo's Downtown. And there is rarely a vacancy."

The Thatcher Building is a seven-story monument to Pueblo's economic strength. Walk into what is now the U.S. Bank lobby and run your hands on the cool marble wall facings, and you get a sense of the message that John A. and Mahlon D. Thatcher wanted to send when they built the building to house their First National Bank.

The building is massive and solid, not likely to be shaken by anything short of a massive earthquake. And that's how the Thatchers wanted Pueblo businessmen and families to feel when they brought their money through the doors. The brothers, after all, were an economic dynamo, who helped put Pueblo on the map.

John Thatcher opened the family dry goods store in 1862 and a banking "house" soon after. The First National Bank was the fourth oldest bank in the state when it moved into the Thatcher Building.

John Thatcher, the patriarch of the successful family, did not live to see the doors open on the Thatcher Building. Heavily involved in the planning, Thatcher died in 1913.

But as Pueblo historian Joanne Dodds noted in her book, "They All Came to Pueblo: A Social History," the Thatchers had spread their business empire to 32 banks by the time the new building was completed.

"The focal point of the elegant new bank was the three massive steel vaults at the west end of the lobby," she wrote. "Each weighed 11 and one-half tons but would swing open with the mere touch of a hand once the lock was cleared."

The building was designed to impress. On the outside, the footing of the building is red granite from Cotopaxi. The upper floors are faced with red sandstone from Fort Collins. Inside is marble paneling, three original fresco paintings overlooking the banking room and a gilded ceiling.

The president's office is rich with intricate wood paneling and parquet floors, gold foil trimming the windows and a tiled fireplace specially designed for the Thatchers.

While the upper six floors of the building always have been a haven of offices for Pueblo businesses - a Thatcher Building address was a distinguished one - the heart of the building still is the main banking room. At each end of the second-floor long room were tiled windows that were more than just decorations. Remember, the Thatchers were opening the bank just a few years before some of the nation's most famous bank robbers went into business.

"They would keep guards armed with shotguns up there," Carleo explained during a recent tour of the building. "Anyone who came in here to rob the bank would find themselves in deep trouble."

The Thatcher Building was built during a time when Pueblo's city fathers were busy putting a glossy finish of wealth and stability on the Steel City, the second largest city in the state, thanks to the blast furnaces of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Co.

The city's Grand Opera House was not far away at Fourth and Main streets when the Thatcher Building opened. The Grand Opera House, though, burned down in 1922 and was replaced three years later by the Colorado Building.

Small wonder the Thatcher Building was featured on postcards of Pueblo. As the tallest building in Southern Colorado, it was a symbol of Pueblo's importance.

But time marches on, and over the decades, the pressure grew to increase the size of the building.

In 1971, the "new" portion of the Thatcher building, which extends west down Fifth Street, was added. Some of the original building furniture was spread around the new addition, only to be retrieved and restored later when Carleo and his partners bought the building in 1997.

Now, the building has a total of 165,000 square feet.

"One of the big problems was the building's mechanical systems," Carleo said. "They were antique and very inefficient. One of our monthly air conditioning bills that first year was $25,000, so it was obvious all the internal systems had to be renovated." I

n the process, Carleo has tried to recapture the building's initial elegance wherever possible. He found one of the bank's antique wooden benches in the parking garage next to the building, being destroyed by weather.

"I found a craftsman here in town who completely restored the bench," Carleo said, standing next to the gleaming bench, which now stands in the building's central hallway.

Along with restoring the woodwork, Carleo had the 1960-era shag rugs torn out of the building and the original marble panels put back on the walls where he could.

"When we bought the building, we let it be known we were in the market to buy any of the building's original fixtures and it's been surprising what's turned up," he said. For example, most of the bank's original teller windows and counters are stored in the basement.

Some of the old features are now just curiosities, though. On the stairway landings in the early 20th century building are small doors that open to reveal a simple urinal against the wall.

"When the bank was built, there just weren't any women to speak of in the work force, so all these little restrooms were built for men only," Carleo said.

How the times change.

Now, there is an office in the main banking room, which now is US Bank, with the name "Alice Birch" on it. She's president of the bank. It seems fitting that she works in the Thatcher Building.

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