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The Cloud State Bank

One of McLeansboro's Bombastic Oldsters
by Paul E. Sprague

TRIBUTE TO the taste of a small town banker and entrepreneur of 
southern Illinois in the 1880s is the Cloud State Bank, a nominal Second
 Empire design with frenetic details.

  Rear of the bank shows detail of overall embellishments.

In 1871, Chalon Guard Cloud and Chalon Guard McCoy, first cousins, founded the Hamilton County Bank at McLeansboro.  Cloud's father, Aaron Guard Cloud, had settled at McLeansboro in 1852 where he engaged in the mercantile business, real estate, loans, and after 1876, in banking.  He married Eleanor McCoy in 1853, sister of James McCoy who was also in the mercantile business.  Their daughter, Mary Ellen Cloud subsequently married in 1878 her first cousin, Chalon Guard McCoy, son of James McCoy.

This entangling marriage makes it difficult to establish with certainty for whom the present bank was built.  Although its traditional name is the Cloud State Bank, there is no question that Chalon Guard McCoy had a substantial interest in it and, probably so did Aaron Cloud, whose name can still be seen on an office door in the bank.

The building was completed in the spring of 1882 as an extravagant and colorful mercantile palace in the by-then outmoded second empire style.  It must have been the work of a provincial architect who, unconcerned or unaware of architectural purity, combined as many bombastic details as he could discover in the various phases of the style.  It stands on a sandstone basement with its brick walls, liberally interlaced with projecting light stone blocks, supporting a heavy classical cornice and above that brick dormers and a colorful slate mansard roof.  The front is given additional emphasis by a Baroque frontispiece constructed in several stages and terminating in a mansard tower with ornate cresting above its roof.

FROSTED, ORNATE glass of A. G. Cloud's office reveals the depth to which the ornate outside design was carried to the interior.

Even from inside, the gothic style "private" denoted it would be better to approach the inner sanctum quietly.

The bank was originally as ornate inside as it is out.  Except for an office at the very rear, the interior opened into a continuous upper space enclosed by a frescoed ceiling.  Above that, under the mansard, was a large attic illuminated the dormer windows.  In the center of the interior space is a great vault with rich architectural details framing its large metal door.  The banking room stood in front of it with offices on two sides and a hallway on the third, all of which opened into the uninterrupted space above them.

The building is a very significant record of provincial late nineteenth century taste and a symbol of the personal and community pride associated with the banking business--it was the finest and largest building in the town after the courthouse--and with the acquisition of large private fortunes.  Except for two suspended modern ceilings and some changes in the public space the building is very much in its original condition.  Few small towns in Illinois can boast so elegant and monumental a commercial building.

One of the ornate door knobs.

From: Outdoor Illinois, Aug-Sept 1972

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