First National Auto Bank
624 South Cincinnati Avenue
Designed by McCune and McCune
By the late 1950s, the drive-in bank was well-established and common throughout the United States—the earliest known drive-up teller window opened at the National Bank of St. Louis in 1930. Tulsa’s First National Auto Bank was a striking midcentury modern version of this architectural form. Built of glass and concrete, it was designed by the Tulsa architectural firm McCune and McCune. When it opened in July 1959, it was among the largest drive-in banks in the country, with six lanes serving a total of six hundred cars daily.
Brothers Gordon A. McCune and Malcolm L. McCune, both trained in architecture at the University of Kansas, formed their partnership following in their father’s architectural and engineering practice. The firm’s design for this drive-in bank is reminiscent the work of Edward Durrel Stone in its adaptation of International Style basic concepts: glass walls, rectilinear shapes, to a design that is enhanced by decorative elements which soften the rectilinear forms. These include the accordion-fold roof used both on the main bank building and as cover for the outdoor teller lanes, as well as the pierced-pattern concrete walls, which stood in contrast to the simple, functional modernity of the building. The dramatic interior included free-standing stairways, made possible by reinforced concrete. Among the unusual functional additions to this bank building was a community and meeting space called the Tom Tom room on the upper level.
After being vacant for more than twenty years, the building was successfully repurposed for a restaurant called The Vault, named for the bank safe, a masterpiece of machine art design not accessible to the public. The interior of the bank originally had a fifteen-foot-tall sculptural fountain in the lobby designed by Harry Bertoia, seen here in a vintage post card, which has recently been moved to the downtown Public Library.