(Above) United States Branch Bank, (Below) Ground Plan of the United States Bank, both from the City Record and Boston News-Letter, 5 November 1825, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Images copyright the City Record and Boston News-Letter, all rights reserved)
Abel Bowen not only edited the City Record and Boston News-Letter, he was a wood engraver of some renown and created the illustrations of the United States Branch Bank for the first issue of his new newspaper. One interesting (and hitherto unknown to me) item from Bowen's description of the new bank: the original site of the bank was to have been on the site where the Old State House still stands today. The replacement of the seat of British colonial power with a bank emblematic of the financial strength of the United States would have made sense as a symbolic statement and it also would have been an important urban planning decision. The new bank would have sat at the head of Boston's most important street, looking down to Long Wharf, making the bank the focal point of commerce in Boston.
Bowen's description of the bank: "The new Banking-house, which is intended for the accomodation of the United States Bank at Boston, is situated at the corner of State-street and Wilson's lane [see map below]. The building is of granite, about 44 feet in front, and 96 feet deep. The portico is imitated from the primitive form of the Grecian temple, with little variation, excepting what was necessary to adapt it to the location, and to the refractory material, of which it was to be built. The form of the Portico belongs to the first class of Temples which is described by Vitruvius, and is denominated the Temple of Antis. The columns are of the Grecian Doric, 4 feet in diameter, and 24 feet high, the shaft being of a single piece. [More on columns here.]
In the front part of the building, on the first floor, there is an entry, and two rooms, for the president and cashier; and in the second story over them, a large room for the accomodation of the directors. The centre of the building is occupied for the Banking room, which is a rotundo, 36 feet in diameter, and 44 feet high to the top of the curb stone.
The rear of the building contains the vaults, which open into the Banking room, and also a number of rooms which are to serve for the various purposes of the Bank. The building is warmed by an air stove of the Wakefield kind, which is set in the cellar. The construction of the whole is of the most solid kind, The first floor and principal room are vaulted in with bricks, and the dress is intended to be of a severe and masculine character becoming a National Edifice of a young Republic.
The first outline was made for the situation which is occupied by the old State-house, and was intended to be an imitation of the purest example of the Grecian Doric Order, with two porticos; but the scite which was finally obtained required a different arrangement. One of the porticos was dispensed with, and Antae at the angles introduced, according to the primitive form of the Grecian Temple. The shafts of the columns are frustums of cones, the sides being right lines, which being the most severe and simple form, seemed the best adapted to the occasion....
Mr. Solomon Willard was the designer and architect; Mr. Gridley Bryant, mason; and Mr. James M'Allaster, carpenter. The foundation was commenced, May 17, 1824; corner stone laid, July 5, (the plate, which may hereafter be found beneath it, says July 4;) the outside work was completed, Jan. 1, 1825."
From the 1896 Annual Report of the Street Laying Out Department:
Wilson's Lane, B.; from King (now State) street to Dock Square; called Crooked lane, 1708; name changed to Wilson's lane, May 12, 1712; Devonshire street extended through Wilson's lane to Dock square, June 6, 1872.