Bank of Nova Scotia Building
253 Calle Tetuan at San Justo
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Antonin Nechodoma, 1920

Located in the heart of Old San Juan's financial district, the Bank of Nova Scotia is Nechodoma’s best remaining commercial building. Architect Thomas Marvel describes it as, daring, and youthful in its architecture. It may not have been the first office building in San Juan, but it was undoubtedly the first modern one. The design details were all in the appropriate places. Locating the bank entrance on the corner was correct for this building and site. This necessitated a chamfered corner, as well, which unifies the two street facades into one composition.

On the front entrance is a pair of floral ornaments reminiscent of Sullivan connected by a strong mullion that acts as the head of the entrance doors. The transom window above is of leaded glass, delicately divided into one principal light and two very slim side lights. Above the transom is a lintel beam adorned with mosaic tile in a hexagonal pattern. This is the entrance to the banking floor, and its presence is exclaimed boldly. The two flanking facades at ground level are characterized by several strong horizontal bands crossing the otherwise simple windows. The mozaic work in these bands echoes the pattern in the front entrance.

The body of the building, the three upper floors, is unadorned except for the beautifully detailed bays of windows. Leaded glass is located in the transoms while the lower windows are louvred casements, presumably with glass panels on the interior side. Before the advent of air conditioning, these had to be operable. The whole ensemble is capped by a broad roof parapet adorned with mosaic pattern found below, excpt in this case the hexagons are bolder in scale. The heavy parapet tops off the vertical rise of the exterior windowed walls. Most remarkable about the entire exterior composition is that it seems to have its origins not in Wright, but in Louis Sullivan who, in the waning years of his prctice, did several innovative banks in towns in the Midwest.

Much of the bank's ornament inside and out is made of opalescent glass mosaics.

The interior of the bank strongly resembled Sullivan's People's Savings Bank of Sydney, Ohio. In the 1960s the Nova Scotia Bank's wonderful interior space was gutted and "modernized", but the building's exterior still remains much as was originally.

Color photos by Wayne W. Wood.
Black and white interior photo courtesy of the Bank of Nova Scotia Archives.

• Thomas S. Marvel.: Antonin Nechodoma: The Prairie School in the Caribbean. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1994.





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