Upper detail of York Safe & Lock Company built Bank Vault Door originally installed in Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank, Plymouth, Massachusetts (Photo submitted by Christopher Aslam)
Early York Safe & Lock vault door in a Plymouth Bank
Christopher Aslam recently submitted photos of an early York made Bank Vault Door that was originally installed in Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I offered to answer his questions; however had to wait until last week, when the York County History Center opened; following their shutdown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
York Safe & Lock Company catalogues, in the York County History Center collections, do not contain the pictured vault design directly; however comparing the design and artistic elements in the submitted vault door to the evolution of those elements in available catalogues, does point to a 1890s to very early 1900s time frame for the bank vault door.
Newspaper searches provided relevant details for Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank. New England Farmer (a Boston, Massachusetts newspaper) of April 21, 1855, reported: “An Act to incorporate the Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank in Plymouth. Approved April 6.” The Boston Globe of March 9, 1893, reported: “The furnishings for the Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank have arrived. They are made of cherry, highly polished, and the workmen are at work putting the parts together, and expect to have the rooms completed in a week or two, when the bank will move into its new quarters.” It is logical, that the bank vault was built about 1893 for the new quarters of the Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank on Main Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The York Safe and Lock Company was founded in 1882. An 1884 Company Catalogue primarily focuses on their line of small safes for offices, however also includes several Bank Vault Door options; with some illustrations containing artistic details, like those on the submitted photos. On May 2nd, 1894, the entire York Safe and Lock factory was destroyed by fire. The factory was immediately rebuilt much larger, fitted with the most modern manufacturing machinery, and resumed shipping product in August.
The nameplate inside the submitted bank vault door, from Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank, includes: Benjamin F. Tripp, Bank Vault Engineer and York Safe & Lock Co., Vault Door Builder.
In the later 1800s, bank architects began hiring consulting engineers that specialized in bank vault design. Benjamin F. Tripp [1860-1940] was one of those early pioneers in that business. Such a specialist provided the vault design details, i.e. characteristics and thickness of vault’s floor, ceiling and walls and how they would be reinforced with steel; plus specifying the protection system, the vault door parameters and his view of the acceptable vault door manufacturers, capable of providing a quality vault door to his requirements.
When bids went out for building the new quarters of the Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank, any number of approved vault door manufacturers could have bid on the job, however since York Safe & Lock Company got the job, they were low bidder. However being low bidder was not enough; the Bank Vault Engineer, Benjamin F. Tripp, still had to verify the drawings of the vault door, submitted by the York Safe & Lock Company, met the vault door parameters put forth by him. When approved, the York Safe & Lock Company got the contract to manufacture the vault door.
In 1992, Plymouth Five Cents Savings Bank became a branch of Citizens Bank of Massachusetts. The bank building on Main Street was eventually sold to another bank. The early York Safe & Lock Company vault door was recently sold.
Early on, the United States Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Banks had adopted vaults produced by the York Safe & Lock Company in York, PA as their standard. This advertisement from the 1922 International Banking Directory also states “York safes and vaults have been installed successfully in banks in nearly every country throughout the world.”
Of the instances where the paths of Benjamin F. Tripp and the York Safe & Lock Company cross, perhaps the most significant is the thirteen vaults within the 1922 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
The March, 1922, issue of Trust Companies, a monthly magazine devoted to trust companies and banking, reported on the vaults for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Quoting from page 352: “An interesting feature of the equipment of the new building recently completed for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is the massive vault equipment installed by the York Safe & Lock Company of York, Pa. Over three million pounds of steel and steel products were employed in the manufacture of these vaults. They represent the third largest and heaviest bank vault system ever constructed. There are thirteen vaults in all located in various parts of the building.”
“The basement vault measures nine feet high by thirty-four feet wide by thirty-four feet deep inside and is constructed of concrete walls several feet in thickness laid up with a specially designed form of steel reinforcement never heretofore used in the building of such work.”
“This vault is equipped with a main and an emergency entrance. Each entrance has an outer door and inner door. Each outer door measures approximately twenty-one inches in thickness and each inner door five inches in thickness. The thickness of these doors are formed by the various layers of steel and steel alloys to resist any form of attack including the use of dynamite or other explosives by mob attack.” Seven of the thirteen vaults are identical, as shown in the following photo; appearing in a 1923 issue of The Architectural Forum.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, completed in 1922, was located at 250 Franklin Street. In 1977, the Boston Fed moved to new headquarters at 600 Atlantic Avenue. The 1922 building was repurposed as Langham Hotel Boston; with the main bank vault repurposed into a commercial kitchen serving several of the hotel restaurants.
Click on this LINK for a yorkblog.com Full View of the photos and illustrations in this post.
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Neat Comment to Eliot Ness cracks the York Safe & Lock Company
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