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Consolidated National Bank

“Ripping off the roof early this morning, workmen commenced demolition of the former home of the Consolidated National Bank,” penned the Arizona Daily Star in November 1928. “The work is preparatory to laying the foundations for the new 10-story skyscraper…to be erected at the southeast corner of Stone Avenue and Congress Street.”
In fact, the Star overlooked the building’s top floor. Tucson’s first skyscraper would stand 11 stories high and, for a fleeting moment — competition loomed just a block away — would dominate the downtown skyline.
In 1869, brothers Lionel and Barron Jacobs arrived in Tucson with a wagonload of merchandise, mostly canned goods, which they sold at a dollar apiece. Two years later, they opened a retail store, which became a highly profitable venture. Then, recognizing the need for a banking institution, they organized the Pima County Bank — Tucson’s first.
The bank thrived. In 1883, it was reorganized as Arizona National Bank, and three years later, it merged with the Bank of Tucson. In 1887, it merged with Consolidated Bank of Tucson. Thus was born Consolidated National Bank.
In June 1900, the territorial auditor reported that 21 banks were in operation across Arizona. Consolidated National Bank was the largest with deposits of $759,254 — a mere trickle by today’s standards.
As the bank grew, so did Tucson. By the latter part of the 1920s, the firm had outgrown its one-story headquarters, and downtown office space was sorely needed. The institution’s board of directors was determined to fill both needs with a towering structure the likes of which Tucson had never seen.
Down the street, however, Harold Steinfeld, Tucson’s merchant prince, had a similar notion. As demolition was underway on the old Consolidated building, Steinfeld announced that he would construct a $1-million hotel at the northeast corner of Stone Avenue and Pennington Street. It, too, would soar 11 stories above street level.
Tucsonans watched with interest as construction commenced on the new banking headquarters and, a block north, on Steinfeld’s 250-room Pioneer Hotel. Each structure rose rapidly, but the bank building enjoyed the edge. It opened its doors Oct.11, 1929, two months prior to the Pioneer, which opened Dec. 12.
The day after its opening, the Star gushed praise at the new bank building: “Tucson’s first large, modernly equipped office building was seen and approved by Tucsonans as a steady stream of praise from the visitors proved. Utility combined with beauty is depicted in every department of the structure from its marble decorative basement where safety deposit boxes behind steel bars guard the securities of depositors, to the penthouse on the roof where the elevator system and air-cooling system of the bank obtain their power.
“A monument to careful planning and equally careful workmanship, the structure passed its first public examination with flying colors,” said the Star.
In 1934, five years after the building opened, Consolidated National Bank ceased to exist when it merged with Valley National Bank, for many years the state’s most powerful financial institution. But, in time, Valley, too, ceased to exist. In recent years, a tally sheet has been necessary to track the number of banks that have merged, or have been acquired by others — and have occupied Tucson’s first skyscraper.
Unlike banking names that have come and gone, the building has endured. Today, it is a downtown Tucson landmark.
— W. Lane Rogers. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society.

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