The Key Savings and Loan Association Building at the southwest corner of South Broadway and West Hampden Avenue in Englewood was designed by modernist architect Charles Deaton and constructed in 1966–67. A striking concrete ovoid shell with a glass curtain wall, the building is an excellent example of Deaton’s work as well as a reminder of American banks’ post-Depression embrace of modern architecture and Englewood’s midcentury prosperity. Now home to Community Banks of Colorado, the building remains largely in its original condition.
Sculpture as Architecture
Born in New Mexico in 1921, Charles Deaton became an architect after World War II despite having no formal training. In contrast to most modern architecture at the time, which emphasized straight lines and rectangular forms, Deaton preferred an Expressionist style using organic shapes based on non-Euclidean geometry. Also in contrast to standard architectural practice, he initially conceived his buildings as sculptures and then drew up blueprints based on his models.
Deaton moved to Denver in 1955. At the time, the Front Range was gaining a reputation for landmark modernist designs such as the US Air Force Academy Cadet Area in Colorado Springs, Mesa Laboratory in Boulder, and Zeckendorf Plaza in Denver. Deaton soon thrived in a region open to architectural experimentation. His Central Bank and Trust (1959–60) in downtown Denver was his first sculptural building, and his Wyoming National Bank (1961–64) in Casper gained considerable attention for its petal-shaped concrete wedges around a central dome. His Sculptured House (1963–66) on Genesee Mountain became a highly recognizable landmark thanks to its distinctive clamshell design.
Key Savings and Loan
Deaton’s success with banks came as the American banking industry remade itself in the decades after the Great Depression with a new emphasis on consumer services. The industry replaced its traditionally conservative architecture with modernist designs that suggested progress and accessibility.
In Englewood, First National Bank opened a new International Style building in 1954. The new First National Bank building formed part of a broader pattern of growth in Englewood during the middle of the twentieth century, as automobiles and suburbanization tied the area to the larger Denver metropolis. Englewood became home to important regional shopping destinations such as Park ’n Shop and, later, the giant Cinderella City Mall.
After First National Bank moved to a new building in the 1960s, the Englewood Savings and Loan Association bought its old building on South Broadway and commissioned Deaton to design a new headquarters on the lot. Deaton finished the plans in December 1965, and construction started in 1966. The southern part of the existing building was demolished to make way for Deaton’s building, while the northern portion remained open for business during construction. After the new building was finished in April 1967, the northern half of the old building was torn down to provide space for parking. Meanwhile, during construction, the Englewood Savings and Loan Association changed its name to the Key Savings and Loan Association.
The bank was clearly related to Deaton’s Sculptured House. Both used lots of glass set within curved concrete shapes supported on pedestal bases, which made them look like flying saucers. Both were built with the same engineer, Joseph Meheen, and both were expensive—about $135,000 in the case of the Key Savings Building—because of the specialized techniques and materials required for their construction.
The Sculptured House has always garnered more attention—in part because of its highly visible location above Interstate 70—but the Key Savings and Loan Association Building was in many ways a superior design. The building’s concrete shell comfortably held two floors and 10,000 square feet of space within a single seamless shape that provided the Key Savings and Loan Association with an instantly recognizable advertising symbol. Because the concrete spiraled around in an oval that opened to the north, the bank offered customers an inviting entrance with a two-story, glass-walled central lobby. Private offices and conference rooms were arranged around the inner edges of the concrete shell, which had a large oval window cut into its south side and a petal-shaped window on its east side.
The Key Savings building has changed hands several times since it was built, but it continues to serve its original purpose as a bank. For many years it was a Colonial Bank branch, and today it is home to Community Banks of Colorado. The exterior, which is still in good condition, gained increased visibility when the Little Dry Creek Greenway was built to the south in 1988. The building’s interior has been altered somewhat over the years—in 1987 a kitchen was added on the second floor, and in 2008 the main teller area was remodeled—but it has retained most of its original features.
In 2016 the Key Savings and Loan Association Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The original sculptural model for the building is housed in the Deaton collection at the Denver Public Library.