Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Fidelity Bank: The Neoclassical Bling of Cameron Village [Remixed]

The Fidelity Bank building on the corner of Smallwood Drive and Oberlin Road in Cameron Village is one of the first buildings I remember noticing not long after arriving in Raleigh five years ago. The tall Ionic columns of the second level of the bank support a festooned entablature that serves no purpose, except as decoration for an idle space. These ornate columns convey a sense of elegance, yet at the same time contribute to a stark contrast with the functional and understated 50s and 60s era modernist architecture around it. My first (perhaps naive) assumption was that it was an outdoor picnic area for employees of the bank. But as far as I’m aware, there’s nothing but poured flat concrete on the upper level, and no one ever goes up there.

image I took in 2005

The bird in the image above is probably one of the few creatures that get any use of the architectural embelishments of this building. At first, I was fascinated by the fact that a bank built somewhat recently would so boldly harken back to the neoclassical style used in many government buildings and stately private residences. Over time, however, my fondness has waned if for no other reason than the decoration is just visual bling.

Looking to the past for inspiration is not a crime

There are several local examples of beautiful architecture that borrowed elements from the past to create something that inspires awe for generations (or at least until demolished):

A recent example is the Bloomsbury Estates condos which I believe to be a visually appealing and unique addition to the area. There are many ways that the memorable and familiar elements from previous eras can combine to form a beautiful and functional modern living or commercial space.

In the case of this building, however, using the influences from the past seems to just come across as awkward, out of place, and worse – useless.

What are some other examples of recent architecture (pretty or not) that borrowed elements from a previous era?


Lupus Yonderboy shows us what Fidelity Bank may have looked at had the most basic principle in any discipline of design been adhered to by the developer, plus something to make it a bit more fun.

Discuss Raleigh

  • Recent Comments:

    • matt: Great job Ian!
    • Bruce: Thanks, Ian. Don’t stop with this property — there are many more needing attnetion.
    • Cliff Ayscue: I had a great uncle names W E Jones that worked at Trailways in Raleigh for many years. I think from...
    • Jim: Great news for a great house!
    • Kimberly Andersen: Magnificent!!! Thank you for the fascinating history of this house. I am so happy the house will...
    • Gene: Thank you for this amazing write up! So freaking cool!
    • Matthew Brown: Wonderful wonderful article, Ian!! And fabulous old photographs!! THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!
    • LJG: Robin Trower had some of the best guitar face I’ve ever seen. Was at the stage for one of his shows in...