Ghost Building: Old Noel State Bank

Another ghost building was Old Noel State Bank Building at 1601 N. Milwaukee Avenue. It’s notable now for being a sophisticated Walgreens, noted for the use of the old bank’s vault as a vitamin room.

The blog Designslinger explains that the bank was founded in 1905 by Joseph Noel, son of a Theophilus Noel, who began wealthy from patent medicine business. Joseph Noel went to Rush Medical school for two years but ended up joining his father in 1900 as VP and secretary of Noel Proprietary Medicine Co. However, Joseph Noel decided to invest $25,000 in the North West Savings Bank in Wicker Park in 1905.

However, there was a bit of scandal the year the bank opened. His father had remarried in 1894 to Elizabeth Noel and she filed for divorce in in 1905. Apparently, Theophilus Noel told reporters that his wife was “the smartest and ugliest woman in the world.”

In 1917, the North West State Bank became Noel State Bank. A year later, he decided that he wanted a free standing bank in 1919. He bought the land where the building at question is now. He hired Weary & Alford, a firm known for bank building designs) to make the building design and they put Garder Coughlen on the projectt. The style is “neo-classical.” The exterior has ornamental terra cotta and it has an incredible jazz age stained glass ceiling.

Sadly,  the Old Noel State Bank Building went under  in 1931 during the Depression due to a bank run of $4 million. It has housed several banks since then; the last was Midwest Bank. The building is now a Chicago landmark but it was vacated for many several years and took about eighteen months to refurbish for the Walgreens opening.

In 2010, it was used to stage a robbery for a TV pilot ATF. SWAT teams and emergency vehicles surrounded the building. In the pilot, it was called the Illinois Trust Financial. It had been used earlier for a different shoot.

At some point, the building or the bank was popular enough for someone to make a lead coin bank in the shape of the building. It was made by  A. C. Rehberger, later known as A.C.R. Limited, and made metal building replicas. . It was founded in 1912 by Alfred C. Rehberger. Allegedly, it was one of two such firms in the early 20th century to make handcrafted metal figurines. Apparently, the first Oscar statuette was made by the company in the 1920s.


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