What do you get when you combine a butcher, a safe maker, a brewery owner, a furniture dealer, and a cigar maker? The founding board of Germania Bank.

Germania Bank opened in 1869 on the Bowery, a street dominated by German immigrant businesses. The Bank resided in several locations on the street before settling and constructing its home at 190 Bowery in 1898.

Tasked with designing a new building for Germania Bank, noted German-American architect Robert Maynicke settled on a Beaux-Arts style. The structure’s simplicity, cleanliness, and strength were meant to convey the stability and security of the bank itself.

Likely faced with the anti-German hostility of World War I, Germania Bank filed a petition to change its name to Commonwealth Bank in 1917. Under the new name, it continued to grow and expanded into branch banks in 1923. Four years later, the Manufacturers Trust Company acquired Commonwealth, and finally merged with Hanover Bank in 1961.

Despite the name changes, mergers and acquisitions, 190 Bowery continued to operate as a bank branch until the mid-1960s. Photographer Jay Maisel, the current owner, bought the property in 1966 for $102,000. This was a steal considering that most real estate agents value the property somewhere between $40 and $50 million.

When Maisel acquired the property, it was already in a state of disrepair, covered in garbage, soot, and human waste. Since then, the lower floors of the façade have served as a canvas for the neighborhood’s vandals and street artists, including notable figures like Keith Haring.

One would not know it from the present condition, but the six-story, 72-room building is still, somewhat amazingly, a single family home.

1. Which is not a reason that Germania Bank may have decided to build a home for its operations on the Bowery in 1898?
The bank was trying to move away from the large population of German immigrants in New York City.
It was home to many other German immigrant businesses.
There were many German immigrants living in the neighborhood.

2. Like many other companies of German heritage, what did Germania Bank do in 1917 in response to anti-German sentiments brought on by World War I?
Changed the name to Commonwealth Bank
Moved operations back to Germany
Sold the business to an American company

3. Built in a simple, clean Beaux-Arts style to convey the strength and stability of the bank, what is now a common and constantly changing aspect of the façade of the former bank building?
Multi-colored awnings
Rotating sculpture installations
Graffiti