German-American Building

July 18, 2017

Written by Miles Ramsay | Photos by Alysa Ramsay

CHARACTER TRAIT: Groundbreaking

DEFINITION: Something innovative, pioneering or that has never been done before.

Some of the most important handshakes and loan signings in St. Joseph’s history took place in the German-American Bank Building. Now, the same structure that helped build this city has been rethought by Mosaic Life Care to continue serving a great purpose in our community.

Half past twelve – it’s the fourth time he’s checked his pocket watch in the last 15 minutes. He sits hunched over, head down, arms resting on his knees in his best suit – a single breasted, gray wool tweed number. His freshly polished black leather dress shoes nervously tap against the pastel tiled floor. His half-smoked cigar firmly gripped between the index and middle fingers of his right hand represents his hopes, dreams, and future – he can’t let it fall to the floor – he squeezes it a bit tighter.

A congenial voice rescues him from the raging sea of doubt swirling in his mind.

“Sir, Mr. Krug will see you now.”

The young entrepreneur rises, collects his derby and brief case, takes a deep breath, and begins the march across the lobby to sign the loan papers.

Transforming the original 1889 floor tile into a stunning art piece that will grace the walls of the new Mosaic Life Care offices in the German-American Bank Building has local artist Jeff Waggoner imagining stories much like the one above taking place on these same tiles years ago…perhaps involving dudes with epic beards like his own.

The century-old tile was found during the recent renovation tucked away in a lower level vault in a 55-gallon drum. So how does one move so many tiles? Waggoner quips, “A bucket at a time.”

He says another unique challenge is that “Things are different sizes. When you’re dealing with repurposed materials, you’re dealing with imperfection. The whole process is a great learning experience.”

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, this architectural feat, designed by esteemed local architects Eckel and Mann, is getting a second life thanks to a $20 million shot in the arm from Mosaic Life Care. Pat Dillon, vice president of advocacy and government relations for Mosaic, says the upper floor work spaces are being fully modernized, while much of the building’s features remain historically authentic.

“The main lobby is intact. It will look very much like it did in the 1920s.”

Originally created and owned by members of the Krug family to provide financial services to the large number of German-speaking citizens migrating to St. Joseph, Dillon says the building will continue to serve a great purpose in the community.

“Our board looked at it as an opportunity to do two things – provide great space for our people and help with the revitalization of downtown.”

The Richardsonian Romanesque building is full of charm and history. The name Carnegie graces a steel beam on the eastern exterior of the building. Secret stairwells, original brickwork, repurposed marble floors, mammoth bank vaults, ornate details – it’s incredible to think about the man hours and skilled craftsmanship that have gone into this building both past and present.

Waggoner says the importance and impact of such a move by Mosaic Life Care, not to mention the audacity, cannot be overstated.

“There are several companies in the area that would have the ability, but they are the pioneers that decided to make this happen.”

A bold investment with a vision of promise for the future…the German-American Bank Building and its new inhabitants are breaking ground in St. Joseph, MO again.


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