It’s nearly the same old bank
Folks doing business at Glenwood Springs’ new WestStar Bank will dive into deja-vu. A walk through the door will be a walk into the past.
Under the careful and loving eye of Floyd Diemoz, the building at 801 Grand Ave. that until recently housed The Dark Room has been transformed into its former turn-of-the-century glory as the Citizens National Bank building.
WestStar decided to renovate the building about a year ago.
“We identified that we needed to be back downtown,” said bank vice president John Pattillo. “We wanted to make a commitment to the town.”
WestStar was originally housed in a building directly west of the Citizens Building. Bank officers approached the owners of the building, a group of Glenwood Springs businessmen including Steve Carver, Kerry Sundeen and Lynn Kleager, who agreed to the renovation.
“It was a cooperative effort with them, but they had the vision for this place.”
The vision, which Diemoz, a life-long resident of Glenwood Springs, eagerly embraced, was to restore the bank to a mirror image of how it looked in 1913 when it opened.
After eight months of work the bank is now open for business and will celebrate its grand opening today, Thursday, Oct. 3, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Pictures of the bank as it was at the turn of the 20th century are arranged along the south wall. Although the tellers cage is now facing the Grand Avenue entrance rather than along the north wall as in the past, it is apparent the new space is almost exactly like the old, down to the mosaic tile floor, the marble facing on the walls and the oak wood enclosing the tellers cage.
Citizens National Bank was incorporated in 1903 by a group of Glenwood Springs businessmen: Barnette T. Napier, George H. Bell, Edward E. Drach, George Edinger, Charles D. Barnes and George Yule.
The bank first opened at 729 Grand Ave. but soon outgrew its space. In 1910, the owners purchased two lots on the southwest corner of Eighth and Grand.
Designed by architect Guy B. Robertson of Denver, the modern, three-story Classic Revival building was completed in 1913. Constructed of tan brick, it featured brick pilasters topped with carved limestone capitals and terra cotta door surrounds, granite base plates and decorative metal grates.
A terra cotta medallion bearing the initials of the Citizens National Bank and framed by carved leaves hung over the door.
The interior was one of the most opulent in Glenwood Springs, with mosaic tile floors, wall cladding of Colorado Yule marble, birch and oak doors and trim and decorative plaster ceiling cornices.
It was also one of the most modern buildings in the region, with electricity, an elevator, hot and cold running water and a large steam heating plant.
The construction cost was $50,000. The renovation cost considerably more, although Diemoz declined to say just how much.
“When you get into historic preservation the cost is more” than new construction, he said. “Materials are not expensive, it’s the labor.”
The bank flourished until the Depression, which forced its closure in 1933.
It has housed a variety of retail stores since then.
The greatest challenge in the renovation, Diemoz said, was dealing with radical changes to the building over time.
In the 1970s, a Coast to Coast hardware store moved in and erected a “modern” storefront that either destroyed or covered up the original terra cotta cornices and granite facing on the Grand Avenue entrance, Diemoz said.
“That’s the way the times were then. Now there’s a greater awareness of the beauty of the cornices and the ceiling today,” he said.
In going through the basement of the building, Diemoz found the original wood tellers cage and brass hardware.
As general contractor, he hired artisans Fritz Klinke and Loren Lew from Silverton to replicate by hand the decorative plaster work that once adorned the ceiling.
While some materials could be replicated, some, such as the terra cotta cornices on the outside of the building, were prohibitively expensive. Instead, Diemoz used concrete reinforced with glass fiber. Although it does not have the distinctive glaze of the original terra cotta it is virtually indistinguishable.
“Grand Avenue was shut down for three hours because we had to set the new medallion over the door with a crane,” Diemoz said.
The granite facing on the lower part of the entrance came from the original source, the Cold Spring Quarry in Cold Spring, Minn.
Inside, the soft beige walls reach up 14 feet to a ceiling framed by bright white plaster cornices.
In the center of the room is the tellers cage, of frosted glass set in dark brown Honduras mahogany. While the wood was in fairly good shape, a few of the capitals had to be replicated and were carved by hand by Samuel Gonzales of El Jebel, Diemoz said.
He was also able to duplicate the marble veneer on the lower portions of the walls and teller counter. But because the original marble had flaws in it, and the present-day Yule marble quarry turns out only flawless stone, Diemoz said he had to import marble from the famous Carrera marble quarry in Italy. That quarry has been in use for hundreds of years and was the source for Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo’s stone.
Following the white mosaic tile of the original floor in the 8th Street lobby of the Citizens Building, local tiler Larry Rose recreated the design in the new bank.
Now a walk through the doors of the newly restored building will feel like a step back in time.
“This is a real landmark,” Pattillo said. “This was known as banking corner.”
And it has become so today.
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