Something old, something newFederation Bank being renovated to a more traditional style
During the 1930s, many Washingtonians marveled at the architecture of the of the Farmers and Merchants Bank sitting on the corner of North Iowa and Main Street. Customers thrilled at the hidden mezzanine area originally accessed by a ladder. The balcony from the second floor looking down onto the tellers was an attraction as well. In 2013, Washingtonians will get to experience the unique architecture again.
Federation Bank President and CEO Jamie Collier has announced that renovations are under way at the bank with the goal of restoring some of the features that have been hidden in the walls of the historic building for decades.
“There is a lot of history here,” Collier said. “We are excited to begin renovation on our historic building.
“We hope to bring a piece of history back to Washington,” he said.
Collier said the renovation includes opening the hidden mezzanine on the second floor and adding floor space above the existing teller line.
He said the construction crews had opened a hidden vault area that was originally accessed by a ladder. He said there were no items located in the vault. While he did not believe there would be any items of significant value still in the vault, he had hoped to find items relating to the history of the bank inside.
“It is believed that the access to this money vault would have made robbing the bank a more difficult task,” he said.
Collier said that the renovations would give the bank more of a traditional feel. The project is expected to be complete early this summer. Collier said the bank wouldn’t have to close during the renovations, although the teller line has temporarily moved north about 20 feet. He believes there will be a grand opening celebration.
“We expect a somewhat noisier environment during the time of the remodel, but we expect that we will still be able to deliver the same kind of service that our customers expect,” he said.
Turn Key Assoc. LC of Waterloo produced the design and is managing the construction project, which began March 22. Many local contractors are being used for the remodeling.
Since the renovations have begun, Collier said that workers have uncovered glass tiles in the ceiling, which reminds him of a skylight. He said there is flooring above and people on the second floor walk on that area.
“We think it is going to be a very neat space when it is done,” Collier said. “Just the idea of taking it back so the structure is similar to what it was in the old days.”
He said there are no plans to make renovations to the exterior of the building.
Washington’s first “skyscraper,” the five-story building that now houses Federation Bank, was originally an office building when it was built in 1913. It also housed the Farmers and Merchants Bank. F&M Bank was in business until 1924. Attorney Marsh Bailey, a founding director of Rubio Savings Bank of Brighton, purchased the building at that time. He served on the board at the Washington National Bank when it moved into the first floor of the building in 1924. It remained until 1928. In 1929 the bank was reorganized and became known as the National Bank of Washington.
In the 1930s, when the railroad depot on North Iowa was active, the upper floors served as The Washington Hotel.
“Many people around town remember going to see a doctor upstairs,” Leisha Linge, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Federation Bank, said. “Down in the basement there was a barber shop. The entrance to the basement used to be along the sidewalk.”
In 1946, the Bailey family sold the building to Howard and Willa Freshwaters. The National Bank of Washington purchased the building in 1963 and closed off the second story mezzanine level. Two years later a building for the bank was constructed two blocks south.
Washington Federal, which later became Federation Bank, moved from its location on North Marion Avenue in 1963.
Linge said the building is built strong — concrete floors on concrete pillars. She said the original building featured a “fireproof” sign on the front. It also served as a public bomb shelter.
In the bank, a collection of articles about the bank has been collected. In a 1913 edition of The Washington Evening Journal, a photo was featured with the skeleton frame of the bank.
Linge said the bank hadn’t always owned the building. When the bank started as Washington Federal Savings and Loan, it only owned the ground floor of the building.
During the 1970s, the bank purchased many storefronts in the same block for expansion. Linge showed vintage pictures of the block when it contained a tavern and a storefront. Those businesses were located where the executive offices now sit. It became Federation Bank in 2003.
Linge said the plans to renovate the bank to a more traditional structure had been discussed since the bank bought the upper levels of the building around 2000.