Historical society steps in to save Vale landmark

Patrons stand inside the First Bank of Vale in this early 20th Century photo. The Malheur Country Historical Society recently purchased the building and plans to renovate the old structure, one of the oldest in town. (Photo courtesy of The Malheur Country Historical Society).

VALE – Bob Butler thinks history is important.

So do the members of the Malheur Country Historical Society.

That is why the group decided to step in to preserve the building that was once the First Bank of Vale, situated at 148 Main St.

The First Bank of Vale, built in 1901, is one of the oldest buildings in in town, said Butler.

Construction took just three months, relying almost exclusively on locally quarried sandstone.

“It screams to be preserved,” said Butler

The bank building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Butler, a Vale attorney, is spearheading the campaign by the historical society to buy the building.

The owner of the building, Steven Reynolds, wanted $20,000 for the building but the historical society didn’t have it. Butler stepped in and put $2,000 down on the building.

“I took an option to buy it at the cash price,” said Butler.

The historical society then negotiated a deal to finance the remaining $18,000 by making monthly $450 payments for three and half years.

Butler said once the building is renovated the historical society will use it as an office.

“The historical society doesn’t have a home. There are files scattered around the area. We need a home where we can have our files in an office and a place to meet but have it open for the public to see,” said Butler.

The acquisition of the building, though, is just one step in what Butler describes as a long road ahead.

The building, next door to the former site of the Golden Slipper, needs extensive repair work, said Butler.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t cost a quarter of a million but that is just Bob Butler guessing,” said Butler.

The roof and a stairway inside the building are the two most notable features that must be repaired, said Butler, but brick and mortar work is needed as well.

“It will have to have a roof. You can stand in various places (inside) and see sunshine,” said Butler.

Butler said the focus for the historical society will be to find an architectural firm that specializes in historic preservation to develop a plan to renovate the structure.

“We have an historical architect who has put together a proposal for us,” said Butler. “But we need to get some money gathered together to pay for the preservation plan.”

The preservation plan is important, said Butler.

“It will tell us what needs to be done in the order it needs to be done and how much it will cost,” said Butler.

Restoring a historic building, said Butler, is a little more complicated than just renovating a house.

“The way you put a roof on a historical building is different than putting one on the next door building,” said Butler.

That’s because, he said, the renovation work must be done in a way that “preserves the historical appearance of the building.”

Along with grants, Butler said the organization will seek assistance from the public.

“We do want to get some private funding. What we would really like to do is find some people who would like to put in two or three or five thousand into the project,” said Butler.

Those who wish to donate can access the organization’s gofundme site at: https://www.gofundme.com/firstbank/donate.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.