In the community

Restoration efforts move forward to preserve historic Vale bank

Members of the Malheur Country Historical Society are reviewing a draft renovation plan for the First Bank of Vale, one of the oldest buildings in town. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – A draft plan for preserving one of the oldest buildings in town is under review by the Malheur Country Historical Society.

The renovation blueprint – framed by an historical architect – is an initial step toward renovating the First Bank of Vale building. Built in 1901, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. 

Two grants paid the $8,500 cost of creating the preservation plan, said Bob Butler, a member of the historical society.

 Butler said members are reviewing the first draft, and when that is complete, the society will give more input to the architect.

“The things I saw (in the plan) were quite positive,” said Butler.

Butler said the preliminary plan is crucial for the historical society to seek grants to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of renovating the building. 

“Once we get the preservation plan completed, we will be able to go out for major grants for restoration,” said Butler. “When you go in for major grants, you have to have a pretty good idea about what you are going to do.”

The building – at 148 Main St. – needs extensive repair work to its roof and an inside stairway. Brick and mortar repairs are also needed. The historical society recently received a bid of $96,000 to fix the roof of the building. 

Butler helped spearhead the effort to restore the structure earlier this year, contributing $2,000 as a down payment toward the society’s $20,000 purchase of the building. 

The organization then inked a deal with seller Steven Reynolds to finance the remaining $18,000 for $450 a month over three and half years.

Butler said the restoration effort isn’t just about saving an old building.

“Once it is gone, it is gone. We don’t want to see that happen. These buildings have historical significance,” said Butler.

Butler said plans call for the building to be used as the home of the historical society. The building will also be a good place to store historical artifacts, he said.

“We have lots of records and things that have been donated. History things. And we don’t have a home for them. We have them scattered all over the county,” said Butler.

Those records, Butler said, could be safely stored in the bank’s vault.

“It is cinder block with a steel door and a concrete roof so it is fireproof,” said Butler.

Butler said he isn’t sure when the final draft of the restoration plan will be ready. When it is, he said, the society will distribute it for the public to view.

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