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AMERICAN FORK — An icon in the American Fork community, the historic Bank of American Fork structure that opened for business in 1905 is a bank building once again.
Decades have passed since the bank folded in 1932 during the Great Depression. The old brick structure at 1 E. Main Street in American Fork then saw a variety of uses: a boutique, a hospital, a flower shop.
People’s Utah Bancorp bought the well-aged building for its headquarters.
On Monday, bank staff welcomed the public to a grand-opening ceremony so visitors could see what a year-long renovation and reconstruction project had produced.
Even Utah Gov. Gary Herbert took notice of the commemorative event.
“It is my pleasure as governor and a Utah County resident to congratulate People’s Utah Bancorp on the grand opening of the newly restored headquarters of your company,” said Herbert in a letter to the bank’s president and CEO, Richard Beard.
“I commend you for preserving this beautiful neoclassical building,” he added.
It’s been nearly 10 years since People’s Utah Bancorp tried to first purchase the building.
“We tried to buy this building back in 2006, 2007, and it was pretty dilapidated,” Beard said. “We tried to buy it and we couldn’t.
“We couldn’t come together on the pricing, and then of course we went into a recession and we were kind of focused on doing that.”
The building’s owners again approached People’s Utah Bancorp in early 2014 offering to sell the building. This time they were able to agree on the price. People’s Utah Bancorp moved forward with its plans to establish the historic building as its headquarters.
“To me this is symbolic of community banking, it’s part of the community and we wanted it to look like it was taken care of and that we were putting the effort back into our communities,” Beard said. “We are delighted to have it. It kind of finishes off the block.”
The “like-new” building will house People’s Utah Bancorp offices and be the cornerstone on the west side of the block complementing its subsidiary, the Bank of American Fork, and its headquarters established on the east side. Initially called the People’s State Bank of American Fork when it was established in 1913, the current Bank of American Fork changed its name in 1963 and is a different company than the bank that initially owned the building.
Beard said they talked about whether to tear down and build new or renovate the old.
“We felt it was pretty close in the terms of economics,” Beard said. “This is much more community-oriented.”
Choosing the reconstruction route had its challenges.
“It’s hard because anytime you spend so much money or work on a project, the local code enforcement makes you bring the entire building up to code, so that was a challenge,” said Geoff Bird, Big-D Construction project manager.
“If there were a strong earthquake, this structure would not have stood. I’m confident that this building is very seismically stout now.”
Approximately eight inches of metal were added to the walls on the inside. In addition to the three layers of brick on the outside, the walls are quite deep, about two feet.
The brick and flooring are original. An original ornate ceiling was uncovered. Because it had been protected by a false ceiling, it was well preserved. The antique clock was also restored. As a time piece, however, its innards no longer tell passersby the correct time.
Roller shades, scions and lights were ordered to complement the original style. Dark wood finishes add contrast to the ornate neoclassic ceiling and soft beige walls.
Most of the tricky work had to do with the wiring, plumbing, spacing and making the structure seismically sound.
“Nothing you can see was very hard,” Bird said. “Bringing the building up to code between the drywall and the brick was the hardest part.”
Many dignitaries from the city attended the event. American Fork Mayor James Hadfield said he is very supportive of the Bank of American Fork.
“I have always been very supportive of the Bank of American Fork because as a young man, I applied for a loan with to buy my house,” Hadfield said. “I knew a member of the board and they financed my home.
“After 48 years, I’m still in the same house that has been paid for a number of times.”
Bank of American Fork is Utah’s largest community bank based on asset size and deposits. It operates 14 full-service branches throughout Salt Lake, Utah, and Davis counties, as well as a branch in St. George.
People’s Utah Bancorp also has another subsidiary, Lewiston State Bank. Both banks are state regulated and locally established. As such, the parent company makes an effort to be a presence and stay involved in the community.
They appear spot on with the restoration of the old Bank of American Fork building.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Hadfield said. “The bank has done a great job in restoring it.”