When officials at downtown Ashland’s Community Trust Bank got a green light to paint and renovate their 11-story structure at the center of the city, they agreed it was a job that needed to be done right.
“Our employees take a lot of pride in the assets we are responsible for,” said Northeast Region President Andrew Jones, explaining those assets include the historic building as well as customers’ holdings.
Anyone who has looked up while in downtown Ashland during recent days may have noticed paint crews on scaffolds as the exterior of the city’s tallest building has received a fresh coat of paint for the first time in memory. Knowing they would get only one shot at the job, Jones said bank staff immediately called Kim Jenkins of Sweet Bay Landscaping for a consultation about the best color scheme. Jones said the landscaper was nearby and arrived almost immediately to offer suggestions.
“It is a one-time deal and we wanted to do it right. Kim was here in about 10 minutes with the basic color scheme. She wanted to make sure it was done right, too,” Jones said.
The bank president said the renovation project got an unexpected boost when a team of painters that had been working at the city’s historic Paramount Arts Center happened to visit the bank.
“We already had the painting in the budget. They walked in and got the job,” he said, noting the bank felt good about the painting company since it had met the Paramount’s standards.
“We just really wanted our building to be on target and sharp, too,” Jones said.
The renovation project was also important to the bank’s staff, he noted, because it wants customers “to feel important” when they do business there. The work also fit well with ongoing efforts by the city, including streetscape projects within a few blocks in either direction along Winchester Avenue.
Senior Vice President Cindy Blanton said the building has a fascinating history, with many elements of the original design still in place, even if out of sight.
“The bank was actually built around this vault,” said Blanton as she pointed out some of the unusual design aspects of the safe place, including the 23-ton door that uses hydraulics to allow a single person to open or close it. An old photo in the lobby shows the vault at the center of the first floor while the remainder of the structure is framed with steel girders.
“We have to special order the light bulbs for in here,” Blanton said as she pointed out the small bulbs in the vault’s overhead illumination. A barred window on a wall of the vault was likely used by bank employees to pass valuables from the big vault to a similarly sized, although less noticeable, unit on the other side. Consulting with Regional Facilities Manager Larry Royster, Blanton said the vault door was the largest in the state at the time the bank was built.
A quiet man by nature, Royster’s appreciation of the downtown Ashland structure seemed to shine as he offered a glimpse at original bank features likely concealed forever as the building was modernized. Blanton explained the bank’s modern second-floor mezzanine was built during the 1950s, which came as a surprise to at least one employee who returned to see the finished work after serving during the Korean War.
Guiding guests toward a hole in the wall in a little-used area of the building, Royster explained the ceiling seen from the lobby is suspended, and hides elaborately molded plaster and painted reliefs along the ceiling of the original lobby space. Mythical creatures, similar to griffins or hippogriffs with the head of a bird as well as wings and hooves, are depicted along with cherubic characters and ancient water jugs. Royster theorized the creatures are supposed to represent the phoenix, while Blanton calls them gargoyles.
“The artwork and craftsmanship up here is just fantastic,” Royster said as he stepped back to enjoy the view of the otherwise isolated space.
Jones said ongoing renovations at the bank building, which will include replacement and painting of windows in the upper floors, come at a price, although the cost is considered to be worth the expense. The exterior paint work, minus the cost of paint, was about $75,000, he said, and the bank spent approximately $300,000 on the elevator system last year.
“We are a community bank and we believe in investing in the community,” Jones concluded.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.