A beloved downtown Tyler icon has a new honor in local history. The old People’s National Bank Building was highlighted Tuesday as the newest recipient of a Tyler Historic Landmark. The timing of the award coincides with National Historic Preservation Month, themed “Discover America’s Hidden Gems.”
A series of restorations are in the works and could take years to complete, but the results shall remain sensitive to the history of the building, said Tim Brookshire, who recently purchased the building with son Garnett.
“We want to bring it back to its original grandeur,” Brookshire said. “It was originally built to accommodate a promising new oil industry.”
The men are partnering with Tyler Realtor Andy Bergfeld to bring the project to fruition.
The 15-story People’s National Bank Building, 102 N. College Ave., was constructed in 1932 by the Tyler contracting firm of Campbell and White, based on plans drawn by Houston architect Alfred C. Finn, records show.
The original project was financed by Samuel A. Lindsey, one of Tyler’s most influential businessmen, and a variety of noteworthy Tyler business leaders would office there over the years: H.L Hunt, D.K. Caldwell, Sam R. Greer and A.W. “Dub” Riter Jr., records show.
A few years after its completion, a six-story section was added to the structure so it would be fully integrated and compatible with Finn’s original design.
People’s National Bank Building is recalled by longtime Tyler residents as the “crown jewel” of downtown.
Mayor Barbara Bass said exciting days for the building are on the horizon.
“For people to step up and invest in downtown is something we don’t take for granted,” the mayor said, expressing appreciation for the revitalization efforts. “Historic landmark preservation and recognition is in the public’s interest. In Tyler, we’re proud of our history … this is certainly one of Tyler’s previous gems.”
A handful of business professionals continue to office there today, surrounded by details that largely escaped the passage of time.
The building’s interior features a variety of original Art Deco finishes: gleaming marble, coarse limestone and terrazzo floors, Ms. Edmonds said, noting some improvements were made in 1969 to accommodate air conditioning.
The building made headlines last month when it was learned the Brookshires, with Bergfeld’s assistance, purchased the structure to rehabilitate and in some areas, repurpose.
The trio forms The Peoples Petroleum Building LLC, a name derived from the Peoples National Bank and its ties to the oil and gas industry.
Brookshire announced Tuesday the building also has a new name to reflect its history and its rebirth: The Peoples Petroleum Building.
From atop the building, Iraq War veteran Sandon Presley and Fred Winters Jr., who carefully tend to the building’s maintenance, hoisted an American flag to commemorate the occasion.
The new owners said they have a wealth of information and records to ensure the restoration stays close to original as possible.
Some of the plans are so detailed, they even list finish out features such as light fixtures.
There are no plans to rip out the original marble, but the 1950s era escalators will likely be replaced with the original marble staircase.
“We know we are only temporary stewards of this grand historic building,” Brookshire said. “We promise to do our best.”
People who recall the building’s earlier glory days said the anticipated changes should be a welcome addition to downtown.
“I’m very, very thrilled and satisfied,” historian Mary Jane McNamara, former city librarian, said. “I think it’s going to be a great step to refresh and redevelop downtown. I’m really proud.”
Structures can be designated as historic landmarks if they are at least 50 years old and have historic value through cultural, economic or social criteria.
The landmark designation focuses on exterior features and property owners can receive tax abatements for certain improvements.
Business editor Casey Murphy contributed to this report.