first national bank

The old First National Bank building in the southeast quadrant of the Public Square has new windows that were not allowed by the Historical Preservation Commission. The windows were installed last week.

ANGOLA — Angola has followed through with the instructions of the Angola Historical Preservation Commission to sue a downtown building owner over replacement of windows.

On Friday, Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat approved a temporary restraining order against Thomas Blake, the new owner of the original First National Bank of Angola building. Blake purchased the building earlier this year and has been in the process of revamping its interior to house a variety of businesses.

A hearing on continuing the temporary restraining order and for a preliminary injunction by the city has been set for Monday at 9 a.m. in Circuit Court.

Friday’s order said work being done to replace upper windows by Blake should stop until judicial review of the Oct. 27 Historical Preservation Commission decision, which denied Blake permission to replace upper windows because they were deemed not historically appropriate.

The new windows were installed last week, apparently before Wheat’s order yet in defiance of the Oct. 27 commission decision.

Previously the commission allowed replacement of a lower, smaller row of windows that are of the same design of the upper windows.

The upper-level window project, however, was not approved because the proposed vinyl replacement windows were considered not comparable to the historic building or the existing historic windows in design or material and they do not follow the city’s guidelines.

The original windows were constructed of metal frames and the mullion and muntin bars were exposed. Those elements of the original windows were rusting, construction crews on site pointed out Tuesday. From East Maumee Street, where the windows face, many of the panes of glass were cracked.

The new windows have grids sandwiched between two panes of glass to give the appearance of muntins.

Deb Parcell, Indiana Landmarks staff advising the city, said it was indicated at an Oct. 19 meeting with Michael Campo, chief financial officer of EnTrust, one of Blake’s businesses, that the intention was to move forward with the installation of the windows, with or without approval by the commission.

The windows, with grids between the glass, were a feature that Parcell’s findings state do not adequately replicate the multi-pane configuration of the historic windows, thus resulting in the appearance of large, smooth panes of glass that would be a substantial visual change to the building.

In a PowerPoint provided by Campo, a summary provided Blake said he feels nothing he is doing is in violation of the intent of the historic district or the application for appropriateness.

Campo, who would not comment on the case specifically, said the company needed to seal up the building before winter with new windows. He said there were 28 panes of glass in the existing windows that were broken, thus allowing elements to penetrate the building.

He also said the company has muntins that are supposed to be placed on the exterior of the glass that will make the new windows look more similar to the originals.

Campo said he didn’t think Angola was business friendly. The companies that are supposed to move in are part of a conglomerate that he said would employ 10-15 people in well-paying positions.

“We do not feel welcome in Angola,” he said. “We are moving a brick and mortar headquarters up there. We’re a big conglomerate and we are a true Indiana company.”

Angola Mayor Dick Hickman disagreed with Campo on the business climate in the city.

“He was given a $5,000 grant for their roof project right off the bat. At the same time he was told the process they needed to do for approval of other changes he was considering on our top-rated historical building. Outside of that I better not say anything more with the lawsuit. But I think that shows we are business friendly,” Hickman said.

The building is rated by Indiana Landmarks as “outstanding” due to its architectural design and defining character features, including the two-story multipaned metal-framed windows on the north side.

Campo said it is his group’s desire to bring the building back by the work being done.

“We’ve spent a lot of money bringing a lot of glory back to this old lady of a building,” Campo said.

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