Renovation begins on former First National Bank building in downtown Fayetteville

Parts of the original former First National Bank building can now be seen on the south and west facing walls, thanks to a planned renovation of the building that began with the removal of the 60-year-old modern facade.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Anyone who’s been to the downtown square recently has likely noticed some changes to the former First National Bank building at the corner of Block Avenue and Center Street.

Crews this month are working to remove the midcentury modern facade that has covered the exterior of the 120-year-old building since 1958.

The building’s new owners are renovating the structure in hopes of returning it as close as possible to its original design.

High winds tore 13 panels off of the building in 2010 in a storm that shut down the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and killed three people 20 miles west of Fayetteville.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Removal of the silver and turquoise facade screens that face the streets has revealed the original look of the stone building that was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style similar to a few other nearby buildings like the Historic Washington County Courthouse at Center Street and College Avenue and the Eason Building, which houses the Bank of Fayetteville on the square.

Aaron Crawley, one of the new co-owners, recently told KUAF that upon removing the facade, it was discovered that the building was actually comprised of three separate buildings.

He said arched entryways were also found, indicating that there were once retail spaces in the building along Block Avenue, something that could return once the renovation project is complete in about 18 months.

It’s not the first time Fayetteville residents have gotten a peek at what was under the facade.

In 2010, storm winds tore 13 panels away at the corner of Block and Center revealing a glimpse at the original 19th-century architecture, which had been covered for 52 years. Those panels were eventually replaced with synthetic stucco, which is also being removed this month as part of the renovation.

A closer look at the 2010 storm damage.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Crawley purchased the building, along with business partners Mitchell Massey and David Starling, in April for $1.85 million, according to Talk Business & Politics.

Fayetteville architect Albert Skiles is working with Calamon Building Corporation on the renovation project.

“Project team members are thrilled that after months of behind-the-scenes study, the community may begin to appreciate the opportunity this rehabilitation presents,” Skiles wrote in a Facebook post. “It is our hope that by once again opening up the facade, we can find more opportunities for the architecture and its inhabitants to connect at the pedestrian street level and contribute to the vitality of our downtown.”