A magnificent home that’s currently on the market was originally a bank , and it features original neoclassical details and an interactive vault space.
Listed for $765,000, the 6,650-square-foot former Vermont Federal Bank on Main Street in downtown Bennington, VT , has served as Joel Lentzner ‘s home for many years.
"It's got a tremendous amount of history, and it's at the center of our downtown," Lentzner says. "I'm proud of how we've taken great effort to preserve the architectural details that are there—instead of just gutting it and making it a new space."
The original details include brass tear gas canisters (which were for protection and are now empty), beaded glass, marble counters, chandeliers, and clocks.
"Preserving it was a big part of what we wanted to do,” Lentzner says. “We’d love to see that continue with whoever buys it next."
Lentzner bought the property in 1999 and spent the next three years converting the lower level into a 3,700-square-foot gallery and the upper level into a four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home.
"The upstairs hadn’t been used or kept up in maybe 30 years, so it’s really where we did most of the work,” he says. “We had to turn it into an apartment from the bank offices."
Windows, air conditioning, wiring, and more were added to the 2,950 square feet of residential space, which features its own entrance.
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Downstairs, most of the bank features, including the vaults, were in fairly good shape.
"We’ve made them fun. The main vault we turned into a graffiti vault. We painted the walls with chalkboard paint, and people come in and create art or write things on the walls. We wipe it down every few weeks, and they start all over again," Lentzner explains.
Their plan was to turn the lower level of the building into a creative interactive space open to the public.
"Some of the bank buildings that we saw pictures of or visited made the bank vaults off-limits behind some velvet rope or something,” Lentzner says. “We really felt it was important for the public to have the opportunity to see the vault because it's really spectacular."
A basement vault now serves as storage space and the night deposit box is in use as a mailbox. Another vault offers merchandise space. The massive doors still work, and there’s no need to worry about getting trapped inside.
"We have the combinations for all of them," he says, adding that the main vault is equipped with an air exchange system just in case someone gets locked inside.
The bank was built in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, and high-end materials were used in its construction.
"The outside is Vermont marble, but the walls inside and teller counters are Italian marble and the floor is Tennessee marble," he explains.
"It has been a great place for a gallery because it's a natural backdrop for displaying art. The upstairs has been a wonderful home. We've raised three kids there," Lentzner says. "I'd love to see someone do something similar and have a business they love downstairs and live upstairs."
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