The Tale of Two Buildings

Several years ago, I received a mailing from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. As I leafed through the pages, I was actually stunned to see an exact duplicate of one of Marengo’s most beautiful and historic buildings...the building on the south-east corner of East Washington and State Street. As you study the two buildings, are they not carbon copies of each other?

Both of these brick and stone Italianate buildings were originally built as "bank buildings" between 1874 and 1875. Both were built in small cities. One was on a heavily-traveled western immigrant trail through Northern Illinois (Marengo). The other was across the Illinois River from Peoria, Illinois in the city of Washington. Builders of both were early settlers in their respective communities. Both started other successful business ventures and then branched out as successful bankers. Both buildings remain today in their small communities. But the similarities end there.

The Denhart Bank building was lovingly and appropriately restored by former local residents who "moved back" to their childhood community in 2003. The purchase of a beautiful old, historic home at that time led to the purchase of this bank building in downtown Washington, as well as the purchase of two adjacent buildings. Two years were spent lovingly restoring these buildings, taking advantage of the available tax credits, and getting the buildings put on the National Register of Historic Places. The former Denhart Bank building opened in January 2006, as the Cornerstone Inn on the Square, featuring seven rooms with private baths, A.C., a hot tub/jacuzzi, beauty and gift shop, sitting room/library, meeting rooms, and bakery/restaurant on site. The basement houses the C-Note Pub.

Richard M. Patrick located to Marengo in 1853 at the age of 22 years. He engaged in the general merchandising business and other successful business enterprises, which grew into the Banking House of Richard M. Patrick in 1867. Then in 1871, Patrick took steps toward the organization of a National Bank. In August of 1871, the United States Government granted the First National Bank of Marengo, IL, Charter No. 1870. In 1875, R. M. Patrick built his brick and stone Italianate "bank building" on the corner of East Washington and Main Street. The First National Bank operated out of this location until 1917 when it moved to the extensively remodeled Community Building, (former Opera House building), on the south-west corner of West Washington and State Street. Today, the original First National Bank building is "for sale" and waiting for the chance to become a lovingly and appropriately restored "show-place" of the community. It already qualifies for historic recognition by the state and national governments. Appropriate renovation of its original exterior architectural features also makes it eligible for state and federal tax credits. Just as Washington, IL remains a smaller community, it has become a destination for tourists desiring a slower pace in a country atmosphere where good food and interesting features and activities can be enjoyed. As our store windows have gradually become the showplace for beautifully-painted quilt squares midst our popular eating and shopping destinations, are we not also realizing more pedestrian activity? Who would have thought that Marengo would be celebrating a State Championship in Girls’ Baseball? Well, we did. Possibilities exist on every corner. Just as Marengo’s lady ball players had excellent coaching and parental and community support, they had dedication. They also had faith that their hard work could make it possible. Their spirit and hard work can be duplicated on many levels, even with a beautiful, 1870’s brick and stone Italianate building.