Breckenridge Texan

Historic First National Bank building undergoing repairs

Historic First National Bank building undergoing repairs
April 17
11:09 2023

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Almost 100 years ago, a group of investors began planning the construction of The Burch Hotel on the southeast corner of Walker Street and Breckenridge Avenue in downtown Breckenridge. Fifty-three years ago, the building was purchased by First National Bank, and a major renovation project was started. This week, First National Bank Albany/Breckenridge will begin another project, this time to refurbish parts of the building that were damaged in a hailstorm last May.

Workers started taking down the metal panels around the roof of the First National Bank building in downtown Breckenridge last week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

According to bank president Kevin Simmons, the latest work on the historic building is expected to take a couple of months and will entail replacing the roof, the heating and air conditioning units, and the metal around the second floor and the roof.

A large crane will be brought in to help with the work, and the bank’s south parking lot (directly behind the building) will be closed during the project. Simmons said the motor bank parking, located across East Williams Street, will be available for bank customers. Additionally, the parallel parking along Walker Street will be available during much of the work.

Simmons said FNBAB is working with local contractors and businesses for the work, including Cavalry Resources and Construction, Stowe’s Independent Services and Herrington Heating and Cooling.

Last week, Cavalry started working on the project, removing the metal panels from around the top of the building. Simmons said the metal will be replaced and that they will be using the original color that was installed in the early 1970s, which was a dark brown. Over the years, the color has faded to a lighter color.

After the metal panels were removed from around the top of the First National Bank Albany/Breckenridge building last week, the framework that was added in the early 1970s is visible. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The aluminum panels were added to the building during the original FNB renovation to conceal the mechanical equipment that was added at the time, according to a “First National Bank Souvenir Edition” of the Breckenridge American in 1972.

“Once we took it down, you can really see why they added it,” Simmons said. “All the mechanical stuff up there is visible.”

This 1927 Basil Clemons photo shows the Burch Hotel under construction in downtown Breckenridge. (Photo from the Basil Clemons Photography Collection at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries)

The original building was designed by architect David S. Castle, who also designed the Stephens County Courthouse and dozens of other buildings throughout west Texas, including the Paramount Theatre in Abilene, the Hotel Settles in Big Spring and 49 other buildings in Abilene. According to information from a 2018 Grace Museum exhibit in Abilene, more than 50 Texas counties are home to Castle-designed buildings.

The first plans for The Burch Hotel were for a seven-story building at a cost of $258,000 in 1927. Additional funds were raised, and three more floors were added to the plan, bringing the cost to $375,000. With the costs for the hotel’s furnishings, as well as the cost of the lot in downtown Breckenridge, the total expense was estimated at about $500,000, according to Jean Hayworth in her “Historically Speaking” column in the Breckenridge American in 2011. The building took 175 tons of steel, 2,800 cubic yards of concrete for the piers and pillars, 334,000 bricks and 11 miles of wiring.

When the hotel opened in 1928, guest rooms were located on the second through the seventh floors, and the eighth floor was occupied by the Elks Lodge No. 1480, Hayworth wrote. The ninth and 10th floors were reserved for the Petroleum Club. The 10th floor also included the Roof Garden, which was used for conventions and other large gatherings. The hotel’s first floor housed the lobby, a cigar stand, a coffee shop and the City Drug Store. A mezzanine level featured a junior ballroom for small banquets, dances or parties. Also on the mezzanine level was a beauty shop and several apartments.

A framed history of the Burch Hotel in the lobby of First National Bank features details about the hotel, such as how many famous people visited it, including Gen. John J. Pershing.

When Breckenridge’s First National Bank bought the building in 1970, the columns and walkways were added along the north and west sides. Additionally, the windows were replaced and the aluminum fascia was added around the second floor and the aluminum parapet at the top, according to the 1972 article. The entire building was remodeled in a bronze theme, with everything from the bricks and walkways to the windows and glass walls designed to complement the bronze look.

Once the renovations were complete in 1972, First National Bank moved from its previous location at 116 W. Walker, where the Swenson Memorial Museum is now located, to what was known as the First National Bank Tower building. The old hotel rooms had been renovated into apartments and offices.

Today, the building has 20 apartments and 15 office spaces, in addition to the FNBAB offices and banking facilities. The current repairs include only the outside of the building that was damaged by the hail storm.

In 1947, photographer Basil Clemons captured a picture of the Burch Hotel while he was photographing a parade in downtown Breckenridge for the International Lions Club Convention. (Photo from the Basil Clemons Photography Collection at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries)

The Burch Hotel was festively decorated with flags and bunting for a Elks convention in 1929. (Photo from the Basil Clemons Photography Collection at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries)

The “B” atop First National Bank has a different look with the metal panels around the top of the building removed. The “B” was installed in the mid-1970s and is lit up each time a Breckenridge High School sports team wins. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: With the metal panels removed from the top of the FNBAB building, one of the highest views in Breckenridge is opened up temporarily. The metal is being replaced, along with the roof and air conditioning/heating units that were damaged in the hail storm last May. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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