Abstract released by Fenwick Architects

Fenwick Architects: A Legacy of Bank Designs Since 1979

An award winning architectural firm since 1979, Fenwick Architects has a portfolio of outstanding bank designs in new construction, additions and historic preservation. Founder Stephen J. Fenwick believes strongly in the basic philosophy that buildings are machines for doing things. “If you build a bad building, it will slow you down each day, while building it right will assist you in achieving your goals.” For the past quarter century, in addition to banks, Fenwick has been “building it right” for medical offices, professional office buildings, golf and country clubs, hotels, motels, restaurants, single family homes, bed and breakfasts.

Marine National Bank: A brief history

Chartered in 1902, Marine National Bank (MNB) was the first financial institution to be established in the Wildwoods of Cape May County. The existing Classical Revival style structure resulted from a significant rebuilding and expansion in 1927 as part of an effort to enlarge the 1908 banking facility structure. Marine National Bank added drive-up teller service in 1952, adding a larger addition with tellers’ windows and offices in 1972.

Marine National Bank was headquartered here until the bank was acquired by Horizon Bank in 1980. A succession of mergers and acquisitions resulted in the building being vacated in 1997, leaving Wildwood without a commercial bank.

Recognizing the building’s historic importance in the heart of Wildwood’s central business district, Crest Savings Bank acquired the building in 1999 and restored it to a state-of-the-art banking facility. The overall design goal was to preserve the distinctive Classical Revival exterior and to refurbish the interior for modern banking uses.

Crest Savings Bank: An overview

Crest Savings Bank was founded by 70 subscribers on September 19, 1919 as the Wildwood Crest Building and Loan Association. The Bank played a key role in the early development of the Wildwoods by providing mortgage financing to a growing community. Today, through its seven-branch network, Crest Savings offers a full menu of commercial and consumer deposit and loan products.

Fenwick Associates selected for renovation

“We searched all over New Jersey for an architectural firm who was experienced in bank design and understood the work flow needs of modern banking. We were looking for that rare combination of design talents and sensitivity to the history of the region, a reminder of Wildwood’s past, and an understanding of the bank’s role in shaping the City’s history,” says Jay M. Ford, president and chief executive officer. “We were fortunate to find this exceptional combination in Fenwick Associates.”

One Million Dollar Price Tag: “Truly a metamorphosis”

“The building was in a state of disrepair when we acquired it in December 1999,” says bank President Jay M. Ford. “We wanted to give back to the community what had made us successful. We realized it would take time and a significant investment to do the job right. To have walked into the building in 1999 and then to see it today, well, it’s truly a metamorphosis! We are extremely proud of our Corporate Headquarters, which we call, the Holly Beach Financial Center.”

Limestone walls were cleaned and repointed, the roof repaired. The grand, vaulted ceiling in the main hall was renovated and painted. Fenwick recreated the rose-shaded window dressings and amber interior wall colors found in the arched stained-glass windows original to the building. The shabby floors were covered in the porcelain tile and polished marble that made this building a standout of traditional architecture in the midst of a city where glitzy—and sometimes tacky—was often employed to attract tourists.

Neo-classical beauty fused with 21st century bank needs

“The main banking hall is a magnificent vaulted room unmatched anywhere on the Cape,” says Steve Fenwick. “Our mission was to provide a working environment for tellers, customer service representatives and loan officers with excellent lighting and acoustical controls arranged to best serve the public and enhance this great space.

“For lighting, we designed light pillars with stock classical columns capped with alabaster saucers. These shot great quantities of high intensity light to the vaulted ceiling which we painted a deep blue with a sparkling metallic reflectance. In the center of the vault we painted a 20’ x 80’ trompe l’oeil sky, set within a bronze skylight frame. For partitions we created glass walls opening to the room from the perimeter capped with over scale cherry wood crowns, Fenwick continued.

“To control sound, we covered walls between the offices with the highest quality acoustical panels. Tile was used at the teller counters, but noise absorbent carpet surfaced the majority of the room. To hide the security cameras, we located them neatly inside our neoclassical light columns.”

Historic Preservation Award

CSB officials were so impressed with Fenwick’s final product, they moved to place the building on both the state and federal register of historic places. The bank’s Board of Directors began the process of getting historical recognition for the Marine National Bank building in June of 2000. By October, the building was entered onto the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. By December of that year, the building was again honored by being listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In May 2001, the Crest Savings Bank Board was rewarded by receiving a New Jersey historic preservation award for its rehabilitation of the Marine National Bank building at 3301 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood, N.J.

Crest Savings Bank’s success represents a private sector commitment to and belief in the importance of preservation as a redevelopment tool. “No one made them do this,” said Dorothy Guzzo, head of the State Historic Preservation Office in presenting the award. “This effort was borne out of civic pride and an inherent appreciation for the architecture of a by-gone era. This project is a great example of sensitive private investment that will have lasting benefits in the community.”