Crest Savings renovates bank built in 1908

Reported by The Press of Atlantic City (April 1, 2001)

WILDWOOD—In a resort where 1950s Doo-Wop reigns, there’s a lot of boasting about a turn-of-the-century building.

That’s because Crest Savings Bank has modernized its building on Holly Beach Station by reaching back to its roots.

Bank officials decided to make a statement by renovating the building—which was built in 1908, doubled in size in 1927, and given a large addition in the 1970s—to give its most public areas the stately look of a traditional bank.

Limestone walls were cleaned. The vaulted ceiling in the main hall was renovated and painted. The rose-shaded window dressings and amber interior wall colors resemble colors found in the arched, stained-glass windows original to the building. The floors are covered in porcelain tile and polished marble.

Bank officials also moved to keep it a part of the area’s history—they got it placed on both the state and federal register of historic places. They realized the importance of the structure, which had been a sort of stable rock of traditional architecture in a city where glitzy—and sometimes tacky—changed to attract tourists.

“We really wanted the community to appreciate what was here,” said bank President Jay M. Ford. “To have walked in here a year ago and then to see what we have today, it’s a metamorphosis.”

Crest Savings bought the bank in December 1999 to establish central administrative and loan department services, along with its expanding Wildwood Avenue office.

The building was an easy pick for the bank, which wanted to stay in the community responsible for its success. It would also put the bank in a good position to benefit from improvements to Holly Beach Station, the mall that occupies several blocks of Pacific Avenue.

About the only downside was the building itself, which set the price tag for all the work at more than $1 million.

It was “quite a way into disrepair,” in December 1999, Ford said.

“Let’s just say it had deferred maintenance,” he said.

Bank officials eventually contracted with Fenwick Architects of Linwood to renovate the building.

The project presented some challenges, not only in renovating the existing mess, but also in designing something that, while functional for bank work, still had a sort of old feeling to it, architect Steve Fenwick said.

For instance, the bank needed internal office space that wouldn’t hide the renovated and repainted walls. What was built were offices with special, glazed glass, acoustical tiles and no ceiling that provided privacy but still allowed for a clear view of the main hall.

“It worked very well,” Fenwick said.

There are also a few custom touches, such as the upside down, bowled lighting fixtures that gently illuminate the building while shining light onto the periwinkle blue ceiling and its sky mural.

“It shows the bank is up to date while preserving the past,” Fenwick said.

The 1970s addition also underwent renovation, although not as extensive as the original portion of the structure.

For instance, the spot where, in the 1950s, there was a drive-in bank was renovated to handle walk-up customers when the bank starts its planned seven-day banking. Customers can use that portion of the building without the bank having to keep its main hall open.

A new entrance was also designed to spruce up the area between Oak and Wildwood avenues, where the current drive-up lanes are situated.

The area also has a new bank sign in neon, which Ford said helps the bank fit in with the resort’s Doo-Wop style of glitzy architecture.