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Bank looking to purchase old Bemis Ford building

File photo of the old Ford Bemis Motor building.
File photo of the old Ford Bemis Motor building.

A local bank is one step closer to building a new facility in downtown Oregon.


The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) decided last week to allow Harvard State Bank to demolish the Bemis Motor Company building at the corner of Fourth Street (Ill. 2) and Franklin Street to make way for a new facility on the site — if the new design meets certain requirements.


Harvard State Bank owns Community Bank of Oregon, currently located at the corner of Fourth Street and Washington Street (Ill. 64).


Anne Haaker, IHPA Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, said the new bank must be "architecturally compatible" with the downtown historic district, which includes the Bemis property.


Bank President Roger Lehman said Tuesday that the bank is in the process of buying the Bemis property, owned by Jay Franklin.


"We have a contract to purchase if we can accomplish what we want to," he said.


He said the state approval is just one step in the process.


"We're only halfway there. We still need FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) approval," he said.


Plans call for the new bank to have a drive-through window and ample customer parking, Lehman said.


"It should better serve our customers," he said.


The bank will sell its present facility once plans for a new one are more decided, Lehman said.


The FDIC notified the IHPA of the bank's plans because the Bemis building is within the historic district in downtown Oregon that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Haaker notified Lehman of the IHPA's decision to allow demolition to go ahead in a letter sent last week.


The letter said that while the plan to demolish the building does not meet the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings” and will constitute an Adverse Effect on the Oregon Commercial Historic District, the IHPA will allow it.


"This office will accept the adverse effect of the undertaking provided that Harvard State Bank coordinates with our office in the preparation of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to mitigate the adverse effect," the letter read.


"The MOA stipulations should include:


• The archival documentation of the Bemis Motor Company to IL HABS Level III (see attached consultants list). 


• The proposed design for the new banking facility must meet the 'Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.'  The design shall be reviewed and approved by this office prior to the initiation of construction activities."


The IHPA had sought input from local citizens, agencies, and organizations before making its decision.


"Thank you to all those who wrote to us giving us their opinion on the matter. Their participation is truly appreciated," Haaker said.

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