Jeff Van Drunen

Van Drunen Farms renovated the former Momence State and Savings Bank into an office for its Engineering Department. The renovation made the company and co-president Jeff Van Drunen, pictured, the winners of the Daily Journal’s 2019 Innovator in Real Estate Progress Award.

Thanks to Van Drunen Farms, a bit of history is coming to life in downtown Momence.

Van Drunen Farms has completed a year-and-a-half restoration of the 1905 Momence State and Savings Bank. That building, now beautifully restored with glazed, white Tiffany Brick and red sandstone, serves as the offices for the Engineering Department for Van Drunen.

A dozen engineers moved in last December.

For the restoration of the historic building, located at 128 E. Washington St., Momence, Van Drunen Farms has been honored as the Innovator in Real Estate as part of the annual Progress Awards given by The Daily Journal.

Kevin Van Drunen, co-president of Van Drunen Farms, said the firm acquired the building two years ago. The firm made an investment in downtown Momence.

“There are a lot of buildings in need,” he said. “Retail is not going to be a big enough draw to fill all these locations. Having a business purpose could be the best thing for downtown.”

Kevin said Van Drunen, which has 800 employees, was looking to grow. The building also fit into its plans. While Momence State and Savings has been closed since 1925, the building has been occupied off and on during the years. While work was needed, including a new roof and new plumbing and bathrooms, it was not started from scratch. Some renovation, repair and maintenance had been done.

During the years, the facility has been home to Illinois Bell, Casey’s Yarn Shop, a barber shop, the Hair Saloon, a Curves fitness center, Dance in the Light and the Momence General Store.

Van Drunen employed Linden Architects out of Orland Park to complete the project.

The building is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Van Drunen said his firm did not have to adhere to a recreation of a historic look and feel for the building, but that is exactly what was done.

On the exterior of the building, the original design of red sandstone and Tiffany Brick was maintained. Those parts of the sandstone that were good were kept. Where needed, new sandstone, matching the original red color, were put in. The same procedure was used with the bricks. Those near the street tended to be in better shape. Those near the roof had been damaged by more than a century of rain and weather. What you see now is a mix of the original and new bricks, carefully matching the original color and pattern.

Windows were removed and restored by Restoration Works of Bradley. An aluminum and glass door was replaced with one that had a historic wood and glass design. A vestibule was added, keeping the winter wind at bay.

On the inside, a decorative tin ceiling was kept and freshly painted. Diamond-shaped cloth wall hanging patterns were added in various shades of grey and burnt orange. They both add a modern touch and absorb sound.

The building has two stories and uses an open floor concept inside, with employees working in spacious cubicles. There are new lighting fixtures, but large windows let in a lot of light, too. From the eastern part of the building, you can see the Kankakee River.

The building also holds conference rooms. The original safe still is on site, looking as formidable as ever, but now is used to store printers and office supplies. The combination has been rendered inert, so you could not lock anyone inside, even on purpose.

Van Drunen points out the occupation and renovation of the building has benefits beyond the one location. The employees are supporting downtown Momence. They are across the street from, “Off the Vine,” a nearby location for both wine and lunch that also has served as a spot for some business meetings.

The renovation work, Van Drunen said, does qualify for federal tax benefits, but that is not the point.

“It’s great to help the city of Momence, and we’re proud to be in Momence,” he said.

A lifelong resident of the town, Van Drunen once sat on the building’s steps as a child to watch the annual Gladiolus Festival parade march past.