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The building housing U.S. Bank on Main Street in Bozeman appears drab from the outside.

While most of Main Street through downtown is flush with open doors into shops, bars and restaurants, the street-level story of the building on the southeast corner of South Black Avenue and Main Street is largely a blank wall, covered in aggregate painted in black. Massive “sun shades” jut out from the sides of the building and run the length of the upper floors, giving it the appearance of an out-of-place office building sitting in the middle of Bozeman’s historic downtown.

But underneath the dull shell is a building designed by celebrated Bozeman architect Fred Willson featuring grand arch windows, a handsome cornice skirting the top of the building and classic limestone and brick exterior. Built originally for Commercial National Bank, it was called the “finest bank building in the state” by the Chronicle when it opened in September of 1920, and heralded for marking “a new era in Bozeman’s progress as a city.”

The building’s new owner hopes to restore it to its original glory.

Bank Rennovation, Downtown Bozeman

TOP: Randy Scully opens one of the arch windows in the building on Tuesday in downtown Bozeman. ABOVE: An image shows the original building facade facing Main Street, and the 1970s renovation on the side.

Randy Scully, owner of ScullyWest Properties, bought the building earlier this year and plans to renovate both the interior and exterior to bring out the building’s qualities, like high ceilings and large entrances directly onto Main Street.

“It’s a gem. It’s a wonderful piece of history of Bozeman,” Scully said.

“It’s just one of these buildings that would be hard to duplicate today, and we feel that it deserves to be restored.”

The project isn’t without its challenges: The five-story, 35,000-square-foot building was completed in 1920 and underwent massive renovations in the 1970s that included adding the outer shell of the sun shades and aggregate.

A heating and cooling system was also added during that time, which involved punching out holes in the original facade of the building to fit in the units. Some of the arched windows that used to run the length of the building on its western-facing side were removed, as were some of the marble baseboards.

Machines in the mechanical room need massive upgrades, and Scully is looking for a solution on how to accommodate the equipment used by the many telecommunications firms with offices in the building.

Not to mention the safes on three floors that aren’t in use by U.S. Bank, which has signed a long-term lease to remain in the building.

Some of the process will hinge on just figuring out what was destroyed during the 1970s remodel, and what remains.

“It’s going to be some work, no question,” Scully said. “We don’t know what we can do until we really get into it …. It’s more about fixing what we can.”

The bones of the building, though, are sturdy. The five-stories are held up by a steel and concrete frame. Part of the steel frame comes through the roof, which Scully said is evidence that Fred Willson wanted to keep the option of adding on another floor.

Underneath the 1970s shell, the first part of the building has a limestone exterior, while the upper floors are covered in a brick similar to the brick on the Baxter Hotel a few blocks east.

Bank Rennovation, Downtown Bozeman

Randy Scully points to the limestone around one of the windows in the US Bank building on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, in downtown Bozeman. Scully hopes that the stonework beneath the building's 1970s remodel is still intact.

Henri Foch, an architect working on the project with Intrinsik Architecture, said they should be able to buy similar-looking bricks salvaged from other historic buildings to fill in the gaps left from the 1970s remodel.

There are also more practical plans, like relocating the drive-up ATM, adding another elevator and stairway, creating entrances off of Main Street and trying to open the mezzanine that is just above the first floor.

The goal, Scully said, is to get everything remodeled and to move U.S. Bank back into its original office space by 2024. Their offices are now in the squat building adjacent to the original bank.

The first step is to vacate the rest of the original building — Scully said the tenants of the offices on the upper floors have mostly relocated to other buildings of his in the city. Then, once the city gives its go-ahead, crews will remove one of the sun screens to see exactly what they are working with.

Major exterior work is planned to begin next spring.

“I think, in the end, we’ve talked about peeling off the things that were placed on over the past 100 years, but mostly in the 1970s, it’s going to take it back to being a landmark building on Main Street,” Foch said. “Right now it’s part of the downtown fabric and it’s something that you see everyday, but it’s a landmark for the wrong reasons.”

When it was remodeled in the 1970s, the work was seen as groundbreaking, Foch said.

Like other trends from in the 1970s, that style is now seen as outdated, and the work is in need of repairs anyway. Foch said he is looking forward to exposing the beauty of the original building.

That sort of craftsmanship is hard to do nowadays, Foch said, since it usually doesn’t pencil out.

“I don’t think we could successfully recreate it today if we were starting from scratch,” Foch said. “It’s going to be quite a transformation. I think everyone’s going to be surprised by what’s under there.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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