- Bartlett National Bank opened in 1904 before shuttering during the Great Depression.
- Jennifer Tucker helped restore the bank and transform it into a cozy vacation rental.
- The three-bedroom home maintained many original features, including vault doors.
Jennifer Tucker was exploring the downtown streets of Bartlett, a quaint town nestled in southeast Texas, when she stumbled upon an abandoned bank in 2019.
“It was dilapidated, and nobody had opened the front door in many, many years,” Tucker, 49, told Business Insider. “It was in pretty bad shape.”
Tucker owns Amazing Realty, a real-estate brokerage based in Austin, and is passionate about historic preservation. The bank building — a relic of Bartlett’s heyday in the early 20th century — was a shell of its former self.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the town is named after John. T. Bartlett, who donated the land that would become Bartlett. The town had early economic success by shipping cotton and wool, but opportunities began to dwindle amid the Great Depression in the 1930s, per the TSHA.
Tucker recalled walking up to the bank’s front windows and peeking inside, where the phrase “Bartlett Natl. Bank” was carved on the tile floor.
“At that moment, I just knew I had to have this building,” Tucker said.
Now Bartlett National Bank has three bedrooms and two bathrooms on two floors and is available for rent at $248 a night on Airbnb.
Here’s how Tucker restored a 119-year-old bank into an idyllic vacation rental.
Bartlett National Bank was built in 1904 and has a tumultuous history spanning over a century.
A plaque on the building’s brick exterior touches on the history of Bartlett National Bank, which opened in June 1904 with $25,000. It remained operational until 1931, when it closed for a federal holiday amid the Great Depression and did not reopen for several decades.
Bartlett National Bank made a brief three-year return in the 1990s but was shuttered again because it lacked drive-up teller windows, according to the plaque. Although the bank survived an ill-fated attempted robbery in the 1960s and appeared in the 1998 film “Newton Boys,” starring Matthew McConaughey, it remained relatively quiet until Tucker stepped in.
Tucker told BI that she viewed ledgers written when the bank opened, indicating that John Bartlett’s wife played a significant role in managing the bank. Tucker said Mary Bartlett became president of the bank because John died two months before it opened.
“She ran that bank into the 1920s successfully, so her signature and all of her documents are there,” Tucker said.
Tucker acquired the bank in December 2019 and began renovations in 2020.
Tucker said the restoration process started soon after she purchased the bank in December 2019. She and a work crew experienced with preservation spent about six months renovating the building, between January and July.
It cost about $200,000 to renovate the 1,200-square-foot building, Tucker told BI.
There were many challenges during the restoration process, but also some victories.
One of Tucker and the team’s biggest challenges was working with the building’s archaic structure. Since the bank was built in the early 1900s, there was limited electricity, zero plumbing, and no bathrooms.
As a result, they had to rewire the electricity and briefly remove the original hardwood floors to install plumbing. They also installed air conditioning, fixed broken tiles, and added UV coating to the windows to block the unforgiving Texas heat.
On the other hand, Tucker is ecstatic that they preserved so much history. The staircase, windows, doors, vaults, and some flooring are original to the bank.
Guests can see the bank’s original craftsmanship in the living room on the first floor.
Bartlett National Bank’s living room features floral-themed tile, hardwood, and a glimpse at the teller station. One of the original vaults sits in a corner near the front door.
“It’s got a huge living room, which was the main bank area,” Tucker said.
Tucker told BI that she and the renovation team managed to find a teller cage.
Tucker and her team went the extra mile by fixing up the bank-teller station, including finding an antique teller cage.
“We were able to find a teller cage that was built in the exact same year. We had to drive to Bells, Texas, to rescue that,” Tucker said. “It’s not exact, but it’s very similar to the two photos that I do have from the inside of the bank.”
As you walk through the living room, visitors will also see historic finds in the kitchen.
Walking further into Bartlett National Bank leads you to the kitchen with exposed brick, hardwood floors, and an original staircase.
Tucker said the original stairs were removed when “Newton Boys” filmed at the bank, but a local woodworker kept the pieces in a workshop.
“He had kept all the wood from it because he was the woodworker back in the ’90s they had hired to take that out,” Tucker said. “He thought, ‘This old Victorian wood might be useful one day.'”
He later helped the restoration process by reinstalling the stairs, she told BI.
Behind the kitchen is a cozy dining room.
The dining room features dark wood furniture and a light fixture hanging overhead. The dining-room and living-room walls are painted sage green, the same color as the bank’s original interior, Tucker said.
A bedroom with an en suite bathroom is located on the first floor.
This spacious bedroom is painted green and white and includes a bank deposit box to drive home the aesthetic, although it’s not original to the bank.
The nearby bathroom has white tile walls and a green bathtub.
Another is located on the second floor of Bartlett National Bank.
There’s another bedroom on the bank’s top floor, which Tucker said was built in the 1990s during the filming of “Newton Boys.”
“Thanks to Matthew McConaughey and Hollywood, they’ve added a floor upstairs, which would’ve been the downstairs loan manager or loan officer space,” Tucker said.
There’s a third bedroom on the top floor, where guests can get a closer look at the bank’s intricate gray ceiling.
The third bedroom features carpeting, white walls, and a gray ceiling with designs. The bathroom connected to the room has a shower instead of a bathtub.
Guests raved about Bartlett National Bank online.
Guests have left positive reviews of the restored building on Airbnb.
“If you like history or unique spots, this is a wonderful gem. The preservation is a nice balance of time period and modern,” one person wrote. “Bring your favorite creature comforts and shift your mind to adventure mode. The space can be your personal hideaway or memorable group gathering spot!”
Another added: “The host and property were 5-stars. Loved the theme and the details to the era. Thank you for the unique stay. Absolutely recommend spending time at the Bartlett National Bank!”
Read the original article on Business Insider