PHILOMATH — The building on the corner of Main and North 13th will always hold a special place Marcia Gilson's heart. She purchased the old bank back in 2003, complete with the original vault, to serve as a venue for wine-tasting.
“I sat here and got a little melancholy last week when we were having our last hurrah but I also realize it’s time to move on,” she said a couple of weeks ago while sitting in the mostly-vacant building that she had named The Wine Vault.
The building’s historical significance has been a common topic of conversation over the years. Gilson enjoyed collecting photos of it and even participated in a special 100-year anniversary back in 2012. One of her favorite memories that she’s taking away from owning it involves the folks who came in to share their experiences.
“When we first got it, for years people that are close to our age were coming in and telling us how they opened their first bank account here, their parents bringing them in,” she said with a smile. “Just people coming in and sharing the history of what they knew of this building.”
The building itself has spoken to Gilson in its own way.
“One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is when I put a nail in the wall, you can hear the rocks going down through it,” she said. “The cement was made from the river with river rock. It’s been a kind building.”
Gilson and her husband, Charlie, will continue to operate Pheasant Court Winery.
“Basically, a few months ago I told Charlie that when I turn 70, I don’t want to be working this every weekend,” said Gilson, who turned 68 just recently. “Our winery’s still going … we’re just going to move the tasting room to our property and travel more and go see those grandkids,” she said.
The timing of trying to sell the building worked out well, too.
“I just painted the building and I replaced all the windows — they had leaked over the years — and it was in as good of shape that it was going to be in, so this was the time to try to sell it,” she said.
The building was sold to a couple with closing documents to be signed any day. The building’s next purpose has not been publicly announced, but Gilson said a new business is coming in.
“The people that are buying it wanted something unique and it is unique,” Gilson said. “I don’t think there are ghosts or anything in here. But it’s been a very comfortable building.”
Philomath’s downtown area has seen good days as of late with several projects in the works. And with a streetscape project in the city’s future, the area could really take off.
“Once the city does their road improvements and the sidewalks are wider, it’s going to be a really nice thing,” Gilson said. “Plus, the city is allowing you to have seating outside.”
The building went up in the spring of 1912 as the new site of a reorganized Philomath State Bank. Architect R.U. Hockenberry designed it and Concrete Construction Co., out of Corvallis was the contractor that completed the reinforced concrete work.
Among the new bank's features was a silver-and-gilt walk-in vault. Constructed by Mosler Safe Co., it remains a centerpiece feature of the building today.
A bank under a few different names remained there until 1964. In the ensuing years, it housed various restaurants, a real estate office and an attorney’s office.
Pheasant Court Winery had been operating since September 2001 when Gilson started looking around for a good place to set up a tasting room.
“I bought it in 2003 when the attorney that had his office here — he and his wife owned it for 15 years — he passed away and so a friend of mine told her Marcia’s looking for a place to have a tasting room and she loves your old building,” she said. “We had never been in here before but I love old buildings. She and I just connected.”
It didn’t hurt that both seller and buyer loved quilting and they settled on the transaction without a sales agreement even written up. The Wine Vault’s official opening occurred in May 2004.
During the Wine Vault’s 15-year run in the building, Gilson subleased space to a couple of other businesses, namely Amy B’s Bakery and Creekside Coffee.
The Gilsons, along with Janis and Steve Larson of the nearby Furniture Restoration Center, staged a 100-year anniversary celebration in 2012 that focused the history of their two buildings. The Furniture Restoration building in its early years was a post office before housing various businesses.
“We released a wine with (an image of) a $100 bill on it,” Gilson said. “We had some people come in and talk about the history of it.”
The Gilsons expect to open a tasting room at the Pheasant Court Winery location in early May. She said they will be open May through the end of December on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays “or by chance if they catch us when we’re out there.”
“The advantage of moving that we can do on this move is we can give people a tour of the winery or do some barrel-tasting where we couldn’t do that here,” she said. “We’ll have an outdoor space out there. We’ll try to take advantage of being less than 2 miles from town, but we’re on 6 acres at the end of a cul-de-sac, so it’s like we’re in the country.”