WATSONTOWN — Members of the Watsontown Historical Association are working hard to renovate the former Santander Bank on Main Street as their new headquarters.
The association will soon seek bids for roof repairs and facade work with a goal of opening the building to the public by August. The association finalized the $120,000 purchase of the 165-year-old historic building at 109 Main St. in June, according to Acquisitions Manager Kathi Wertman.
“We have an amazing group of people here who have been helping us renovate,” said Wertman. “They’re very talented at what they do. We’re excited to open it to the public.”
The former bank building was constructed between 1858 and 1860 as Hogue Hardware. It became the Farmers National Bank in 1886, has had additions throughout the next 100-plus years and has housed a tavern, hardware and grocery stores, railroad offices and homes in addition to being a bank until 2008, according to records from the Watsontown Historical Association.
The Farmers Bank in 1982 was purchased by the Commonwealth Bank, whose headquarters were in Williamsport. Since that time, the financial institution went through numerous mergers and buyouts, including Corp State, First Union, Sovereign Bank and Santander in 2008, according to records from the Watsontown Historical Association.
Santander closed in 2017. Watsontown borough purchased the building in 2018, but it has been vacant for the last five years, according to records from the Watsontown Historical Association.
Since the building was purchased by the association, members and volunteers have been painting, clearing, and restoring the original flooring, installing new molding along the walls and a lot of woodwork. They have been organizing the pieces of their collections into displays in the rooms. An old jewelry case from Country Cupboard was installed in the lobby, said Wertman.
The museum will feature a room dedicated to local 1940s musicians Bob and Dean McNett, the former Eighth Street School that burned in 1956 and memorabilia collected from a former business that Wertman is keeping a surprise for now. The goal is to change the displays every year to showcase all historical items in the collection.
The association is currently seeking bids for roof repairs, front facade/windows and security cameras. Although the association received a $150,000 grant through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to assist with the costs of renovating the space for its headquarters and museum, Wertman said all the materials and labor so far have been donated by community members. The grant will be used for the upcoming bids.
Wertman praised association members Al Reeves and Paul Putney for all their contributions. They performed woodworking, baseboard installation and heavy lifting.
“We felt we wanted to help the community,” said Reeves. “It will be a community-minded museum.”
“I see this as a benefit to the community,” said Putney. “I enjoy doing the work. It keeps me active, and they are a neat bunch of people.”
They recently set a display case in a place that will showcase Wilson Walkes, wooden children’s toys that were made in Watsontown during the 1940s.
Wertman expects the association board to vote this weekend on the name of the museum. The association has been collecting suggestions from the public.
The Watsontown Historical Association was incorporated in 2016.