Flanked by two bigger buildings, the Phoenix & Third Trust Co. building stood tall in midtown Lexington early in the 20th century. It featured majestic limestone detail and four engaged columns, meaning they were embedded in the wall, so only half-rounds projected from the front.
It was built around 1906 to 1908, designed by some of the heralded regional architects of the day. But by 1938, when it apparently required a little "modern" updating, a lot of the dramatic personality was chiseled away from 123 West Main Street.
The city's historical resource inventory notes read like an obituary: "A massive entablature with balustrade above and swagged consoles over the columns and an enriched central entrance with cartouche ... . Behind the blank remodeled front here are the remains of the most lavish Beaux-Arts Baroque bank building in Central Kentucky. The facade is probably irreparable."
Andy Shea and Kerry Glass took one look at a vintage picture of the building and disagreed.
"We just looked at each other and thought, wouldn't that be amazing?" Glass said. "We also had an idea — from looking at the inside of the building — that the columns were still there."
The 100-year-old building has been a men's store, a shoe store, a national historic site and empty.
And now it's getting its old face back.
Shea, general manager of the Lexington Legends, will own the new TRUST Lounge that will occupy the building. Glass, who will be manager of the bar, is handling a lot of the construction details. From the start, Shea and Glass have insisted that materials original to the building — hand-cut limestone and terra cotta — be used in the restoration process.
Bettie Kerr, the city's historic preservation officer, said the outside's renewal is much welcomed and, from what she remembers from being inside it a year or so ago, matched only by the glory of the inside space, which has "unbelievable skylights" and many remaining historic elements.
Now that the work is well under way, Glass said, people stop on the street, even while in their cars in traffic, and ask what's going on.
He likes to tell them that the multilevel lounge will be designed to cater to the downtown after-work crowd looking for classic cocktails, live jazz, blues and swing music.
The Shea-Glass team had an original deadline of Feb. 4; now they plan to be up and running in a lasting 21st-century beaux-arts baroque style by late summer.