For the first time in years Saturday, the public could experience the architecture of the Peoples Bank building — from its accordion-style roof to its turquoise color scheme — from the inside.
More than 100 people paid the suggested donation of $20, and in some cases pitched in extra, to tour the building on South Broadway.
"I've walked by for years and couldn't resist the temptation" to take a tour, said architect Harding Dowell. "It's totally unique, and it would be a shame if we let it disappear."
The building has been in danger of demolition to make way for a new multiplex movie theater at South Broadway and High Street, and Saturday's tours were part of a fundraising effort to save it.
Visitors stepped inside the vault, took photos of the soaring zig-zag ceiling and even uncovered a bit of the original wallpaper, which featured a dandelion-like pattern in (surprise!) turquoise and green.
Ivory paint is peeling from the walls and only a small chunk of blue carpet remains, but bright light still streams from floor-to-ceiling windows, and cheery azure tiles still line the walls of a bathroom.
"When people are inside, you realize what a ... gem this is," said Lucy Jones, who runs a vintage clothing business and organized a Facebook campaign, People for the Peoples, to promote the preservation of the building.
She said the bank, which incorporates aeronautical themes, is Lexington's "only example of a fine Googie architectural building."
"When a good building's gone, it's gone for good," she said.
Jones said Saturday's event was aimed at bringing people inside the building in hopes that they will get involved in the final push to save it.
Karen Hudson, an architectural historian who is a visiting scholar at the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, took a tour. She said she had always hoped the building would be saved. She enjoyed seeing the roof from the inside, and she said she was happy that people are starting to appreciate Mid-Century Modern architecture.
For longtime Lexington builder and real estate agent Earle Hisle, it was a chance to step back in time for a few moments.
"I got loans here," he said. "Brings back memories."
Peoples Bank was designed by Lexington architect Charles Bayless and built in the early 1960s.
The Warwick Foundation is trying to raise the last $71,425 of the $850,000 needed to move and restore the building, said Laurel Catto, board chair. The foundation's deadline is July 30.
Langley Properties, which owns the building and agreed to open it up to the public on Saturday, has offered to donate it if it can be moved from its current site, and the city has pledged $150,000 to help with the move.
Later this month, the board of the Lexington Center Corporation, which manages Rupp Arena, is scheduled to vote on whether to allow the building to be moved to the back of the Rupp parking lot, at the corner of High and Patterson streets.
Catto said that as exciting as it is to be on the brink of saving a significant piece of architecture, "we are equally if not more excited about what this building will become."
The People's Portal, as the building would be renamed, would be operated by the nonprofit Warwick Foundation and would offer programming centered around respect and inclusion.
Catto said a key effort of the foundation is in urging Lexington to join the Compassionate Cities campaign, and the People's Portal would be "a living, breathing monument" to that commitment. Catto said she envisions films, talks, art exhibits and Tibetan monks making sand mandalas.
She said the building is a perfect space for that, on several levels.
"In the '60s, we were waking up to the idea that everybody matters," Catto said. "This will be a people's place, where anybody and everybody can come."