Bye, bank. Hello home? Or a pub?

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board July 16, 2012 11:31 am

The news that Bank of America is closing its Baker City branch in October wasn’t exactly shocking.

Most of the nation’s major banks — B of A, based in Charlotte, N.C., ranks second in assets to JPMorgan Chase — have pared their operations since the financial meltdown four years ago.

But this inconvenience for the bank’s local customers also creates an opportunity for the community.

That’s because Bank of America’s Baker City branch is not the typical boring banking center, architecturally speaking.

It’s located in one of Baker City’s older — and to our eyes, one of the more interesting — Victorian homes.

The Ison House, at 1790 Washington Ave., was built in 1887. The Queen Anne-style home was built of brick brought from Portland. According to Historic Baker City Inc’s guide to local architecture, the home’s original owner, Luther B. Ison, deemed locally fired brick too soft for his tastes.

Not to disparage banks, and the potential loss of jobs from the bank’s closures is unfortunate, but we’d be pleased if the Ison House were sold and used for either of two purposes.

The most obvious would be that someone with a surfeit of money and patience buys the home and restores it for its original use: as a home.

The more intriguing idea, though, has to do with brew.

McMenamins of Portland is renowned for turning antique buildings into restaurants. Among the company’s locations is an old house in South Salem that’s not all that different from the Ison House.

Baker City already has two brewpubs, of course — Barley Brown’s and Bull Ridge. 

Adding a McMenamins could bolster our reputation as a destination for beer connoisseurs, and give a boost to the two existing businesses that serve a similar clientiele.