As rare a listing as the come, with nothing we’ve ever posted coming close in terms of restoration efforts nor regionally historical MCM importance. This ES&A Bank designed by Richard Apperly was opened in 1957, one of perhaps hundreds of landmark Modernist commercial buildings of the post-war boom built in regional Australia (back before economical rationalism decided regional Australia didn’t exist anymore). Spending the last 50 years spiralling into a familiar oblivion and now yanked back into life with sheer grit. We shan’t go into too much detail here for suffice to say the vendor, who is reluctantly selling, has an entire website dedicated not only to the provenance of this incredible building but also details the blood sweat and tears put into the bank in the last 3 years to bring it back to unheralded glory. And what unbending yakka it has taken! As the owner states;
“I personally saved and restored every original feature, spending over 60 hours a week for 7 months on the project……I have poured my heart and soul into the building, ensuring that every detail was as close to original as possible.”
It shows. On par with the most heavily and publicly financed and manned restoration works, this effort of private dedication and funding is a majestic rebirth of a building in totality. Every aspect studied and renewed. Every material considered. Every ounce of craftsmanship cherished and recaptured and in some cases enhanced with the only the most deft design eye. From the iconic staircase, the entry reception, the exterior stone work and (our favourite) the bank vault itself. This bank building in a tiny, Mid-Coast town (pop. 5000) on a winding riverbank now sits as a museum of Mid-Century Australia.
Indeed, one could easily conduct a walking tour of the last 150 years of rural culture as seen in the untouched streetscape with a MCM building now taking its place now among the old familiar institutions: the Saturday NRL match-ups in the oval across the road. A shandy in the (also wonderfully intact) Federation pub. A bit of Sunday penance at ‘Our Lady’s’ round the corner, followed by some old-timey, white Australia antiquing in the Wingham Museum right next door.
And now the big question: what next for the ES&A Bank? Shall its rebirth be the start of a new chapter for itself and even Wingham overall? Can a fitting, most likely creative, business continue on this wonderful path? Or shall it be bought and forgotten? Perhaps worse still picked up and destroyed through ignorance? To direct fate in the best way, we make the national call out for a the new owner. An entity who knows decentralisation is the key to the working future (NBN willing). Maybe a type who easily straddles the regional culture and more urbane aesthetics. Or maybe just someone who will adore this building as much as the current owner does? We wonder.
**Update** Well, it’s taken a while but this wonderful building has now been sold in the best possible transfer as mulled over when we listed- it has gone to a business with regional interest and an owner with MCM running through their veins as the vendor attests:
“I have finally sold her and the good news is that the new owner just loves Mid Century Modern. It is now the offices for Pilot Childcare Management. They run a chain of childcare centres along the NSW east coast. They love the building so much that they purchased all of the furniture as they did not want to change anything. All of the staff are so excited to be working in such a beautiful building. They even went out on the first day they moved in a bought new plants for the garden wall and lots of MCM nick nacks to keep the vibe. The new owner, Adam, has decreed that nothing that is not on era is to pass through the door! They are even going to keep the signage as it was originally.”
How we adore a Scooby Doo ending.