By BRIAN BOHNERT
Conceived during the stock market crash and deeply rooted in the legend of John Dillinger, 125 S. Main St. has gone through a lot throughout its 80-year history.
Though, no matter who or what has inhabited the space, the historic old bank building continues to thrive at the heart of downtown Fostoria.
Don Hanson, a lifetime Fostorian, purchased the building in the fall of 2010, rescuing it from desertion.
“When I acquired it, it was empty,” Hanson said. “The last tenant who was in there tried to sell the property for a couple years.”
Prior to its short-lived vacancy, however, the structure had a storied past.
The building was constructed throughout the 1920s, Hanson said, opening right after the Great Depression in the mid-1930s. Amongst the tenants that occupied suites in the multi-story structure was the First National Bank of Fostoria. As the centerpiece, the bank consisted of a large lobby, a massive vault and a two-story tall ceiling.
“It took a lot of construction,” he said. It took a lot of manpower to build that thing.”
According to local legend, employees of the bank witnessed a rather deadly withdrawal not long after opening for business. On May 3, 1934, the infamous Dillinger gang allegedly robbed the bank, escaping with a take of thousands of dollars.
Banks remained the heart of the structure for many more years, living in the shadow of the crime. With the departure of First National Bank came Ohio Bank, then Tri-County Bank and even a Huntington Bank, which stayed the cornerstone of the building until 1985, Hanson said.
In the years that followed, the historic bank building continued to house everything from dentist offices and counseling centers to attorneys and hairdressers. As businesses of all sizes moved in and out, the famous bank site sat empty after Huntington left.
After purchasing the unoccupied structure at an auction three and a half years ago, Hanson decided to reopen the former bank as a rental hall. Dubbed the BANKquet Hall, the room has been used to host everything from wedding receptions and bridal showers to birthday parties and arts council events.
“Whatever kind of event you can dream up, you can have it there,” Hanson said.
The hall can be rented for $50 per hour or $200 for a whole day. Nonprofit organizations, however, are awarded a discount of $35 per hour or $150 a day. Hanson said he has seen quite a bit of success with the hall, but he hopes to generate more activity to increase bookings.
“The way it’s going in there with the BANKquet Hall, the people coming in to enjoy the atmosphere, it is working pretty well,” he said.
Keeping in line with the historic building’s lineage, Hanson said, are its current tenants: Fostoria Community Arts Council; G.I.B.S. — Joyous Living, LLC.; Britt Lanicek Photography; Hoover Law Office and Legacy Title, LLC; Charles Hall, attorney; Peltier Photography; Lutheran Social Services; Sacred Assembly of Prayer; and Moseka Studio, a digital video and audio recording studio owned by Hanson himself.
Hedges and Highways Ministries also utilizes the building’s top floor, he said.
A musician most of his life, Hanson and his brother Ron first opened Moseka Studio in 1980, setting up shop at 110 N. Main St. According to the business’ website, Hanson sold the building in 1998 and continued to do home and mobile production work until moving into the bank building.
Moseka Studio is open to the public on an appointment-only basis for audio, video and web projects. According to the website, The Hanson Brothers have collaborated on several recordings, including the Push band in 1984, a 1979 recording of the album “Smut” from The Other Half.
Most recently, Hanson and his brother worked with Mary and Bob Fry on a Christian album. There are also a few projects set for the future, he said.
Hanson said he is looking to fill the property’s final suite. Anyone interested in inhabiting the spot is urged to email him at email@example.com or call 419-894-6393.
“It is pretty enjoyable being part of downtown,” he said. “I’ve lived in Fostoria my whole life so I have a lot of love for the city. And, this building is probably the nicest building in town.”
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