Deerfield residents will get a chance on Saturday to walk through a century-old building tentatively being eyed for a Village Hall.
Local Realtor Alan Mikkelson of Badger Reality, who’s listing the building at 51 N. Main St. for owners Ron Aplin and Mark Ringsmuth, has scheduled an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
The building, constructed in 1916, has over time on its two floors housed a variety of businesses known to include a bank, pharmacy, a dentist, doctor, drugstore, dry goods/grocery store, jeweler and most recently, the law offices of Aplin & Ringsmuth.
Ron Aplin, who walked through the site last week with Mikkelson, said it was extensively renovated before the law firm bought it, by former owners who envisioned operating an ice cream and pizza shop there. The law office finished the renovations, with some additional touches that included adding a modern glassed-in conference room.
The first floor, with reception, staff workroom and breakroom, large meeting and conference spaces, totals about 3,000 total square feet, Mikkelson said.
The building also has a second floor that contains a studio apartment and a series of individual offices that were used by the law firm’s staff.
While the first floor is handicapped accessible, the second floor is not. How it would be used remains unclear; the first floor alone offers more than the amount of space on the first floor of the current Village Hall, Mikkelson said.
The building has six off-street parking spaces in the back, is across an alleyway from a large public parking lot at Deerfield Fireman’s Park and is across West Nelson Street from the Deerfield Public Library.
Mikkelson said the entire building is listed for $450,000.
The building’s greatest local legacy is as a bank, and some of that history remains intact.
In a large room some have envisioned for Village Board meetings, remain the original bank vaults, their decorative metalwork restored and the combinations still active.
Village Board member Dave Wilkinson, who said he remembers when the Bank of Deerfield operated in the building before it moved a few blocks south in 1980, cautioned that the board has made no decisions on how to proceed.
He said the building is one of a host of options being considered by the village, that also include constructing a new village hall on a yet undetermined site.
Wilkinson said if the village were to buy the former bank building, one concern he has is its flat roof.
Flat roofs, he said, “are nothing but trouble, unfortunately.”
He said another question mark is what happens to the current Village Hall, which is historic in its own right, used for more than a century for village offices.
What would happen to the Deerfield Historical Museum, now housed on the second floor of the current Village Hall, also remains unclear.
Wilkinson said the former bank building appears large enough to be able to hold village elections; currently, elections are held at the Deerfield Fire Station.
Wilkinson said the lack of meeting space, with no more than about a half-dozen spectators able to crowd in to observe village meetings, at the current Village Hall, is a longtime problem.
“We need to do something about a Village Hall, whether we build a new one or buy something like this,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s a lot bigger than what we’ve got now,” he said.
Wilkinson said village staff and most of the Village Board have walked through the former bank building in recent weeks. The issue of how to proceed on a Village Hall has been discussed at length recently in closed-door village meetings, he said.
Mikkelson, who grew up in Deerfield and remembers when the site was a bank, called it a “a great option.”
Wilkinson said one of the most important things the Village Board needs now, is to hear from local residents on what they think of the former bank building space, and the overall idea of relocating the Village Hall.
“I’d really like to hear from people, what local residents think.”
On Monday night, Aprl 8, the Deerfield Village Board voted to collect proposals from companies for a municipal needs assessment on village buildings.
Board Member Jerry McMullen said the assessment will “take a look at what buildings we currently have, and give the village board options on how to proceed moving forward with all village buildings.”
These proposals will prioritize the search for a new Village Hall location, after the board decided in November to look into a new space. The board discussed this ongoing project in closed session April 8.
Mikkelson said visitors to Saturday’s open house will be able to fill out a survey on their views.
Aplin said his eye caught the building when it was vacant about 15 years ago. He and Ringsmuth bought it in 2005, and finished the renovations.
“I was driving past this building all the time, and I thought it would make a good law office,” he recalls.
Among the signature things that Aplin did with the building, was to line its walls with blown-up historic photos of Deerfield.
For about the past 5 years, Deerfield Elementary School third-graders have visited as they learn about local history. Others have stopped by too, he said, looking for relatives in the photos and reminiscing.
Aplin said if the village buys the building, he’ll leave the photos.
He called the site “the best building in Deerfield.”
“I think it’s perfect for a Village Hall,” he said. “We have a nice building here; I think anybody who gets it is lucky.”
-Madeline Westberg contributed to this story