Twenty years ago, ArtsWestchester found a new home in White Plains’ first skyscraper: the abandoned People’s National Bank & Trust building, on 31 Mamaroneck Avenue. Today, they use the edifice to promote their mission to support and aide the diversity of the arts in Westchester.ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam saw potential in the architecture, even before they made the decision to buy it. The purchase saved the skyscraper from demolition, and the Arts Council got a brand-new HQ.“I remember,” Langsam recalls, “when we sat around with the board in the cold bank room… no heat, shivering with electric heaters on the floor, blowing fuses by the minute, trying to decide whether the Arts Council could really muster the money, labor, and community support to actually transform this building.”They started with a $75,000 asbestos removal and focused on renovating necessities like heat and restrooms. Then they restored the bank’s façade, incorporating elements of brass and steel, to maintain the ambience of 1920s New York. They also kept some key aspects of the bank, including the bank vault door.
To perpetuate the building’s 1920s-New York ambience, key features were retained and restored, including the bank’s massive vault door, which now serves as the portal to a discrete display area.The space continues to evolve. Architect John Sullivan, who has been working with the Westchester Arts Council for more than two decades and currently occupies the seventh floor, recently hung new exterior signage that reflects the premises as a creative-arts center.Langsam says they will be commiss-ioning a public, street-art project in collaboration with the city of White Plains, Kite Realty Group’s City Center, and White Plains BID that will add color to Mamaroneck Avenue and further identify the historic building as a hub of creative activity.
The Peoples National Bank & Trust building on Mamaroneck Ave was White Plains’ first skyscraper.