Hoby House Offers ‘Safe’ Retreat as a Faculty Home
Adele Starrs

In Baltimore, the Marriott Hotel uses its historic bank vault as a boardroom. In Laurel, Mississippi, the cool recesses of the former First National Bank vault are now stacked to the ceiling with vintage merlot, transformed into a wine cellar. As more Americans embrace digital banking, many financial institutions have been forced to shrink their brick-and-mortar presence, and as a result, many communities have turned to repurposing historic banks and their iconic vaults. 

When Blair Trustee Hoby Van Deusen ’54 and his wife, Nancy, both former bankers, saw that the former First National Bank on Main Street in Blairstown was available, the opportunity struck them. “For years, we had always peeked in the window and appreciated what an attractive building it was while it was on the market,” explained Mr. Van Deusen. “This seemed like the perfect way to help support Blair’s housing needs and renovate a beautiful building.” 

Blair Academy is pleased to announce the addition of this beautifully restored 1,700-square foot two-bedroom faculty apartment. Located at 16 Main Street in Blairstown, the renovated building furthers Blair’s strategic priorities of providing excellent faculty housing on or very near campus while also continuing the tradition of improving downtown Blairstown. 

Home to the former First National Bank of Blairstown, the site has a rich history, which is part of what attracted Mr. and Mrs. Van Deusen to the project. “We led the establishment of the historic district in Watertown, Connecticut, so we are very interested in historic buildings and we loved this one because of its beautiful architecture,” said Mrs. Van Deusen. Originally opened in 1911, the bank’s notable architectural features include an ornate marble facade supported by three polished columns of Vermont granite. Inside, a massive vault manufactured by the Diebold Safe and Lock Company of New York sits, complete with iconic swirling locks, leaden cylindrical bolts and 100 safe-deposit boxes, which were modern innovations in 1911. Both the building’s exterior and the vault have been retained; the vault now doubles as a new and unique office. 

Named “Hoby House,” the project will be funded entirely through philanthropic gifts, including a very generous lead gift from the Van Deusens. The renovated two-story building features two bedrooms, living room, dining area, sitting area, kitchen and office inside the vault, as well as a patio with a stone path to campus. 

Head of School Peter G. Curran notes that Blair has a long history of teachers who dedicate themselves deeply to their students, getting to know them well, investing in their well-being and developing their intellectual curiosity. Faculty accommodations like Hoby House support those individuals and make it possible to attract those incredible teachers and coaches who are student-centered and love what they do. 

And, not unlike old factories converted into airy urban lofts, Hoby House’s refurbished interior offers Blair teachers  a unique, modern take on one of Main Street’s historic gems. The new building provides the community with a highly coveted living space, for, as Mr. Van Deusen puts it, “No other faculty in the country will live in a vault!” 

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