The Farmers National Bank (Casa Capelli) Building
By
Darrell E. Hamilton
 
       The Farmers National Bank decided in 1900 to build a new building. Their old building had been in use since 1848; a year after the bank was charted. On December 1, 1900 the directors purchased a building on Main Street from H. L. Morrison.
       The building was occupied by Oliver Henson’s Tonsorial parlors. A tonsorial parlor was a fancy name for a barber shop that usually offered the extras that a barber shop would offer. Usually the barber or barbers considered their work an art.
       Work on the new building was to start the following summer. However one small detail was overlooked. Oliver Henson still had two years left on his lease on the building and the bank was unable to convince Mr. Henson to move.
       In the spring of 1903 Oliver Henson moved his barber shop to a new location on Main Street and the old frame Building was razed.
       The new structure was to be 22x110 and be two stories in height with a stone front.
       On June 25, 1903 ground was broken for the new bank building.
       The building was to be very ornate with a beautiful stained glass ceiling. The ceiling has been rumored to be a Tiffany ceiling. However I have been unable to verify this. The only thing that I have found mentioning the ceiling was how beautiful the stained glass ceiling was. After further research I have found the glass for the stain glass ceiling more than likely came from The Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company. Louis Comfort Tiffany manufactured almost three hundred tons of glass in five thousand colors for sale. The best stain glass manufactured in the world came from his factory. Your finer buildings were usually built with his glass. The question is, who designed and installed the stained the glass ceiling that now adorns Casa Capelli restaurant. From what information that I have been able to ascertain, the ceiling does contain Tiffany glass. If anyone has any information on the design and the creation of the ceiling, please get in contact with me.
       The building was constructed of Indiana limestone with a Grecian design. Two large Corinthian columns adorn the front of the building.
       The interior of the bank at the time was finished in rich mahogany. Beautiful stained Giavona glass windows were throughout the bank. The floors were done in English veined Italian marble.
        Many conveniences were installed for customers. A restroom, a telephone booth, which was probably the first telephone booth in Ashtabula, two coupon rooms where customers may retire in strict seclusion to look over there papers and a waiting room. Apparently the only thing the bank lacked was food. However on opening day refreshments and some type of hors d’oeuvre were served at the grand opening celebration. Apparently we have given up all those things for an ATM machine and a drive up teller.
       During construction of the bank, one of the largest cut stones for the front of the building was damaged while being unloaded at the Nickel Plate freight house. The completion of the front of the bankbuilding was delayed somewhat because a new stone had to be ordered.
       Even though there was no air conditioning in 1904, the bank was built with a large ventilator on the roof of the building which did a fair job in keeping the building cool in hot weather.
       The building was equipped with electric and gas lighting.
       There was also an employee’s room which all employees had a restroom and their own lockers.
       A new cement walk was laid on June 11, 1904. I’m sure that some of you can remember the heated sidewalks in the winter in front of the Farmers National Bank building. In the winter time I can remember feeling the heat on the bottom of my shoes. There is no mention of a heated sidewalk when the building was built. The heated sidewalks probably came at a later date probably when the bank was expanded and remodeled in 1956.
       On Saturday August 20, 1904 the bank held open house almost fourteen months after construction started on the bank. Many people came to opening ceremonies to view the beautiful building and the largest vaults in Ashtabula County. An orchestra played and refreshments were served. Some people even danced. A lot of people showed up early trying to be the first depositor but the honor went to President Kunkle who made the first deposit the night before.
       In 1976 Farmers National Bank built a new building and moved down the street. The old bank building was converted into a restaurant. On June 28, 1995 Oscar and Alexandra Tomasio purchased the building and named the restaurant Casa Capelli meaning house of Capelli. Capelli was Oscar’s mother’s maiden name.
              On August 25, 2004 the Tomasios will be holding an open house in celebration of the building being a hundred years old. Casa Capelli will be offering an all you can eat Italian buffet for $9.99 from 5:00 p. m. until close. All I can say is if you want to look at the most beautiful building in Ashtabula, look at some history and get a deal for $9.99; you’d had better get there before I do while Oscar and Alexandra still have some food available on the buffet.
Farmers National Bank - circa 1932
Casa Capelli - The former Farmers National Bank today