RICES LANDING – The 100-year-old building in Rices Landing that first housed the former Rices Landing National Bank and more recently the Bank of Sweets ice cream parlor, could soon have a new owner.
The Civic Organization for Community Outgrowth, a nonprofit organization that had worked over the years to better the community and which owns the building, has dissolved and intends to transfer the property to the Rices Landing Volunteer Fire Company.
The building, constructed in 1914, has been vacant for a number of years.
COCO didn’t want to see the building torn down and arranged to transfer the title to the fire company, which will maintain it, said Ryan Belski, Rices Landing mayor and fire company president. The fire company has no plans for it at this time, he said.
Formed following the community’s celebration of the bicentennial in 1976, COCO was involved in a number of activities aimed at promoting and revitalizing Rices Landing.
Among other things, the group built the gazebo in Min-Love Community Park, next to the bank, helped obtain the docks near the Rices Landing lock wall on the Monongahela River, sponsored the community’s annual river festival and rehabilitated the old bank building.
The group, however, has been inactive for several years, said Norma Kline, a founding member. “We hung on as long as we could,” she said. But over the years, membership dropped off. “So many folks who did belong died or became too old to be involved,” she said.
It was decided that COCO would transfer the building to another nonprofit, the fire company. It had been vacant for years. “What concerns me is the building is just sitting there,” Kline said.
A hearing before Greene County Court to approve the transfer of the property will be held Feb. 12.
The building was originally constructed by Rices Landing National Bank, which formed in 1903 and first occupied a room across the street in the Monongahela Hotel. The bank moved into the new building in 1915.
The bank was acquired by the Gallatin National Bank in 1978. In 1985, the bank opened a new building in Dry Tavern and closed the Rices Landing bank. Gallatin donated the building to Greene County Historical Society, which in 1993 sold it for $1 to COCO.
COCO refurbished the building’s interior and turned it into the Bank of Sweets, a soda fountain and ice cream parlor. The building also housed a restaurant for several years and a lock and dam museum in the basement.
The building was last used only on special occasions, such as during the community’s river festival or its Christmas light-up night. COCO also used the building for a monthly pancake breakfast fundraiser.
The building is structurally sound and has a fairly new roof, Belski said. The fire company had considered using the building itself, though the interior is in poor condition and the company currently doesn’t have the financial resources to make the improvements, he said.
The fire company, however, will maintain the building and try to find somebody who can make good use of it, he said. If in the end, it can’t find a use for it and has to sell it, the company will at least ensure the building goes to somebody who is not going to tear it down, he said.