YOU CAN’T SAFELY send a honey-ginger latte through a pneumatic banking tube, it turns out. But don’t think Tyler and Alissa Hodge, owners of Lucabe Coffee Co. in Columbus, didn’t give it their best shot. When the couple purchased the city’s iconic 1960s Irwin Union and Trust bank building last year with the goal of repurposing it as their second coffeehouse in town, they took great pains to preserve (and in some cases, restore) the striking glazed-brick structure’s architectural integrity. That was especially true of its four 50-foot-high towers, glazed-brick “legs” that gave this midcentury modern landmark designed by noted Chicago-based modernist architect Harry Weese its nickname: the Dead Horse. “We decided to go back to the original design and serve coffee through the tower window,” Tyler says. Lucabe
They also cleared out the previous occupant’s office layout, a cubical farm, to provide clean, unobstructed sight lines. “The original design was a beautiful straight eye shot straight to the vault. We wanted to return the room to its original intent of it being an open, airy location,” says Alissa. The couple—who are quick to point out that prior to the coffeehouse makeover, their only major restoration project was the bathroom in their own 1960s home—also turned the old bank manager’s office into a cozy open loft, brought in the electrical work and plumbing necessary to build out a kitchen, and spent weeks stripping carpet and layers of glue off the floors to reveal gleaming slate green tiles that were part of the original decor and, according to Alissa, “worth every minute of work.”
The finished product is not only stunning in its own right, but also an homage to Weese’s Mad Men-era vision. For reference, the Hodge’s framed and hung some of the architect’s original sketches on the walls along the entrance steps.
With the return of warmer weather, customers can enjoy their Tuxedo Lattes and biscuit sandwiches on Lucabe’s outdoor patio that overlooks Haw Creek, where the white noise of a low-head damn drowns out the traffic. “The intent was for it to be like a castle on a moat,” Tyler says of the original landscaping. “It’s in the middle of town, and it’s one of the most peaceful places you can be.” 2531 Eastbrook Plaza, Columbus, 812-799-0744