TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A historic part of downtown Terre Haute is getting a new purpose.
Thursday afternoon, Indiana Landmarks announced that the First Financial Corporation, the parent company of First Financial Bank, has donated the former First Financial main office to Indiana Landmarks. The building at 643 Wabash Avenue has been around since 1903. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
CANDLES is an acronym for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. CANDLES, Inc. was founded in 1984 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization by Eva Mozes Kor with help from her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zieger, to launch an effort to locate other surviving Mengele twins. As a result of their efforts, Eva and Miriam were able to locate 122 individual Mengele twins living in ten countries and four continents. The search for more twins continues to this day.
The building will remain an integral part of history in the community. The building will be restored, with the intention of making it the new home of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
“On behalf of our board of directors and shareholders, First Financial is pleased to help preserve a building known to generations of people in this area,” First Financial’s CEO and President Norman L. Lowery said. “As our main office headquarters for 60 years, it represents a significant part of the bank’s history of service to the community.”
In addition to donating the building, First Financial is also donating $110,000 to help Indiana Landmarks to start the renovation process. In the next six months, Indiana Landmarks will stabilize the structure, including replacing the roof.
Indiana Landmarks intends to pass ownership to CANDLES while retaining a protective covenant on the building in perpetuity. Indiana Landmarks told News 10 this project may push the $2 million mark to complete.
CANDLES is growing and wanted more space for offices, exhibits, and public programs. CANDLES and Indiana Landmarks approached First Financial about the donation of the building in 2016.
“We look forward to working with Indiana Landmarks in transforming 643 Wabash Avenue into a vibrant place for the community to gather and learn. In addition to being closer to our partner, Indiana State University, CANDLES will increase the synergy among museums and other arts and culture organizations that already call downtown Terre Haute their home,” said CANDLES Executive Director Dorothy Chambers.
First Financial completed construction on its current headquarters at 6th and Wabash in June 1988. After that, the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce occupied 643 Wabash. The Chamber shared the structure with other tenants—Wabash Valley Community Foundation, Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau and Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office.