Gift Ensures New Life for Terre Haute Landmark

Terre Haute’s former First Financial Bank will become the new home of CANDLES Holocaust Museum.

Former First Financial Bank
Former First Financial Bank, Terre Haute (Photo: Lee Lewellen)

Finding New Light

When CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center began to outgrow its space in Terre Haute, we knew the ideal location for the growing museum – the former main office of First Financial Bank in the heart of downtown. On June 14, First Financial Corporation generously donated the structure to Indiana Landmarks. Once restored, the building will become the museum’s new home.

Built as the United States Trust Company in 1903, the structure at 643 Wabash Avenue got a Neoclassical makeover in 1928, a year after United States Trust merged with the Terre Haute National Bank, creating Terre Haute National Bank and Trust Company. The bank’s main office remained at 643 Wabash until 1988, when it moved into newly constructed offices at 6th and Wabash.

After the move, the bank leased its former headquarters to the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber shared the building with other tenants —Wabash Valley Community Foundation, Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau and Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office. The tenants departed one by one, and Indiana Landmarks’ Western Regional Office was the last tenant in the building we vacated in 2008.

Chicago architect Solon Beman designed the structure. Terre Haute architectural firm Johnson, Miller, Miller & Yeager was awarded the ‘20s renovation project, with Taylor-Palmer Company of Milwaukee responsible for the redesign of the main banking hall. Renovations included a reconstruction of the building’s limestone façade and a grand new three-story banking hall with Tennessee and Belgium marble floors, accents of black & gold marble and limestone, American walnut wainscoting, and a stunning ornamental plaster coffered barrel-vaulted ceiling with a central skylight.

The 1928 redesign also saw the addition of seven murals by Italian-American artist Vincent Aderente (1880-1941) of New York City. His murals use female allegorical figures to represent various aspects of banking: thrift, success, wealth, power, trust, mining, transportation, factories, industry and agriculture. Placed in the lunettes at the base of the ceiling, the arch-shaped oil-on-canvas murals – the only Aderente murals in Indiana – have been damaged by roof leaks and will require restoration.

In addition to gifting the property, First Financial added a cash contribution of $110,000 to help jump-start the rehabilitation. We’ll stabilize the building over the next six months before passing ownership to CANDLES to complete the job. Indiana Landmarks will retain a preservation covenant that guarantees perpetual protection of the structure.

Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor and her sister twin sister Miriam opened the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in 1995 to fight prejudice and hatred through education about the Holocaust. CANDLES stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors. After an arson fire destroyed the museum in 2003, it reopened in 2005. It is Indiana’s only Holocaust museum, and the only organization in the world dedicated to the memory of the victims and survivors of Josef Mengele’s medical experimentation on twins at Auschwitz. Thousands of people, including many school groups, have visited CANDLES. For more information, visit

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