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(PHOTOS) Unboxed: Casper’s round midcentury masterpiece transformed into mixed-use events space

The Wyoming National Bank building opened in 1964 and is recognized for its innovative modernist architecture. The newly-renovated bank building is now home to the McGinley companies. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Casper had plenty of things to like when Diane and Joseph McGinley moved here a dozen years ago.

The mountain, people, and job opportunities being among them.

One other thing also stood out to Diane: A bank.

“I immediately noticed it,” she said, “and I thought, ‘What is this beautiful midcentury modern building doing in the middle of Wyoming?'”

At the time that building was a Wells Fargo branch on the corner of East 1st Street and South Durbin. Commissioned by the long-defunct Wyoming National Bank, it was designed by acclaimed Denver modernist architect Charles Deaton and opened in 1964, at the height of Casper’s post-war energy boom.

The M Building was opened in 1964 as the Wyoming National Bank’s new headquarters. In recent years it was a Wells Fargo branch before being sold. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

The round, domed banking lobby consists of 17 leaf-shaped blades, cast in molds on site from concrete and weighing 21 tons each, according to the Society of Architectural Historians. The lobby was then surrounded by an office building that hugged the dome.

Diane couldn’t help doing some research on the building, and soon became something of a Deaton superfan.

“I love his quote about how people are not rectangular and buildings shouldn’t be either,” she said, “and he went with those themes of having a lot of soft lines and different shapes rather than just squares and rectangles.”

Diane and her radiologist husband run multiple businesses related to musculoskeletal radiology and sports medicine, and also hold more than 120 patents thanks to their development of specialized medical equipment. When Wells Fargo decided to put the aging building up for sale a few years ago, Diane, who is Director of Operations of the McGinley companies, saw an opportunity to put all of their operations under one very unique, round roof.

The McGinley Clinic, along with other McGinley companies, occupies much of the upstairs office area that surrounds the dome. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

They bought the building, and embarked on a three-year, multi-million-dollar rehabilitation and renovation. That meant asbestos removal, systems upgrades, maintenance on the electrical and plumbing issues that had been ignored for decades, and modifications of the office areas into medical clinics and diagnostic centers.

“Sixty-five percent of our patients come from out of state or out of country,” she said, “and I really wanted them to come in here and have the space reflect the level of care they’re receiving.”

The building makes a statement, she says, especially considering their goal to provide destination medicine to people from around the globe, including Olympians and professional athletes. “It’s a building that lets you know you’re in Casper and not in just any other city,” she said.

As the new offices and clinics materialized, Diane started putting more focus on the building’s most striking feature — the huge rotunda.

Diane said she wanted to use the space not only as a lobby for the clinics by day, but also a performance and events venue by evening.

Sunlight pours in as crews put the finishing touches on an extensive recent remodel of the historic Wyoming National Bank Building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

“I realized how beautiful the windows are in this space, and if you took away the bank teller station we could really open it up and share it with more people,” she said.

That part of their business is now christened as Events at the M, which started taking bookings this month. But there was still a lot of work to do before getting to this point.

Over the decades, Deaton’s clean, open creation was cluttered and modified for various practical reasons. Wells Fargo put their bank teller kiosks smack in the middle, and the once-tall dome was covered with a lowered ceiling in part to tame some wild echoes and reverberations.

Crews install specially designed panels on the ceiling inside the M Building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

A unique lighting design by Deaton that used hundreds of wavy plastic modifiers over the entire ceiling covering fluorescent tubes had also been long removed, so Diane and the remodeling team started from scratch.

Acoustic engineers from Denver were hired to help with the ceiling design, which ended up utilizing specialized panels to deaden the sound and absorb echoes just enough that the room sounds live but not unruly. It worked well enough that there was no need for digital sound-cancellation trickery, said Diane.

The lighting uses a state-of-the-art computer-controlled LED system that allows nearly limitless color, pattern and luminosity choices. In the center of the dome is a gold and crystal chandelier that she designed and had custom-fabricated. Lastly, layers of flooring were removed and replaced with a sealed black-and gold-specked treatment.

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

“It’s really cool, and when we play music in here it sounds amazing,” she said. “I think people will be able to have beautiful weddings and dance parties without issues.”

Diane says combining a destination health clinic with an events space is unusual, but she wanted to find the best way to share Casper’s most unique building with the community.

“It’s about being able to share, to bring in events for nonprofits and weddings, and create a premiere space that people can enjoy,” she said.

Eventually she’d like the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To accomplish that, the building’s exterior and even precise hue of white paint has been restored according to Deaton’s plans.

“I really wanted to preserve the original intent of the building, and I think Charles Deaton would think this is pretty cool,” she said. “I wish he was still around to see how his building is here and how it’s going to stay here for many years to come.”

Events at the M is accepting bookings for weddings and events. Inquiries can be sent here through its website or at its Facebook page.

The Wyoming National Bank building opened in 1964 and is recognized for its innovative modernist architecture. The newly-renovated bank building is now home to the McGinley companies. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
New LED lighting can be manipulated into numerous hues and brightness settings in the historic rotunda. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
A corner office in the newly-renovated M Building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Diane McGinley holds one of the surviving pieces of a lighting installation originally in the rotunda of the M Building. Hundreds of the plastic shapes were placed over fluorescent lights to diffuse and shape light in the round lobby. Lighting design was a rare concept in the 60s, when commercial spaces tended to be mostly uniformly lit by fluorescent panels. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
One of the surviving original desks designed by the building’s architect sits in Diane McGinley’s office. Most of the original custom-designed and -built chairs and desks were sent to the dumpster during a remodel years back, said McGinley. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
The lobby of the McGinley Clinic is tucked upstairs overlooking the familiar round rotunda of the M Building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Pushpins mark a world map where patients of the McGinley Clinic live. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
One of the McGinley patient meeting rooms is seen at the M Building. Large TV screens are used to examine patient scans and treatment options. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Offices surround the familiar round lobby of the M Building. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
One of the garden level areas is now used by Wind City Physical Therapy. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
The garden level of the familiar round building is seen through a basement window. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Shadows fall on part of the M Building recently. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Each concrete leaf was cast on site during construction and hoisted into place. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
New panels are installed on the ceiling of the M Building during recent renovation. To alleviate harsh echoes, the owners hired an acoustic engineer who chose specific panels for a balanced sound. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)