Hamilton’s Vision Source collecting decades of city history in new High Street office

Thomas Nye saw something in the 90-year-old building at 644 High St. that others overlooked, or couldn’t imagine for it.

The 4,200-square-foot building has been completely renovated in a year-long process and appointments will begin Monday as the new location for Nye’s Vision Source practice, which Dr. Hugh Baker launched a century ago in 1920.

A building that was separated into three units has been converted into one, with leadership of Jason and Tammy Snyder’s Tamz Construction and design work by Nye’s wife, Jennifer.

It’s a milestone for the attractiveness of that part of High Street as visitors approach downtown from the east. As soon as Nye bought the building, he removed an unattractive awning.

Work began by gutting the building’s flooring down to the dirt, which involved removing five or six inches’ worth. Under several layers of flooring was hardwood maple flooring, which Nye and neighbors took up themselves. Two rooms now have the original maple floor, which has been refinished.

Lintels will be added that were removed from the former Beckett Paper Co. building.

Marble across the base of the building’s front was reclaimed from the old Hamilton High School that was on Dayton Street. A vault door from Mosler Safe Co. will be one of the first things visitors see. Some solid brick walls were repositioned. Tin ceilings from other Hamilton buildings also are reused.

A board room table from the old Second National Bank in the early 1900′s will be in the break room as a conference table.

“We’ve incorporated a lot of Hamilton history in it,” Nye said. “We had to re-create the entire storefront, and only about a third of the storefront that you will see now is original. The rest had been trashed over the years. But there was enough there that we patterned the other two-thirds after it.”

A ribbon-cutting will happen Tuesday, but it will be low-key because of the covid pandemic.

“What Dr. Nye has managed to do with that building, working with Tamz, he literally had vision for it,” said Mallory Greenham of the city’s Economic Development Department. “He’s really taken what was kind of a box of a building and transformed it into a true, historic-looking storefront. We’re just really thankful for his investment there and happy to have him on High Street.”

Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said the building’s transformation is a positive for High Street, the city, and Vision Source itself.

“There’s a building that was in use, but this is bringing a top-notch, first-class business to High Street in a building that wasn’t necessarily that before,” Bates said.

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The building has housed “a car dealership, it’s been an ice cream shop, a religious gift shop, a photography and printing shop forever, it was Congressman Tom Kindness’ local office at one point, it’s been a barber shop, a beauty shop,” Nye said. “Back in the ‘30s, it was a soda and cigar shop, which I found an interesting combination.

“I jokingly said I wanted to keep it under seven figures, and I hope I’m still right in that estimation,” he said about the renovation.

“I do want to be part of the renaissance of High Street,” Nye said. “I think that’s an important intersection that really welcomes people into the downtown, and I think what we’re doing there will certainly enhance that welcoming aspect.”

The new office will be handicapped accessible and will have more exam rooms. It also will be outfitted with upgraded technology. There are no plans for immediate hirings, but the new space can accommodate three doctors and a doubling of the current staff of five.

“When we first bought it, either people didn’t know the building existed, or they sort of gave me the look like, ‘Oh, that building?’ and thought I had horns growing out of my head. And now, I hear lots of comments about how we have cleaned up that area and people notice the building,” Nye said. “So that does make us feel good.”

Nye hopes to have an open house in the spring, if it can be done safely.

“But I’ve told folks in the meantime, they’re welcome to make appointments and check out all the nifty features,” he said.

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