Beneath a weathered exterior, Thomas M. Manson saw a building’s potential and the opportunity to restore to the public a piece of Terre Haute’s history.
To most, the building at 131 S. Fourth St. in Terre Haute is known as a former Vigo Discount Tire store, or even earlier as a Kawasaki dealership or a Kroger store.
But renovations are underway and, in April, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance will open an office as the first tenant and the first of five business suites at Fourth and Walnut streets.
“We acquired the building late last year,” Manson said. “The building had a four-car bay, which has been enclosed. The building has a rich history and we left some architectural features, such as 1870s exposed brick and a 13-foot entrance-way when it used to be City Hall many, many years ago,” said Manson, chief executive officer of Bishop Real Estate, a company that serves as both the property owner and a licensed contractor.
Manson calls the project Old City Market, after the Terre Haute City Market, built in 1873.
“It was the first city market. The city market is like the farmers’ market today. The larger brick building is the remnant of the market built in 1873. That was later turned into City Hall and was the police department building,” Manson said.
Bishop Real Estate purchased the property Oct. 27 for $125,000, county records show. The property was purchased from Gerald L. Modesitt, who was an uncle to Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt.
“He was gracious to show me the space and sold me the building,” Manson said. “About a week later, he caught COVID-19 and about two weeks after that he passed [at the age of 88]. He never got to see it renovated, which was something he wanted to see.”
“The main building is approximately 6,000 square feet, with 21-foot ceilings, exposed brick, hardwood floors and 1800s-era window arches. It will be really cool once it’s all completed,” Manson said.
The four other business suites range in size from 1,000 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet.
Anna Wetnight will serve as the Indiana Farm Bureau agent in the new office space.
“It is pretty cool with the original brick exposed. It will be absolutely stunning when it is done,” said Wetnight, who takes possession of the space in March. Wetnight plans to have a soft opening in April, with a grand opening sometime in May or June.
“It will be a perfect location for what I do, and it does have a lot of visibility,” Wetnight said. “We have signage going up on three sides of the building because of the visibility there.”
That part of the building used to be Vigo Discount Tire and the car bays are now enclosed with windows. However, there are window/doors that can open up to allow a fresh-air conference area.
“They are partial-height garage doors that go straight up, which open to the outside in the entrance and conference room,” Manson said. “That area has 15-foot ceilings with the exposed 1870s brick and glass office doors with transoms.”
The renovation is not the first for Manson.
He formed Bishop Real Estate in 2016 and his first undertaking was renovating a building at 645 Ohio St.
Now, that building has tenants — ranging in address from 635 to 655 Ohio St. — that include offices for certain Vigo County court programs, as well as Comfort Keepers and Judson Family Vision Care.
“It was a brick building built in 1920 and as that renovation project on Ohio Street finished up, we began to look for something else,” Manson said, which led him to start on the Old City Market project.
“Terre Haute has so much potential. It just needs to be exposed,” Manson said.
Manson also keeps busy with other business ventures. He is the founder and CEO of Police Technical, which offers online law enforcement training in computer applications, online investigations, web-based software development and consulting. Manson served for just over a year with the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas from 1998 to 1999.
He has a master’s degree in communication from Wichita State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication theory/research from Indiana State University.