Story and Photos by Stefanie Jackson – The Office, a newly opened professional workspace in Belle Haven featuring open and private office space and high-speed internet, isn’t your average old building that has been repurposed and given a new lease on life.
Originally opened as the Belle Haven Bank in 1907, The Office is steeped in history, as is the backstory of the couple who owns and operates it, David and Dorie McCaleb.
The McCalebs moved to the Eastern Shore around 2005, but their story really starts with David McCaleb’s grandfather.
The late Walter Flavius McCaleb Jr., born in 1912, was a banker in Ohio who dreamed of moving to the countryside and becoming a farmer.
He and his family arrived on the Eastern Shore in 1947 to live on a farm he had purchased in Craddock Neck. McCaleb was “not well-received” by local bankers because he used his connections as a former Ohio banker to obtain loans for clients – some of whom were farmers – when his competitors couldn’t, David McCaleb said.
Walter McCaleb dabbled in farming but was not very successful. He soon moved on to the insurance business and started W.F. McCaleb Jr. Insurance, which he operated in the former bank on Belle Haven Road, which was built in 1906.
He rented the property at first, then he purchased it from Burleigh and Henrietta Mears in the late 1950s.
His son, Edwin Philip “Phil” McCaleb, also helped run the insurance company. Phil’s son David McCaleb was born in Nassawadox in 1971.
Phil McCaleb and his sisters took over the insurance business, and an addition to the building was built in 1987.
Fast forward to the 21st century and David McCaleb and his wife, Dorie McCaleb, were living in Colorado, where they met when she was in college and he was in the U.S. Air Force Academy.
David McCaleb left the military in 2000 and worked in finance for “corporate America” while his wife was an accountant who worked from home while raising their two children.
She left accounting and started an interior design firm with her sister, which her husband joined around 2002 or 2003. David McCaleb discovered the world of online business and ran a website that sold blinds and shutters.
Around 2005, the couple realized they needed to move to the Shore to care for aging parents. When Phil McCaleb died in 2015, he left behind the insurance business and its 10 employees, for which David McCaleb was now responsible.
The insurance business was moved to a new building on Route 13 in 2017, but the McCalebs still owned the old building on Belle Haven Road.
Dorie McCaleb, with her interior design experience, wanted to restore the historic property, but her husband was under too much stress at the time to consider taking on such a huge project. They agreed to sell the building.
After the property was up for sale for a year and a half but failed to attract a buyer, David McCaleb gave his wife his blessing to begin renovating the former bank and they took it off the market.
Dorie McCaleb unearthed many historical treasures during the demolition and heavy renovation that began in 2019. She discovered original hardwood flooring and the tin-paneled high ceiling, both of which had been buried under previous renovations that had attempted to modernize the old building.
McCaleb spent nine months up on scaffolding, fixing the ceiling. She explained that in the early 1900s, when the bank was built, pressed tin ceiling panels were popular because they could be painted white to resemble the intricately detailed, molded plaster of Paris ceilings that were fashionable during the Baroque period that lasted through the mid-17th century.
The pressed tin tiles could be manufactured quickly and cheaply yet added an element of opulence to an interior space, such as the lobby of a bank.
McCaleb also found old bank records that provided clues to the building’s history, which are displayed around a teller window at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor, where a shared break area with a microwave and four private offices are located.
(The Town of Belle Haven occupies one of the offices, and the other three are currently vacant.)
It is uncertain when the Belle Haven Bank closed, but the last entry in a checkbook McCaleb found among the old records is dated April 2, 1931. It appears that the building sat empty for many years after the Great Depression hit.
Security at The Office is thorough. The property is monitored via video surveillance, and a code must be entered on an electronic keypad to access the building at any entrance.
Each office also has an electronic keypad on the door, as well as a video intercom system so the tenants’ clients can contact them upon arrival at the front of the building.
The Office has two wireless broadband internet connections to provide redundancy, and those are also secured via encryption and a hardware firewall.
Available technology in the conference room includes a 64-inch presentation TV.
The Office’s technology blends seamlessly with its restored antique and historic elements, and many new decorative flourishes were added in keeping with the classic style of a 1900s-era bank.
Entering The Office, one sees the teller counter, which has been converted to six hot desks complete with outlets for powering and charging electronic devices.
An antique L.C. Smith & Bros. typewriter sits on a table near the break area that has a couch, minifridge, and coffee bar.
The restroom is located in the former bank vault, with flooring made entirely out of pennies that Dorie McCaleb painstakingly sorted by color and placed in a diamond-checkered pattern.
The conference room table was made out of salvaged wood and brass bed parts by local woodworker Andy Teeling, one of several examples of how The Office is “a place the community built too,” McCaleb said.
The restoration of the Belle Haven Bank was a labor of love for Dorie McCaleb, who holds a deep appreciation for Belle Haven and its Eastern Shore, small-town appeal.
When she was considering what the new purpose of the old bank would be, she asked herself, “How can I make this a win-win?”
She wanted her project to benefit not just her own family but the whole town.
Belle Haven doesn’t have a beach or a harbor but its still a part of “the soul of the Shore,” she said.
The couple saw a need for both shared and private office space in their community, where many homes still cannot access high-speed internet, which has become essential to any professional or business endeavor.
David McCaleb looks at the historic building that has become The Office and sees “something that could have fallen to the wayside but is serving the community again.”
For more information on The Office, visit www.officeontheshore.com