It´s not every day that you get asked to photograph a historic bank where on 18 September 1934, six handsome gangsters wearing trilby hats and suits stole $39,000 (half a million dollars in today´s money). All the staff were held up in the Vault during the robbery. Now the Hawley Bank has been reborn as Vault 240, a private members’ club complete with chandeliers, live music, and the chance to dine in the same vault where all the staff were escorted during the 1930s robbery. Don’t you just love history?

Settlers Hospitality; Hawley PA, USA; The Vault 240, Private members club, you can still see the drive in.

In terms of the exterior, the classical section has not been altered, apart from the entrance, which is discreetly yet stylishly updated, while the adjacent building has been painted black with a bold logo on the front, and an attractive Art Deco design on the back. The interior will not disappoint: a unique space with an extremely luxurious yet intimate vibe, thanks to the eclectic mix of antiques curated and collected by Justin Genzlinger, CEO of Settlers Hospitality, and his family. The Settlers Hospitality Collection started with local boutique hotel and restaurant, the Settlers Inn. Now the beautifully restored and refurbished bank forms the latest addition to the group, alongside wonderful boutique hotels, Silver Birches, Ledges Hotel, The Sayre Mansion, Hotel Anthracite and the Chestnut Inn.

Settlers Hospitality; Hawley PA, USA; The Vault 240, Private members club, The fitting Room

Vault 240 is a select, thriving, members-only social club with personal concierge service, and a restaurant that is already making waves with guest chefs from New York. There is a day spa, a speakeasy-style cards and roulette salon in the basement, a mezzanine-level lounge with a grand piano, a glamorous cocktail bar in the original bank teller area for sipping martinis, and plenty of cosy nooks to chat and meet friends in this unique, versatile space. You can even hire the boardroom for business meetings, and then join the private party.


Working on location and the importance of lighting & scheduling 

This historic building was challenging to shoot, so detailed planning was needed. Our brief was to document a late afternoon/evening ambience inside, but the exteriors had to be shot in daylight. The mezzanine was at its best at dusk, and the spa and speakeasy bar in the basement had no natural light at all. The building itself is a detached rectangular structure with three interesting elevations: the main façade; the south-west elevation on Keystone Street, which features three tall, arched windows, and the north-east elevation with its adjoining car park, which was the site of the original bank drive-in.

To achieve optimum lighting – and photography is all about light – we had to study all the options: the façade on Main Avenue had to be shot early in the morning, and we also needed a dusk shot of that same elevation, while the magnificent mural on the north-east façade had to be scheduled in daylight, late in the morning, to avoid shadows, and on a Sunday to avoid parked cars (as it was the only day when the town car park was almost empty).

The photography assignment

The new opening hospitality photography assignment included architectural exteriors, interiors, portraits of the concierge and croupier Ceci Van Sickle, the resident barman creating cocktails, and of course the signature details that capture the essence of this historic space.

Photographer: Michelle Chaplow
Assistant: Marcos Meider
Stylist: Doreen Stevens
Production: Chris John
Florist: Dee Grublauskas

Parking on Main Avenue and Keystone Street was a problem; there are freestanding parking metres like you see in American movies. Luckily, we had experienced the same issue at the Hawthorne Hotel three weeks earlier and we were prepared with a roll of quarters for the parking meters. When these spaces became available we parked the cars of the staff and our crew to hold the spaces, driving them away at the last minute to allow us a clean, car-free space for architectural photography. They say you can photoshop a car out, but try doing that on a historic building; we are purists and always want to capture the real thing. All the façade shots warranted a specialist tilt-shift lens.

We also captured a modern-day version of a historic image in the Genzlinger family’s archive of the building from the 1930s – a ‘then and now’ image that is always very appealing for press and editorial features. The exact spot to capture this was almost in the middle of the road, which was a little tricky, but we managed it with lookouts.

We rose to the challenge, from bright daylight streaming in through the huge arched six-metre-high windows into the former main banking hall, to the spa and speakeasy bar without any natural daylight. We didn’t have a pink sunset until the last day, when the crew dined inside the vault as a special treat from our generous hosts. Always at the ready, even in full evening attire, Michelle and Marcos ventured out between courses to capture that sunset scene.

Our schedule was intense, working with natural light where we could, and leaving the rooms without natural light to be photographed in the early hours of the morning. A lot of logistical planning was needed: the basement areas were photographed using a combination of studio lighting and long exposures, while the evening entrance façade was literally painted with flashlights. The word photography comes from the Greek and means to paint with light: Greek words phos (genitive: phōtós) meaning “light”, and graphê meaning “drawing or writing”, and for this photo that was exactly correct.

Settlers Hospitality; Hawley PA, USA; The Vault 240, Private members club, The Vault Interior

A collection of 40 images was created in a non-stop 48-hour period; these photographs have served well to visually showcase Vault 240, an “exclusively inclusive” members-only club, in a historic building that was formerly a bank. View more photos here