Completely gone is the notorious downtown bar, The Vault, and in its place, opening in mid-January, is the Last Stop Saloon, a midscale family-friendly restaurant and bar with soaring ceilings and original historic brickwork.

Owners Todd Carpenter and Carla McQuade have replaced virtually everything within the four walls of the main floor of the historic Bank Building at 209 E. 2nd St. in downtown The Dalles.

Not only did they expose sections of brick, but they removed six layers of flooring and took out a mezzanine level, which elevated the ceiling height from eight feet to 16 feet.

They completely replaced the kitchen and the bathrooms, which are now bigger. “We got rid of the smell,” Carpenter said. They also replaced all the electrical and plumbing.

“If you have been in there or seen pictures of it, you’ll be amazed; it’s totally different,” he said. The exposed beam ceilings will have custom lighting, while some old knob and tube electrical wiring was left in place for a historical touch.

“People in town will want to bring their out-of-town guests to see what it’s like,” he said.

The front entrance will eventually be a bank of historic wooden French doors, letting in plenty of natural light, and the rear will eventually include a roll-up door leading onto an expanded deck with a McMenamin’s style garden and firepit area, Carpenter said.

Renovations to the front exterior will include refurbishing the “Citizens National Bank” sign that was etched into the building, which dates to the early 1900s or late 1800s, Carpenter said.

The building has housed six or seven businesses in that time.

The 120-seat restaurant/bar will have about 20-plus employees when fully staffed. “We’re still playing around with the menu,” he said in late December. But it will include burgers and steaks, salad, fresh pasta and seafood.

Carpenter has also used local contractors to rehabilitate the Bank Building, including Ridgeline Plumbing, Hage Electric, Big League Construction and Airco Heating and Cooling.

The name of the establishment draws from three meanings, he said. First, The Dalles was the last stop on the Oregon Trail before emigrants had to choose between taking the overland Barlow Trail to the Willamette Valley or rafting down the Columbia River.

The second reason is a play on The Vault, “the worst place in town from what I’ve heard,” he said, and for many years it was often the ‘last stop’ for people before going to jail.

Finally, it is the last stop for Carpenter and McQuade, who moved here two years ago from Hillsboro and have semi-retired here. He is “a computer nerd by day,” as the head of IT for Vancouver-based Rebound Orthopedic and Neurosurgery. The practice is also well known for being the official sports medicine providers for the Portland Trailblazers.

McQuade runs the couple’s other business ventures, which have included four other restaurants and bars in the Hillsboro/Beaverton area. They’ve since sold two of them as they’ve moved their assets to The Dalles.

They own the Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village and the Broadway Saloon in historic oldtown Beaverton. They sold Morgy’s Pub in Hillsboro last year, and three years ago sold another oldtown Beaverton business they had called Bootleggers Whiskey Bar.

Carpenter and McQuade love historical buildings, he said. They started looking around in The Dalles and “fell in love with the town,” he said. They bought the Baker House, across the street on the south side from the Wasco County Courthouse, which Carpenter said is his wife’s “dream house.”

Earlier this year, they heard through mutual friends in the restaurant business that The Vault was for sale. They took possession last August and ran it for six weeks before closing it in late September.

Carpenter said for those few weeks there was an incident every single weekend. “That’s not how we do business,” he said. He soon closed the place.

After it closed, he sought permits for renovations in October and plans were approved in November. He was hoping to open earlier, but the availability of contractors caused some delays.

Carpenter and McQuade started scouting local restaurants and bars to observe how they were managed, and hired from Zim’s Brau Haus the husband-and-wife management team of Forrest and Stephanie Rawlings. “I chose them; I shared my dream, and then they chose to join us,” he said.

The Rawlings previously managed an Outback Steakhouse, and Forrest worked at Cousins before both worked at Zim’s for four years, Carpenter said.

The Last Stop has a large bar area, with a 30-foot bar as a centerpiece.

“We’ve got capacity for 40 taps. We’re probably going to start with about 20,” Carpenter said. It will feature craft beers from Oregon and the Columbia Gorge region.

There will also be a lottery room that will be separated from the restaurant area.

Carpenter and McQuade have plans for the rest of the Bank Building too. The second and third floors were once a hotel – and some of the residents in the 1920s were young, single white women who provided “negotiable affection,” the delicate term for brothel workers that Carpenter learned from Mary Davis at The Fort Dalles Museum.

He’s also heard the building is haunted.

Hopes are to create 14-16 hotel units in the upper floors. Further down the road, probably the last bit to be developed, is a plan to turn the roof into an event area with views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and the Columbia River. “That will be fun for the fireworks,” he said.

The 4,000-square foot basement may become a party room.

As for the main floor, he said the front French doors and the back deck are still to come. It will be a work in progress for probably the next 18 months, he said.

Also still to come is an elevator, which Carpenter said he believes will be required when the third floor is renovated.

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