Thursday, July 24, 2014

Looking Back: Dorchester Telephone Building

Today we look back at one of Dorchester's most unique pieces of architecture and a central part of the town's history.

It's one of those few old buildings, anywhere in Nebraska, that elicits the following question from almost every out-of-towner: What did that used to be?

The Dorchester Telephone Building -- which now stands vacant on the northeast corner of the intersection of 8th and Washington Ave. -- was once the hub of communication in our community. 

Most telephones first came to Dorchester in 1905, when 247 phones were installed in town and the surrounding countryside. In those early years, switchboard operators were housed on the top floors of the old Longanecker Building, which sat in the current location of Tyser Welding and Repair.

By the late 1910s and early 1920s, telephone traffic and switchboard equipment were both growing, so extra space was needed for Dorchester's phone operators. In the late 1920s, the Dorchester Telephone Building was erected. The building was used for switchboard operators until the early 1950s, when dialing phones were installed in the Dorchester area.

At least three businesses -- that we know of -- have occupied the building since it was vacated by Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph: Guggenmos Insurance Co. (1950s and 1960s); Snip 'N Curl beauty salon (1970s); and a short-lived dime store (1980s).

The Times has not heard of any immediate plans for the building, which has fallen into disrepair -- although several area residents have expressed interest in buying and renovating the building. 


  1. Anybody know who owns the building?

  2. Snip and Curl ........ my mother used to go there even when she was in her seventies ..... I'd almost forgot about that place ...... Dorchester is lucky to have Donna's and Sharon's today ......

  3. Property ownership and other public records regarding taxation, etc. can be found at the Saline County Assessor's office website at

  4. Believe Guggenmos Insurance Co. was there for awhile. Does anyone else remember?

    1. I remember when it was Guggenmos Insurance Co.

  5. I remember the dime store. They even had a little arcade in the back room, which I think was once a safe.

  6. Ha! It does kind of look like the Alamo.

  7. Guggenmos Investment had the building probally longer than the telephone company did in the 50s & 60s, there is people in town that can tell you how long Fred Sr. & Jr. might of had it it they would write you.

  8. I always found the Southwestern architectural style of this building to be very interesting. Many buildings in Sidney, NE also use this same style. I was told by residents that this style was used due to a limited supply of lumber.

  9. It's a shame this building is not being put to use. It would make a great community workout center.

  10. bob,

    you have got to be kidding me.

    you want to save this building, but we tear down the school.

    doesnt make much sense to me

  11. ......."we have heard several Dorchester residents suggest that the building would be an ideal setting for a Mexican restaurant or specialty retailer."

    Here we go about we try to keep the businesses we already have in town OPEN! In the last several months, we've had one business close its doors and one put up a FOR SALE sign on the door.

    You don't have to be a business whiz to figure out that if you don't keep the businesses you have, no one else is going to open a new business in your town.

    How about a list of the ALL the businesses in town and what they have to offer? How about a campaign to keep our businesses open and thriving?

  12. Hey anonymous (above). I am not cynical richard, nor do I know who he is, nor do I care. He obviously gets to you. Another thing, I don't really feel obligated to defend this blog or the people running it, but didn't they propose a 'shop in Dorchester month'????? Did you do all your shopping in Dorchester.

    To the other anonymous, GET OVER IT. If you really care about the town you will quit trying to divide us with your petty and bitter comments. Support the school or just be quiet. Most important try acting like an adult.

  13. I don't know who Bob is but I do agree -- let's get positive. If every idea is met with doom and gloom, we'll never improve our school or community.

    I liked the "Shop in Dorchester" month idea.....I try to do all my shopping in Dorchester, even when gas here is higher. I'll admit I do go to other place but the majority of my grocery and gas dollars are spent in Dorchester.

    I wish people would try to support our grocery store (all of our businesses) more....John has excellent meat and does a good job with keeping prices very competive. If you need anything, he is willing to order it. He is so good to our eldery. Let's all think about trying to keep as many dollars as possible here in our town.

  14. I agree with Bob! Both the anonymous characters can quit being so pessimistic! I don't know if the last anonymous has any classes in business, but appealing to a different types of people to generate income is very important. A place to go and participate in physical fitness would be a great idea. The comment made about keeping businesses in order to generate new business is completely inaccurate. You need niche marketing in a town like Dorchester.

  15. Actually a "business whiz" would probably take a chance on something like a Mexican restaurant, trying to capture a niche market.

    A riskier business move would be to open up a business very similar to one that already exists.

  16. bob's always right

  17. It is interesting that people think that anyone who is a realist is being negative. Dorchester has a nice history, and in fact if you look at many of the photos that the times post, you will see a thriving little community - until the end of WW II. After that things have slowly dried up in this town. Sure there is the COOP, which employs some people, but otherwise not much in this town. Fact is that this town will never grow again in any appreciable manner. That doesn't mean it won't be around, just that it will be hard for it to support any new businesses. Outside of bars and a grocery store that the town is lucky to have, not much exists here anymore.

    Maybe Bob should donate to charity and open up some businesses in the empty buildings in town - they will most likely operate at a loss, thus the term charity. That would truly be a way to show his strong support for this town. Don't have tax payers foot the bill for your causes, do it yourself. That would be the noble thing to do.

  18. My friend, you are a closed-minded person with tremendously negative vibes. You didn't grow up in the same lively town I did in the 70s and 80s. I feel sorry for you. You also have not witnessed the resurections of many small towns in southeast Nebraska, such as Ashland, Denton, Roca, Hickman. Save your negativism for you and your family. Don't destroy this community with your black blather.

  19. Bob,
    Wrong again. I did grow up in the same town you did. In addition, having worked in sales for many years, am very familiar with the small towns you mention. You fail to see what is ulimately responsible for the changes in these towns. Location, location, location. Ashland - smack dab in the middle of the two largest cities in NE., Denton and Roca - practically suburbs of Lincoln. Hickman - right of 4 lane HW 77, thus easy commute to Lincoln. That is the only reason these towns have seemed to rebound. This may change with the increasing price of gas.

    No one is trying to destroy any community - don't be so dramatic. In fact, it would be a terribly weak community if one person could destroy it.

    Try and not see everything as black and white. If you truly want to make something successful, then it is necessary to examine history and look critically at ideas and suggestions. Just serving as a cheerleader for everything really serves no purpose.

  20. I tried to buy the building years ago. The man that lives in the old mortuary owns it . only to store more junk , Sad there could of been a great place for a business!!


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