Monday, April 18, 2016

Ideas To Save Dorchester's Historic Buildings


(UPDATE: Shortly after running this story, the Times received an e-mail from Casteel Tree Service's Jay Casteel, who said he would be willing to donate his time and equipment to get rid of the trees around the old telephone building, to give back to that community since he is a DHS graduate.)

Last week, we were e-mailed pictures of Dorchester's historic telephone building in its current state of disrepair.

Windows shattered.  Trees growing around the foundation. Walls cracking. Roof sagging. Mice and other pests running along its base.

This once-proud building, with its unique southwestern-style architecture, is only a shadow of its former self.  

Roughly 90 years ago, the building was erected to serve as the Dorchester Telephone Building, where it housed the town's switchboard operators until the early 1950s, when dialing phones were installed.

After that, three businesses occupied the building: Guggenmos Insurance Co. (1950s and 1960s); Snip 'N Curl beauty salon (1970s); and a short-lived dime store (1980s).

Today, it is used for cheap storage.

While we realize that the old telephone building is private property -- and the current owners have every right to do with it what they please, as long as it meets village code -- owners of Dorchester's commercial buildings should know they own a special piece of the community's past.  

These buildings embody our town's yesteryear, as well as the memories of loved ones who called Dorchester home.

As this building deteriorates, so does a key piece of Dorchester's proud history.

This week, the Times staff asked a handful of residents what they would do to save this building and other commercial buildings like it.  Here are some of the edited e-mailed responses we received:
  • "Such a neat building! Crying shame what is happening to it. This is why we need a group of town residents to focus on Dorchester's main street and its buildings. A project like this is too much for one owner or one family, but a group of citizens could pool resources, raise funds for preservation, reclamation and reuse.  Maybe the FBLA and the new superintendent could spearhead a long-term project to work on this building that could house a student-led business. What a great way to give back."
  • "First, the board really needs to condemn the building. Can you imagine being a homeowner who lives next to it? (That's not fair to the person keeping up his property.) Second, Nebraska offers a 20% state tax credit for eligible expenditures made to rehabilitate, restore or preserve historic buildings.  If someone or group could buy the building, that credit would go a long way on such a small property. Go to http://www.nebraskahistory.org/histpres/nhtc.htm for more information."
  • "I've heard 8 to 10 town people tell me they would pitch in with money to help buy this building in an attempt to save it.  We need help from the town board.  Why don't they discuss a blight tax as you folks mention on the Times blog?  I've never once heard them bring that up.  I don't even know who owns the property.  You never see anyone working on it.  It would make such a nice coffee shop, convenience store or other small business."

16 comments:

  1. For gods sake owners, show some self pride and dignity

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  2. I would be willing to help with the work to fix up the telephone building. A little paint can go a long way. We bought a house in Dorchester and have been fixing it up for a rental. There are definitely people interested in living in Dorchester. We have had several people in line to rent our house. People do want to live here. Let me know who needs help and when. I will make time to help the owners out.

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  3. "as it meets village code" - If this property (under its current state) meets village code, than the code needs to be updated to ensure a process of nuisance abatement.

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  4. Good for Casteel Tree Company! If there is, indeed, support to save the building, has anyone contacted the owners? There might be a tax benefit to them gifting it to the Community Foundation (if they would take it). Does Dorch have TIF on the books? I'm not really sure there would be sufficient funding to help with any restoration. Is the building on a historic register (state of national)? This might limit what could be done to ensure that its historical integrity is maintained. If it were to be restored, the Foundation could use it as rental for a business (income for the fund) or in some way maybe partner with another awesome project (like the Senhert building)and look to tourism and promotion? The Woods Pioneer Telephone Museum in Lincoln might have some ideas. IDK, just trying to generate a few ideas for ya. Someone feel free to email me if there's a movement afoot to get something done. Thanks and good luck!

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  5. Someone tell me where and when to help.

    I will lend a hand. I'd even pitch in a few bucks.

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  6. I remeber this telephone building well. The mother of one of my classmates was the operator. I got to go in there with her and I thought it was the neatest thing ever! She could take these black cords ,plug them in to the switchboard and people could talk to each other!!!! Even had visions of doing it myself someday. We graduated in 1949 from Dorchester High, I think plans were already being made for dial phones. Sad day for me but , here I am texting on my smart phone!! Who would have thought!!

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  7. I'm guessing that anyone wanting to contact the owner of the white building will need to go through the county assessor's office. I've done several Internet searches and can't find a phone number for him. Like the people leaving the comment above, I've heard from a handful of people saying they would offer financial contributions to help save the building but first you need to discuss a financial arrangement with the owner. Someone must be paying property taxes on it.

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    1. The assessor's office only keeps track of owner's names & addresses, not phone numbers. But an address would be a start. Lots of people have cell numbers only & are hard to reach. It also doesn't have to be the owner paying taxes on the property. Check with the county treasurer to see who is paying them.

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  8. How about the old dealership building to the south of this old telephone building? Sitting there deteriorating and used as storage. How about some other buildings on and around main street used as storage with no maintenance or care? I agree action needs to be taken but we should not single out just one building in town when there are so many that need to have responsible owners.

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    1. WHYYYYY is there always one person who think the world is picking on them? I think the blog title says "buildings" ... its pretty clear this building will be toast if something is not done within months.

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    2. Just pointing out another building that needs help. The blog is clearly about one building in town even with the title saying "buildings". A lot of buildings in this town need help and should be included with before and now pictures to motivate the owners of them or the city government to do something. Just trying to improve this community and not trying to take personal shots like your poor reply does.

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    3. You're a saint. Sorry I ever second guessed you. Gimme a break. Go bloggers, at least youre being proactive.

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  9. I wish Dorchester had a main street improvement fund and business development group.

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  10. Tried to buy this years ago for my Barber Shop not worth as much now pretty ran down would love to make it great again for a small price can't be worth much now

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  11. .............you city slickers make fun of me...............................even i keep the trees out of my pasture ............................................. silly city slickers.......................................................

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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