(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."