The North Bend Eagle


First National Bank facade

Old bank building being restored to former elegance

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 10/7/15

Tom and Deanna Wolf have a new project, one that keeps growing as they keep digging through the layers of history on the First National Bank building on the west side of Main Street, North Bend.

“The exiting part is we’ve always wanted to restore this building,” Deanna Wolf said. “It’s such a beautiful building. We need to restore it.”

Bank glueDeanna Wolf points to some of the glue spots that they are struggling to find a way to remove wihout damaging the wall underneath.

The building was built in 1917, but First National Bank closed in 1933. In 1934 the Bank of Morse Bluff purchased the building, moved in and changed its name to Platte Valley Bank. It was modernized in 1948 and an addition was added to the west. The bank occupied this building until 1962 when its current building, just south of the old one, was built.

The FNB building was occupied by insurance offices until PVB began to feel growing pains once again and felt the need to expand. PVB has been using the old building as a room for examiners to meet and other bank meetings.

The Wolf family has been involved with Platte Valley Bank since 1910, with Tom and Deanna Wolf now heading the bank. With PVB’s 125th anniversary coming in 2016, the Wolfs thought it was a good time to see what the old bank is really made of. Three months ago they started deconstructing the old “updates” and have been surprised by some of their findings.

“Our goal is to restore as close to the original as possible and practical,” Deanna Wolf said.

An article about the building’s opening in the April 11, 1918, North Bend Eagle describes the structure in detail. It is from this description the Wolfs first learned about three stained glass skylights. They initially thought they were the windows facing Main Street.

Ruben Acosto and Patrick Hayes from the Nebraska State Historical Society visited the old bank Oct. 5 and said the front windows were not the skylights referenced in the article. So they started looking. The false ceiling had been removed but not the covering on the original. Tom Wolf climbed an 18-foot ladder, knocked away ceiling plaster and found the windows.

Bank windows
Stained glass windows were found in the ceiling of the old bank.

“It appears they were made to open for air to circulate,” Deanna Wolf said. “They also leaked, which lead to damage to the ceiling and walls so they covered the ceiling with a solid roof.”

The Wolfs hope to find a skilled worker who can remove the stained glass, lower it and install back lighting to show the beauty of the glass.

There is also a closet-like space that was thought to be a safety deposit box viewing room. Turns out it was a private telephone booth placed in the patron’s area where it would “be convenient to customers.” The Wolfs could not figure out where the phone booth was originally located. The men from the historical society said clues will reveal themselves as the floor was cleaned, and they did.

An outline of the phone booth was found on the floor.

“It’s exciting when we can solve pieces of the puzzle,” Wolf said.
The Wolfs have read old Eagles and board minutes and talked to former employees and customers to get insight into how the building once looked. They would still like find photographs from 1917 to 1949 on which to base their restoration.

“It’s going to be a huge job,” Wolf said. “We think it’s going to more than we realized.”

Johnny Waters is doing the tuck pointing on the exterior of the building now, grinding out and remortaring the seams of the baked terracotta tiles. He is using local sand to make the mortar as was done originally and sealing the tile as he goes along. Water has also rebuilt parts of the eagle on top of the building’s facade. The building is loving the attention, Waters said.

“Everything is sealed now, protected from water damage,” Wolf said. “That is a huge plus.”

In 1948 the bank was remodeled, covering the walls and ceiling with acoustic tiles. Now the Wolfs are having to figure out how to remove the glue yet preserve the integrity of the original wall finish. A Greek key design was stenciled along all the edges of the walls. On one wall there was a window frame and larger Greek key design can be seen that may have been from an earlier painting. Wolf has tried different methods to remove the glue, but has not found a way that doesn’t damage the walls and paint. She is going to send samples of the glue to a lab and hopefully they will offer guidance.

The Wolfs have a lot of memorabilia they plan to display in the restored building. Since it will have a separate entrance, they plan to open up the building for community use.

Questions remain: What did the light fixtures look like? Where did the pew-like bench now in the current PVB sit? What did the teller line look like? How did the low mahogany rail fit in?

Many local people have already helped the Wolf’s with this project: Bob Soukup, Jake, Tanner and Jaxon Wietfeld; Butch, Alexia and Austin Dolezal as well many family members. They are hoping others will now help by providing photographs.

“We are definitely going to need skilled craftsmen to do some things,” Wolf said.

The goal is to finish by June 2016, so they are doing what they can as fast as they can, but they will give allowance to the age of the building and take the time needed.

“It’s just like a puzzle,” Wolf said with a laugh.
And they hope that old photographs someone has may provide another piece of the puzzle.

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