Tekamah contractor restores elegant and historic bank to new glory
TEKAMAH – Cindy Chatt has a weakness for old stones.
In her former profession as a marketing consultant for businesses, she chose to live in downtown New York, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, in structures that were part of the history of those cities.
When she decided to return to her hometown of Tekamah, she and a former partner renovated a long-closed repair shop on the town’s main street and opened a restaurant offering local dishes as well as beers and drinks. craft drinks.
The Chatterbox, now five years old, is beautifully furnished with repurposed wood tables and wall panels, exposed brickwork and beams, as well as historic photos of Chatt’s family and the Missouri River farming town in about 45 miles north of Omaha. It hosts community events, such as a farmers’ market each summer and a craft show in the winter.
But it was another building, the old Burt County Bank, that had always caught Chatt’s attention in Tekamah.
“It’s always been the coolest building in town,” Chatt said.
The red-brick structure, built in 1884, towers over US Highway 75 as it stretches through the city.
The 2.5-story structure features black cast iron stairs made in Chicago, locally quarried sandstone and a large clock that provided generations of Burt County residents with the time until it broke down or either disconnected a few years ago.
The bank was originally a “wild bank,” printing its own currency, Chatt said, before the state began regulating the banking industry.
A relative had a law firm
At one time, Orville Chatt, an uncle of Chatt’s grandfather, had his law practice on the second floor of the building, which was described as “tasty” and “elegant” by the local newspaper, the Burtonian , when opened.
But after the bank moved to a new building in the 1960s, the structure slowly declined as other businesses came and went. In recent years, there were only a few apartments left.
Now, after gutting the building, removing glue from the bank’s tiled floors, fixing the bullet holes in the roof, and installing new windows and doors, the building has a new look.
The upper floor is now a two-bedroom AirBnB, the BCB Loft, with repurposed woodwork, a modern kitchen, and a living room that overlooks the city. There is also a “travel wall” of photographs from Chatt’s travels to Mount Everest in Tibet, Victoria Falls in Africa and Ayers Rock in Australia.
The first story is the BCB Vault, an artisanal cocktail bar that will be open on weekends and will offer exotic drinks like “smoky” old fashioneds and cherry manhattans. The tables were built using bank vault doors, and the bar is where the old bank vault used to be.
“Amazing what she did”
Two apartments, renovated and refreshed, occupy the studio level and are ready for new tenants.
“It’s absolutely amazing what she’s done,” said Tekamah Mayor Jane Walford. “She brought two ‘dead’ buildings back to life.”
The refurbishment of the two buildings, Walford said, has helped inspire other improvements in the town, including refurbishment of the local school, a new municipal swimming pool and new storefronts at other high street businesses.
“Cindy brought so much energy,” Walford said. “People don’t say no anymore. They are ready to invest in the city.
Chatt said that was a big part of his inspiration to return to Tekamah.
“Somebody had to take an interest in the main street,” she said. “Now you can look up and down the street and see new windows, new paint and new facades.”
The renovation of the bank, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, was completed over the past two years.
Chatt got financial assistance from the city to do the work, through Tekamah’s Bill 840 economic development program, but she estimates more than $300,000 to $400,000 of work was done on the bank, with a lot of sweat.
“I scraped every one of those tiles with a razor blade,” she said, pointing to the tiled floor of the bank’s lobby.
The clock has run
The clock surprisingly started running as soon as an electrician reconnected the power, she said, and when the weather permits work will continue to see if the chimes and lights can be restarted.
Chatt plans to apply for a state grant to help fund the renovation of the exterior. Other future plans include repainting the cast iron steps and railings, shaping a back patio and possibly adding a roof garden.
“So many of these old buildings are neglected or demolished, and people think it’s too much work to bring them back,” Chatt said. “But it can still be done.”
His next challenge? While she said she’s been looking at other old buildings in town for renovation, her new business is Burt County’s new director of economic development.
“Maybe I can help someone else do that,” she said.