NEBRASKA CITY - In the aftermath of the First World War, Nebraska City residents built a community center as a perpetual memorial to all war veterans, but 80 years later the building had been shuttered and city officials refused expenditures even to fix a leaky roof.

The Veterans Memorial Building board of directors highlighted the turn around for the building and its citizens at the first annual gala on Saturday,  where the story of the building’s decline and rebirth brought exuberant applause.

There was also recognition for the late Ted Beilman, a former political campaigner and school administrator, who led the restoration.

 

To close, Mayor Bryan Bequette and Nebraska City Construction and Facilities Manager Marty Stovall conducted a rigged trivia challenge pitting Jim Kuhn’s vast naval knowledge with Stovall’s rehearsed answers. It concluded with the announcement that Kuhn has been named an admiral in The Navy of the Great State of Nebraska.

Kuhn, a 1967 high school graduate, joined the U.S. Navy in 1968.  The Vietnam War veteran served two tours on aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea. Kuhn is  a builder and leader of the Main Street Historians Project.

 

Jan Madsen spoke about the Committee of 100 that lead the fundraising for a $75,000 building in 1928 and congratulated those donors in the current restoration project. The grand re-opening is scheduled on Veteran’s Day, 94 years after The Committee of 100 finished its business.

 

Veterans Memorial Building timeline

 

1927 – The Committee of 100 was involved with the American Legion on a campaign for a community hall.

1928 – built as a perpetual monument to U.S. war veterans for $75,000 as a multi-use building, home for national guard and city offices.

1929 – Dedicated on Nov. 11, 1929.

2004 – Mayor Jo Dee Adelung formed a committee to look into possible uses for the building. High school students offered 144 ideas and the committee recommended using the building for a teen and senior center.

2008 – Temperatures fell below 20 degrees in early April, making for some chilly WOTA meals at the building. City commissioners decided not to repair the boiler.

2008 – Ted Beilman asked city officials to see the closed Veterans Memorial Building.

2010 – Ted Beilman moved to Nebraska City.

2011 – Voters rejected a $6 million bond issue to transform the building into a city hall, senior center and meeting space by a margin of 80 percent.  City officials said earlier, if the bond failed, the city would sell the building for $1 or demolish it at a cost of $800,000.

Gloria Glover: “They (voters) didn’t want the big plans and the big costs to do something that went beyond what was necessary to bring the building back to life.”

2012 – Mayor Jack Hobbie announced that an anonymous donor had offered to pay for roof repairs of the Veterans Memorial Building.

2014 – City commissioners would not expend city funds to fix a leak in the Memorial Building roof. Jim Kuhn asked the city council for permission to remove the tree growing on the roof of the building and repair the roof at his own cost of $25,000.  Beilman also contributed.

 

2015 – Ted Beilman presented the city council with historical information on the building and contacted the Nebraska State Historical Society’s National Register. Beilman and City Attorney David Partsch assured city commissioners that having the building on the national register did not require them to do anything with the vacant building. Beilman’s wife, Gloria Glover, was appointed to the city commission.

2015: Bryan Bequette: “I bet I got only three to four feet in when I first looked up those stairs and I saw the ticket sales booth and then I saw through into here and it was just like history just enveloped me – just sucked me in. And I said now Dean, I get it. I understand what you mean by ‘this building has got to be resurrected and brought back to life and become a useful for the city.”

2016: The National Park Service  listed the building in February.

2017: As the state celebrated 150 years of statehood, Beilman began gathering information to construct tributes to 150 veterans. He began with Emil Dwight Steele of Nebraska City, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his tank-destroying efforts in WWII.

Glover: “Their belief in this project to bring back the Nebraska City Veterans Memorial Building to again be a place to create and relive memories of life in Nebraska City.”

2017: Jim Kuhn was named volunteer of the year for leading the Main Street Historians Project.

2019: Ted Beilman, who had lived in Nebraska City until of the age of 10,  died unexpectedly at the age of 68.

2022: Jim Kuhn receives Governor’s Service Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award for a veteran giving back to his community category.

 

Renovations

 

Renovations include 122 new windows and 13 new doors. A new elevator, 15 furnaces and AC, sprinkler system, new paint, roof repair, soffit and fascia, new auditorium floor and ADA bathrooms on three floors.

Work is continuing on renovations of the stage to include new sound, lighting, curtains and paint.

A  kitchen for banquets and new caterer’s kitchen.

The vision for auditorium uses include a dinner theater, music and dance recitals, town hall meetings, wedding and receptions and Kuhn promises all-star wrestling.

Uses of the lower level include cooking classes, bingo, caterer kitchen, food Maker space, birthday parties, family reunions and hunter safety.