Saving a piece of history

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 9:58 AM CDT
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Many Nebraska communities have buildings on main street filled with memories. There's an effort to save a building like that in Table Rock.

The American Legion building is empty right now in downtown Table Rock. But over the years, it's been used in many ways. "It was used as a bowling alley. It was used as a roller skating rink, a meat market, and even a furniture store where they advertised that they sold coffins and flyswatters," Sharla Sitzman with the Table Rock Historical Society said. "Everybody loves it. We've grown up with it as a community building."

When you look at the building, you can clearly see that time has taken its toll. But the future is looking brighter. Historical society leaders say Howard Morrision, who graduated from Table Rock in 1937, recently passed away and left the society some money. Members wanted the money to benefit the entire town. So, it will be used to help preserve this building. "Right now all we are going to do is seal it up, with a new roof, brick work, and some work in the basement," Sitzman said.

Local fans of history say this building is worth saving. "Table Rock is especially interesting because of our brick buildings downtown," Sitzman said. "We had two brick yards. One south and one east of town. They used to turn out huge amounts of bricks. Five, ten, fifteen million bricks a year, and our buildings were built with these."

For people like Milan Tomek, the old Legion building contains years of memories. "A lot of different things went on here," Tomek said. He remembers many dances in the building. "I played in a polka band for 27 years and I played lots of gigs in this place. For instance, both of my parents' 25th and 50th anniversary parties were held in here."

At one point, there was some concern about the integrity of the floor. "I don't know if everyone knows what the Flying Dutchman is, but with the Flying Dutchman, everybody hits the floor at the same time when they are hop-skipping," Tomek said. "They forbid us to do that because the floor was weak, and they were afraid the floor would go down."

So, why save this building? "There's a lot of history here. As a matter of fact, the whole town square is on the historical register," Tomek said. "You've got a choice. You let it fall apart, and it can be very expensive to tear something down, or you can restore it and hope for the best."

Work to make the building sound is already underway. Members of the Table Rock Historical Society say they are not sure what they will use the building for. But they are certain that it's important to preserve old buildings like this one. "(These buildings) need to be used," Sitzman said. "If they are not saved, we'll have buildings falling down around the square, and we don't want that. Table Rock has always been proud to be the museum town. We are the town of museums and sugar maples, and we'd like to keep it that way.

"Once it's gone it's gone, and you can't replace buildings like this," Tomek said.