The Friedhof Room at Schwesers

COLUMBUS, Neb.- Here's a story about the transformation of an iconic building in downtown Columbus.

The Friedhof building is a recognizable one to those who have lived in Columbus or Platte County. It was built in 1918, and so the building is 100 years old this year. German immigrant Theodore Friedhof was behind the construction of the building. He came to America in 1875. "By the time Mr. Friedhof passed away, he was the most prominent citizen of Columbus. He died in 1946," building owner Robert Gasper said.

Most people remember the building as a Schwesers department store. "This was their first large store. They expanded out to Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Kansas," Gasper said.

Recently the building came up for sale, and it was something Robert and Tracy Gasper couldn't pass up. They bought it, and have now turned it into a new entertainment venue known as "The Friedhof Room at Schwesers". They use it for wedding receptions and gatherings. "Even downtown businesses want to use this space for a retirement party, or an after hours party. It's just kind of a happening spot," Tracy Gasper said.

As the Gaspers began to peel away the layers on the old building during the renovation, they found some unique features. This includes a wall of oak paneling and beautiful stained glass windows. "The stained glass windows were covered up in 1953, and Schwesers wanted to make things look modern," Robert said. "The balcony level was all enclosed, and it was really fun uncovering it and bringing it back to it's 1920's look."

"Now you see the deco glass windows, now you see the intricate plaster work on top. We changed up the lighting for a warm ambiance," Tracy said. The Columbus couple is hoping the building will help bring more people downtown. "It's right on the town square here, so whenever we have events here whether it's a birthday party or a wedding reception, it's just neat to see people frequenting the streets of Columbus and using the park area," Robert said.

The building will feature an escape room on the top level, and it offers the "Memories" lounge from 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The goal is to keep making improvements.. and to get more people educated about the building. "There's a huge clientele that we haven't tapped into yet," Tracy said.