The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Old window replacement brings new concerns

 

Caitlin Sievers

Pictured is one of the historic windows removed from the Post Commander's home.

Conversation at Tuesday's Cheyenne County Historical Association board meeting broke into an angry debate over the board's decision to replace the historic windows in a local land mark with modern ones.

"They replaced 147-year-old windows with modern-era vinyl clad wooden windows, because these were beyond repair in their estimation," said Tamara Nelsen at a Historic Preservation Board meeting earlier that day.

The CCHA's decision to replace these windows, in 2011, was motivated by what it saw as irreparable damage to the historic windows and an effort to protect the artifacts in the Post Commander's Home located at 1153 6th Ave. The CCHA is a county board which owns and runs the Post Commander's Home as well as the Fort Sidney Museum. The Historic Preservation Board is a city organization which serves to preserve and protect local historic properties.

After removing and replacing the windows on the upper floor of the Commander's Home with modern ones, the CCHA board sold the original windows to a local antique store, where concerned citizen Kathy Wilson bought the windows. Wilson brought the windows that were removed from the Commander's Home to the HPB meeting to convey to the board members that the windows could have been repaired.

Although it seemed that Jill Dolberg, review and compliance coordinator at the Nebraska State Historical Society had acknowledged the need to replace these windows in 2011, Nelsen claimed that the CCHA misled Dolberg about the damage to the windows and what type of windows would be used to replace them. Dolberg could not be reached for comment on this matter.

"We believe it was an exaggeration or a misunderstanding that led Ms. Dolberg down at the state to say, 'yes they need to be replaced'," Nelsen said.

Roger Jorgensen, a member of the CCHA board, claimed that he told Dolberg exactly the type of windows that would be used for replacement and that she gave him the go-ahead.

Wilson contended that if the original windows had been properly maintained, scraped and painted, they would not have needed replacement.

"What they were replaced with was a crying shame, in my estimation," Nelsen said.

Ed Bivens, president of the CCHA claimed that the replacement windows were entirely made of wood.

"There's no vinyl on those windows," he said.

Members of the CCHA felt that replacing the windows was necessary in order to protect the artifacts inside the building and to save on energy costs.

"In those days they did not have silicone and enough duct tape to put those windows in and make them efficient," Bivens said.

Nelsen argued that the old windows were more efficient than new windows.

"The maintenance of the window was perhaps delayed or denied and that caused as much of the issue as anything," Nelsen said.

In Nelsen's mind the goal should be to re-install the old windows in the upstairs of the Commander's Home. The windows taken out of the Commander's Home were not original to the structure, Bivens said.

Wilson suggested that the building be designated as a local land mark so that it would be beholden to the national standards of preservation set by the secretary of interior.

"The building is owned by a county entity and they have a board that is managing that," said city attorney J. Leef. "Unless they're designated as a landmark or a historic district they have the right to do as they chose without the city's interference. But if they are designated as a landmark or a historic district, and they're approved, then they would need to comply with the city ordinances."

Locally landmarking a building is a lengthy process which involves approval from multiple city boards as well as a public hearing and owner-notification. The process would be even more extensive if the building owners did not agree to the designation.

"I know in the past it's been discussed and it's always been we didn't want to start a fight with anybody, we all had the same goals," Nelsen said. "We don't all have the same goals and the evidence is sitting right here."

CCHA board members expressed reticence at their Tuesday meeting to allow the buildings to be locally landmarked.

"What advantage to us is there other than people coming in and wanting to oversee and rule what we do?" asked Brenda Blanke, CCHA board member. "We are a good board, we are all volunteers. We're taking care of these buildings. We don't need somebody telling us what to do."

Nelsen argued that the CCHA does not properly protect the integrity of the buildings.

"If they are not permanently protected and brought under the umbrella of being locally landmarked, you will end up with a building totally wrapped in plastic," she said.

Kay Hicks of the HPB called for a non-confrontational meeting of the minds between the two boards to discuss the pros and cons of local landmarking.

Caitlin Sievers

Kay Hicks of the HPB asks for a meeting between the two boards.

"We can figure out what's best for the museum and the community," she said. "Because we can't change thought processes and things that have happened before."

At the CCHA meeting Gordy Wilkins commended the board for its continual work to maintain the Fort Sidney Museum and Post Commander's home, including replacing the windows.

"They made the best decision that they were given at the time and I believe the community owes them a respect and a thank you for what they did," he said.

The CCHA did not make any decisions on whether or not to meet with the HPB, but some members did seem receptive to the idea.

"We're all interested in historical preservation," Hicks said. "Have we done the best job in the world over the years? Obviously probably none of us have, but we're trying."

 

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