POTTER — What’s old may become new again in downtown Potter.
A group of citizens is looking to restore the exterior of a building that now serves as a community center of sorts back to what it looked like around 1918 when it was the first home of Potter State Bank.
Just across Chestnut Street and a little to the north, Drew and Teran Enevoldsen have purchased the former 1930s service station, and are working to update the interior with a retro look and open up a coffee shop and antique store. On the inside of that building, the floor tells the story of the different iterations of its use. The original wood flooring is there, as is flooring from a 1940s addition. Another section of concrete flooring shows the last addition.
“I’ve been trying to restore it as best we can and still follow function,” Drew Enevoldsen said. “You can still see the old floor with the oil stains and everything in it. We’re going to try to raise an old (car) lift in there and use it as kind of like a banquet table.”
Teran homeschools the couple’s four children, and currently runs a candle business out of their home 16 miles outside of town. With the new business just up the block from the bank where Drew works, the couple will be able to see each other more often.
“Being able to own a business in Potter has always been a dream, too,” Drew said.
A project to restore the former Legion Hall is also underway, potentially giving the village two projects in the works at once. The stage and a ticket booth entryway have been restored in the Legion building, but work needs to be done otherwise.
Combining the restorations with current buildings and businesses in town that are in the neighborhood of 100 years old helps maintain the historical appearance in a town that banks on drawing people in for tourism dollars.
Drew’s father, Hal, is leading the movement to restore the community building, a project that would remove the current stucco siding and replace it with period-looking wood siding, a new facade and a wrap-around awning.
“I tell people it’ll be like the capitol building of Potter, Nebraska,” Hal Enevoldsen said. “We’ve got a lot of cool buildings in town, like the old bank and the museum, but if that thing is turned back into what it was, I think it’ll stand out. It’s our first impression to people. They might come here looking for a restroom, and it’s really nice on the inside.”
The community building, public library building, Legion Hall and the Potter Sundry building were all built a little more than 100 years ago and have survived the years.
“Something must have happened here between 1915 and 1920-something,” Hal said, “because almost all of the buildings here seemed to be built right around then.”
Hal and Drew Enevoldsen are part of the third and fourth generations of their family in the town, and say helping be a part of keeping it alive and helping it grow is just something they’ve been raised to do.
“It gets in your blood, that hometown,” Hal said. “I went away to college, and I went to Texas for about three months, and I realized that this is where my heart was, in Potter. I could do what I do anywhere in the world, but why wouldn’t I want to be around my friends and family here.
“A lot of it is passed down from generation to generation, giving back to your community.”
Hal shared the story of a Potter Sons of the Legion Commander who was a Vietnam veteran. His commanding officer, when the fighting was over had a simple message for his men.
“He said, ‘Now go back home and make where you live a better place,’” Hal said. “‘Do what I’ve trained you to do here, but do it at home.’
“There’s a lot of families here in Potter who have been here a long time and they have that same community — pride may not be the right word — just love of the community. It’s what makes it just like a family.”
Drew and his six siblings saw his parents, uncles and the rest of his family participating in improving the community, and that spirit carried through to the fourth generation of Enevoldsens and now into the fifth.
“That spirit of making where you live better started as soon as I could walk,” Drew said, relating stories of his own childhood planting trees downtown and now his 9- and 7-year-old kids helping carry sheets of OSB boards to help install flooring protection in the Legion Hall.
“We get them to help before they know what work is, while it’s still fun,” Hal said.