July 11, 2015

Mud, stone and progress

Posted in Dismantling the back, Fundraising, Photos, Uncategorized, Updates at 5:55 pm by stonebankblog

OK. Sure. It looks like a muddy hole in the ground.

But we look in that hole and see PROGRESS!

Why? Because, dear friends, that black round object in the photo below is a sewage lift pump that has been installed in the Stone Bank’s new basement.  


We had to wait through the winter and a very chilly spring to have the pump installed. It has seals that can’t be exposed to extreme cold. And then, we had to wait our turn for a very busy plumber.

But finally. The lift pump is in and we are moving forward.

Here’s what you’re seeing in the photo above: At rear is the original foundation of the Stone Bank building from 1900. The section of the building that we dismantled was sitting on shallow footings — and from the opening at left, there was only a crawl space under the back of the building. At right, you can see the new foundation wall that extends 20 feet from the back of the building. Deep footings and a proper basement are ready to support the building again. With the plumbing roughed in, the work is progressing on finishing the basement floor in poured concrete.

We must complete this part of the project by the end of July to collect a grant from the Historical Society of North Dakota. We need your help to make this happen.

This is the time to make a donation. Every penny donated will go toward rebuilding the back of this wonderful, historic building on Bottineau’s Main Street. 

Make a contribution today. We really need everyone’s support to move this from mud to marvelous!

Send a check to: Touchstones, Inc., P.O. Box 272, Bottineau, ND 58318.

Find our PayPal and Razoo online giving accounts on the side panel of the blog!

Thanks to all of our longtime supporters. If you have been waiting to give. NOW is really a good time.


November 26, 2013

The Bank Will Rise Again

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Photos, Pictures, Updates tagged , , , , at 10:24 pm by stonebankblog

Sometimes it occurs to me that people might have trouble “giving” to a bank. So let’s be clear. The Stone Bank Project is about a building not a-hem bankers. (Not that all bankers are bad — but, well, you know.)

So here are a couple new photos showing the new foundation of the Stone Bank rising, where none was before.

The floor level of the bank building is about 3.5 feet above grade. That’s why we are adding a handicap entrance at grade in the rebuilt structure. When complete, the building will look almost exactly like it did before we started, but it will be updated to accommodate everyone. It’s rather exciting, and I think those long-ago builders would appreciate our efforts to make this building flexible and useful for generations to come.

If you appreciate our work to restore this wonderful building, feel free to make a donation. We need to pay our contractors, the insurance and snow removal. And more snow removal. And then some more. Last winter, we paid nearly $1,100 in snow removal alone.

Don’t forget, Dec. 3 is Giving Tuesday.

November 25, 2013

A Slow-Motion Time-Lapse Review

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Endangered buildings, Photos, Pictures, Renovation, Updates tagged , , at 9:04 pm by stonebankblog

OK. At Day 25 of National Blog Posting Month, let’s take stock.

We are here for the Stone Bank. Some of you may be new to our project and this blog. So, let’s review.

In 2011, we bought the Stone Bank, which was on the verge of being condemned, formed a nonprofit (Touchstones, Inc.) and started hashing out a plan to save this historic building made of hand-hewn stones in 1900. It has been a challenge and a joy and we are chugging ahead. In 2012, we dismantled 20 feet of the back of the building, which had settled over too shallow footings. We are now in the process of rebuilding the back of the building. Here’s a slide show of some stage of our progress.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weather has turned to winter ahead of schedule in Bottineau, so we are going to button up the project and the site for the winter and finish the rebuild in the spring.

Some people say this is taking too long — but, remember, we are moving tons of stone on a shoestring. (A great trick!) With donations and some more grants, we are going to get the back of this building up and the roof on in early 2014. Please remember the Stone Bank project in your year-end giving — we will put your trust and your donation to great use.

(There are handy links to Razoo and PayPal on this page.)

Thanks for reading the Stone Bank blog!

November 20, 2013

Beauty in the Work

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Photos, Pictures tagged , at 11:58 pm by stonebankblog

Maybe it’s the stone. Maybe it’s the guys. But there is something so timeless about many of the pictures we have taken of the work on the Stone Bank. Here is one of my favorites. It was taken in November of 2011, as Joe and his crew started taking down the first course of stones on the bank’s south wall.

Stone Bank project, Bottineau, ND

Nov. 22, 2011: Stone mason Joe Whetter began taking down 20 feet of the Stone Bank.

Nearly two years ago to the day — we were taking the bank building apart. It has been an amazing process. Now we are hard at work putting it back together again.

Check out all of our NaBloPoMo posts — this is Day 20 and we haven’t run out of things to talk about on the topic: Stone Bank.

Exciting Times in Mud and Block

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Photos, Pictures, Renovation, Updates tagged , , , at 1:14 am by stonebankblog

Uh-oh. Day 19 of National Blog Posting Month kind of slipped away. Here’s a post-19 post.

We have been covering a lot of ground during this challenge month, but it’s time to take it back to the bank. Today, we are focused on progress.

I am happy to report that we are making some.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s easy to forget how far we have come. Since mid-2011, when we formed the nonprofit Touchstones and purchased the building, we have made steady progress. We started with an architectural assessment and cleared decades of accumulated “stuff” out of the building. Then we had the asbestos removed from the building, put a new roof on the front three-quarters, dismantled the back 20 feet of the building stone by stone, worked with our architect on a rebuilding plan, shored up the foundation of the building next door, dug a foundation for the back of the building — and, now, we are putting it back together again.

In addition, we have written grants, worked to persuade the City Council that we could save the building and restore it to a productive use. We have built a website, blogged and Tweeted away.

Inch by inch, donation by donation, we are cash-flowing this project — doing what we can, when we can.

We are glad you are along for the journey. It’s not exactly slow motion — but it is a journey on which we are learning a lot about history, tenacity and finishing what we start.

Can you help? Buy a T-shirt, dedicate a stone, make a contribution — every bit helps.

See you back here tomorrow — er, later today.

October 26, 2013

Action! Rebuild Underway

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Photos, Pictures, Updates tagged , at 1:35 pm by stonebankblog

Yes. Yes. YES. The rebuild of the rear 20 feet of the Stone Bank is underway.

History: The back of the building was dismantled in 2011 and 2012, because it was sitting on shallow footings, and over time some structural issues had developed.

Solution: Dismantle the back of the building, excavate the crawl space, put down big-time footings and a basement. Next spring we will rebuild the back 20 feet and reattach the original stone façade.

This week:  Our crew compacted the soil, added fill and readied the site for building basement walls under the back section of the bank. And we are off!

Stone Bank, Bottineau, ND

Reinforced concrete footings were poured in Aug. 2013.


This week, Adrian Suchan removed soggy earth from the pit. Recent heavy rain saturated the site. With the soggy soil removed, new fill was added and compacted.


Concrete blocks were stacked on the rear footing. The area in front of the blocks  is covered in new fill ready to be smoothed.


Adrian Suchan runs the compaction machine past what was the support for the bank’s vault. This wall will be repaired in coming days so the building remains as solid as a rock.


Adrian works to compact the soil around the new footings. Once the site is prepped, the stone mason can begin building the foundation walls.


Crew member Scott Randall shoveled fill into the pit as Andrian packed down the soil. It was a beautiful day for outdoor work with the temperature near 50 degrees.


Adrian smooths the fill that Scott has tossed into the pit.


Getting there. Nearly ready for building the basement walls. The compacted earth is now level with the footings. The footing at center (from the blue bucket to the wheelbarrow) will support the wheelchair lift at the back of the building.


Scott tosses a shovelful of fill. He was skilled at not showering Adrian with the fill.


As sunset neared, the site was nearly ready for the rebuild. The lower section of the building is the original outside wall of the bank. The 20-foot addition from the 1930s was built over a crawl space. Now, the back section will have a proper basement and sturdy footings.

We are so excited to report this important progress on the Stone Bank. In the next few weeks, the basement walls will be up and the floor deck installed. We will pause for winter and the get back to rebuilding the back of the bank next spring. Can you help? Dedicate a stone, buy a T-shirt or just make a donation. Other than insurance and snow-removal costs, we have very little overhead. Your donation goes right into bricks and mortar for this project.

Donate on this page or on our website. It’s easy and you will be helping save a great building on Bottineau’s Main Street.

Thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog.

September 21, 2013

Summer’s clean up; for fall — forward!

Posted in Dismantling the back, History, Photos, Renovation, Uncategorized, Updates at 10:33 pm by stonebankblog

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the seasons changed this weekend, so did the landscape at the Stone Bank Project.

Responding to complaints from the Bottineau City Council, workers cleaned up the construction site at the back of the bank building. First they used a skid loader to move all of the pallets of disassembled stone from the back lot to a nearby space, then they plowed under all of the weeds that had grown among the stones this summer. Ultimately, they moved more than a dozen pallets of concrete block off of 6th Street and onto the Stone Bank’s property.

In October, stone mason Joe Whetter says, he and his crew will install those concrete blocks on the footings they poured last month. The blocks will form the interior wall onto which Whetter will re-assemble the stone facade next spring.

Whetter admits that progress on the Stone Bank Project has come in fits and starts this summer, partly because of all the early rains and partly because larger projects elsewhere kept him and subcontractors preoccupied. But now that it’s fall, he is finishing those summer projects and promising to harvest his groundwork at the Stone Bank.

If he does, it won’t be the building’s first season of change. After all, Bottineau’s pioneers built the entire Stone Bank in the final six months of 1900.

The Stone Bank was built as Bottineau County Bank

The Stone Bank as it looked in 1901. It’s a swell building, isn’t it? Good bone structure makes it very good looking.

June 14, 2013

It’s big dig day at the Stone Bank

Posted in Dismantling the back, Friends of Stone Bank, History, Photos, Renovation, Uncategorized, Updates, Volunteers at 7:50 pm by stonebankblog

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Can you dig it? Yes, we can!

Or at least, Mikkelsen Aggregates can. What a HUGE favor Monte Mikkelsen did the Stone Bank Project today by donating more than $2,300 worth of excavator, dump trucks and crew to dig out the basement for a firm new foundation.

Daryle “Junior” Lorenz and his athletic son, Austyn, 15, expertly excavated an area about 33 feet long by 25 feet wide by 6 feet deep. That’s about 5,000 cubic feet of rocky rubble, dirt and clay gone in one day. They even worked through a midday thunderstorm that threatened to leave the Stone Bank as the only building on Bottineau’s Main Street with its own pool.

“This is a giant step forward,” said Sharon Kessler, president of Touchstones, Inc., the nonprofit organization formed to save and re-purpose the Stone Bank building. “We can’t thank Monte Mikkelsen enough for making it possible for us to complete the disassembly of the back quarter of the building — and he did it in time to complete the matching of our $20,000 grant from the Historical Society of North Dakota. We’ve been tearing down for two years; now we can start to build it back up!”

Stone mason Joe Whetter said he’ll pour concrete for the foundation and footings this week. He has already had 17 pallets of concrete block delivered to the site. He’ll use that to build the interior walls this summer, so we can extend the new insulated roof by fall and do interior work over the winter.

During today’s excavation, Austyn pulled seven bottles and part of a wine glass from the dirt and rubble. At least one of them dates to the 19th century. It held a “vegetable compound” patent medicine reputed to cure all “female complaints.”

“Getting this foundation dug in time to meet our grant match cured my complaints,” Kessler said. “Now if we can just get some more grants and matching local contributions, maybe we can get the Stone Bank ready for a cafe that serves coffee and vegetable soup, if not vegetable compounds.”

June 5, 2013

Weathered men vs. stone and concrete

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Friends of Stone Bank, History, Photos, Renovation, Uncategorized, Updates, Volunteers at 11:57 am by stonebankblog

It felt pretty manly for a mild-mannered college professor to pick up a Hilte power hammer and start pounding away at the concrete and stone where the building and sidewalk have been fighting each other.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But after seven hours of scraping and hammering away — by hand, Hilte, chisel and crowbar — with a cold rain beating at my bald head, I knew that the prehistoric stone in this 113-year-old building would be the enduring element in this battle.

Still, by the end of the day, stone mason Joe Whetter, his helper Adrian Suchan and I had accomplished what we set out to do: We gave the Stone Bank a little breathing room by cutting back the sidewalk enough to insert a rubberized expansion joint. No longer will the sidewalk be cracking the building’s foundation and letting in water as they both go through the freeze-thaw cycle that almost never ends in Bottineau. The whole key to the Stone Bank Project is making the building water-tight again. Whetter dismantled the back 20 feet of the building, stone by stone, because a leaky roof and shallow foundation had made it start to crumble. We put a new, super-insulated roof on the front 60 feet of the building, and we’ll extend that to the back this year once Whetter and contractor Fred Kainz construct a deep, solid foundation and rebuild the back walls.

But meanwhile, while they wait for the rains to subside so they can finish pouring the foundation, we went to work on the nagging base problem — so we don’t end up with a water-tight roof and stone walls, only to have the concrete sidewalk undermine the building’s foundation. The result: “Score” one for the team of Whetter, Suchan and your aching-armed Stone Bank guest blogger.

— By Mike Dorsher, Stone Bank advisory board member and webmaster

P.S. For a more comprehensive slideshow on the Stone Bank Project, visit our all-new home page at http://www.StoneBank.org

May 19, 2013

Five Bottles and a Hiccup

Posted in Bottineau, Dismantling the back, Photos, Pictures, Updates tagged , , , at 10:59 pm by stonebankblog

The back section of the Stone Bank has been completely dismantled and work to excavate the foundation has begun … and then we paused.

Here are some pictures of the work in progress followed by a story published in the Bottineau Courant with details about our construction hiccup.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the Bottineau Courant:

Stone Bank Getting a Firm Foundation

Five old bottles and a construction hiccup surfaced at the Stone Bank Project on Bottineau’s Main Street last week when Joe Whetter finished dismantling the back of the structure and began to excavate the foundation.

“The hard part is over,” said Whetter, the project’s stone mason, after taking down stones weighing as much as 500 pounds from the building’s north wall.

As he began to scrape away the earth in what had been a crawl space under the back of the building, he found several early-1900s bottles embedded in the old crawl space.  And then he found the hiccup.

Instead of a solid foundation wall on the Family Vision building next door, he ran into crumbling earth.

After some probing, he found that Family Vision’s foundation didn’t extend the full width of the building. About 50 feet back from Main Street, Family Vision’s foundation narrows, and the building sits atop a concrete platform that is cantilevered off the narrower foundation.

“I’ve seen it before, and it’s not a big problem as long as we get at it right away,” Whetter said.

After conferring with Paul Dunderland of Family Vision, Whetter and architect Bobbi Hepper-Olson arrived at a plan.

Whetter will place four concrete footings at a depth of about 5 feet under Family Vision’s floating foundation in the midsection of the building. He will then build four steel-reinforced concrete columns on the footings to support the middle section of the building.

With “40 feet or more of rebar” inside each of the concrete columns, Whetter said Family Vision’s foundation will be supported.  Then he will continue work on putting a foundation under the back of the Stone Bank. When the Stone Bank’s basement wall is up, Whetter will pour flowable fill between the outside of the Stone Bank’s foundation and the concrete columns supporting Family Vision’s foundation.

“There are always surprises when you work on old buildings,” said Hepper-Olson, who visited the Stone Bank on May 3 in preparation for drawing final plans for reconstruction of the building’s back 20 feet. “This is a manageable surprise. I’ve seen things like this before.”

Whetter planned to place the two center columns on Saturday and will “let them strengthen up a bit” before placing the other two footings and columns. Once the work to undergird the Family Vision building is complete, excavation of a basement for the back of the Stone Bank can begin.

“We want to be good neighbors and not only do right by the Stone Bank but do right by the Family Vision building,” said Sharon Kessler, the president of Touchstones, the nonprofit group restoring the old bank building.

“I was reassured by our architect and Joe that this isn’t a huge problem,” Kessler said. “When Paul Dunderland met with us and said: ‘Do what you need to do,’ I was relieved. This is just a short distraction, and then we can get on with rebuilding the back of the Stone Bank.”

The additional cost to undergird the Family Vision building is $1,800.

“We only get one chance to do this right and this money will be well-spent.” Kessler said.  “We will have to find donors or grants to help pay for it, but it will be worth it in the end.”

Information about the Stone Bank project and how you can help support the project is online at http://www.StoneBank.org.


We will be posting more photos and updates as the work chugs along. The hiccup and the $1,800 detour it caused means we need more donations to get this thing done. Can you help? Send a donation or dedicate a stone today. As always, thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog!

Next page