June 7, 2017

We aren’t crazy optimists; We’re ahead of the curve!

Posted in Bottineau, Endangered buildings, Fundraising, Main Street, Photos, Updates tagged , , , , , , at 12:14 am by stonebankblog

Restoring a landmark in ND. The Stone Bank

Sharon Kessler and Joe Whetter are spearheading the effort to return the Stone Bank to use. It was built in 1900 with stones carried to North Dakota by glaciers.

Joe Whetter and I were classmates at Bottineau High, but we didn’t know each other well. I am not sure we ever spoke in high school. But for the past six years, we have talked a lot about and worked to restore and repurpose a beautiful stone building on Bottineau’s Main Street that we now call the Stone Bank.

Joe, a stone mason, has done the heavy lifting – lending his know-how and strength to the project. Me? I  write grant proposals, do  fundraising and lead the board of a nonprofit dedicated to repairing the Stone Bank.

Our goal is to retain the building’s historic character while making it useful for another 100 years.

Since 2011, we have encountered asbestos, a very leaky roof and a crumbling back wall. Joe dismantled the back 20 feet of the building so we could put in a new foundation and rebuild the back.

We have worked with architects, historians and community members to meet this challenge – and it has taken time to raise the money to help us move the project along.

Fast forward to 2017. Smart Growth America, a D.C. nonprofit, says we are not crazy optimists – we are ahead of the curve!

Smart Growth works across the U.S. with elected officials, real estate developers, chambers of commerce, urban and rural planners and community groups and leaders in D.C. to improve everyday life for people across the country through better development.

In 2016, a Smart Growth team visited Bottineau, toured the community and surrounding area and met community leaders to help craft a vision for Bottineau’s future development. The resulting report offered six recommendations to help Bottineau remain a vibrant and growing community.

Guess what?

The No. 1 recommendation was “restore and repurpose historic structures for community revitalization.” Read the Smart Growth report.

The Smart Growth report specifically cites the Stone Bank Project and its slow progress because of “a lack of funds.” So, there you have it.

A great idea. A work in progress.

A lack of funds.



Yearbook Bottineau ND Stone Bank

The Class of ’72 yearbook cover broke new ground with an abstract image of the Bottineau High entrance by our classmate Morris McKnight.

Forty-five years ago, the Class of ’72 graduated with eyes trained on the future. Now, honoring the past can be our legacy.

We are asking our high school classmates to lend a hand in the Stone Bank restoration. No heavy lifting involved. We are challenging each of our classmates to contribute $100 (or whatever you can give) to help pay for enclosing the new basement.

By June 30, we need to make a dollar-for-dollar match of a $20,000 grant from the Historical Society of North Dakota. If we can’t raise the match, we leave some part of the money for reconstruction on the table.

And we want other BHS grads to join the effort. Let’s see which class can move the most stone. Rock on!

All donations go straight to the project, and your donation will make a difference in 2017. In total, we only need to raise $53,000 (including $20k from the state) to enclose the building. Can you help?

Time is of the essence if we hope to claim the full $20,000 grant from the Historical Society of ND.

We have started a Go Fund Me campaign for online giving. Or you can mail a check to Touchstones.Inc. (The Stone Bank Project), PO Box 272, Bottineau, ND 58318.

We also accept gifts by PayPal.

Does your employer match your charitable gifts?

Touchstones is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit – so your gift is tax deductible AND eligible for an employer match.

Please, make a donation today.  If you love Bottineau and its historic buildings, today is the day to show your support. Your gift WILL make a difference.

Thank you.

Sharon Kessler, a cockeyed optimist from the BHS Class of ’72


October 13, 2012

Bad Buildings in Nice Towns

Posted in Endangered buildings, History, Life, Photos, Updates tagged , , , , at 9:56 pm by stonebankblog

Why are you saving that old building?

That’s what some people have asked us about our effort to save the Stone Bank.

“Drive up to Deloraine,” we respond. “That is why.”

Deloraine is a Canadian town about 25 miles from Bottineau. A boom town at the turn of the 20th century, its bustling commercial district had many buildings of brick and stone. But that was then.

Thanks to a photo display in the entry of the Rendezvous Restaurant, we can see that  Deloraine.  Today’s Deloraine is a different story. This slideshow is a cautionary tale about what gives a town its sense of place and how it can be lost, even though a few traces of  the past remain.

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Your Stone Bank blogger doesn’t know how or why Deloraine’s fine buildings were lost. Fire is a likely culprit in some cases — but in others “progress” was probably the reason some buildings were taken down.

Deloraine is a fine town with nice people and a good restaurant. The display of  flags from around the globe is impressive. But wouldn’t it be a better town with some of those grand old buildings still standing and in use? We think so.

Any town can become Deloraine —  all it takes is indifference, forgetting history and substituting cheap and serviceable buildings for those that are elegant and enduring.  Towns all across the  country face the same fate if someone doesn’t take up the challenge to save the great buildings. (There are plenty of Deloraines in North Dakota.)

The Stone Bank Project  is our effort to save a great building in Bottineau. It’s not easy. It’s probably not even sensible. But it does matter.

We’d love to see your comments!

Thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog!

September 9, 2012

Build with Brick! (or Stone)

Posted in Bottineau, History, Life, Main Street, Photos tagged , , , , at 2:52 pm by stonebankblog

Here’s a fun editorial from the Oct. 1, 1901 Bottineau Courant — touting the benefits of building with brick. (Of course, we extrapolate this to the benefits of building with stone.) The Stone Bank was not yet a year old (completed in December 1900) when this editorial was published.

Editorial from Bottineau Courant 10.1.1901

Was the editor onto a good idea? From 111 years later, we think he was right. What do you think?

Bottineau’s “brick block” is still lined with sturdy brick buildings (including the Stone Bank). It lends the town an air of permanence and history. Check back in a few days, when we’ll post a slideshow of other downtown Bottineau businesses.

Stone Bank - Bottineau in July 2012

This only looks like an old picture. This shot of the charming Stone Bank was taken in July 2012

We are currently trying to raise $20,000 in matching funds for a $20,000 grant from the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The Stone Bank Project is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit. So your contribution is tax deductible.  Sending a check? Our address is Touchstones, Inc., 524 Main St., P.O. Box 272, Bottineau, ND 58318.

Thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog. Tell your friends to follow us, so they get all the latest updates on the Stone Bank Project.

July 24, 2012

Stone Bank with Effects!

Posted in Bottineau, History, Life, Main Street, Photos tagged , , at 4:51 pm by stonebankblog

Let’s face it. The Stone Bank is very photogenic. Has  been for 112 years.

The play of light and clouds gives the stones a different look every single day of  the year — so no matter how many pictures we shoot, we always see something new.

A couple of days ago, your Stone Bank Blogger and her b.f. spent some time at the bank, trying to catch its many shadows and colors on a sunny day.

The b.f. also discovered the “effects” button on his new camera and had some fun with it. (You know how it is. Give a man a button — and he’ll push it.) Anyway, these photos show off the Stone Bank in a new light, and we thought you’d like to see them.

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Indeed, it was 112 years ago this month that work began on the Stone Bank. Think of all that has changed in the world over those 112 years. And here stands the Stone Bank looking smart, strong and youthful and giving us a glimpse of how things were done all those years ago.

If you are so disposed, send along a symbolic donation of $19.00 for the year 1900. Or $112 for the bank’s age. Or any and all numbers in between — or above.

We have work to do this year on the Stone Bank and need some donations to make that happen.

As always, thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog.

June 18, 2012

Stone Bank’s Mystery History Revealed!

Posted in Bottineau, History, Photos, Updates, Volunteers tagged , , , at 2:22 pm by stonebankblog

A big fat question mark! That is mostly what we knew about the Stone Bank — originally the Bottineau County Bank. Land records didn’t reveal much and details of exactly when the Stone Bank was built have been, well, sketchy.

But now we know. And this is HUGE.

Scott Wagar, the intrepid editor/reporter for the Bottineau Courant has been digging in the local archives for a year and at long last uncovered what we didn’t know before — who built the bank, how long it took, and when it opened. Whoo-hooooooooooooo!

Scott is a history buff and he did this on his own time — even though he has more than a full-time job. We can’t thank Scott enough, because he really did the Stone Bank family a huge and everlasting favor. Bravo, Scott.

The story, which ran in the June 5, Bottineau Courant is posted below (with Scott’s permission).

Bottineau Courant masthead

Jump1 of Stone Bank article from the Bottineau Courant, June 5, 2012

Jump 2, Stone Bank article, Bottineau Courant, June 5, 2012

What a marvelous and interesting story. Leave a “like” for Scott, because he deserves a boatload of them.

Let’s face it — Scott is simply STONE-TASTIC!

Please, leave a “like” for Scott, because he deserves a boatload of them, and thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog!

June 5, 2012

A Stone Bank Inspiration

Posted in Photos, Renovation tagged , , , , at 6:53 pm by stonebankblog

As a champion of all things stone, the Stone Bank blog has to tip its hat to a successful restoration project in Granville, N.D.

Granville is a small town about 20 miles from Minot in north-central North Dakota. This grand old stone bank building, completed in 1903, has been recently and lovingly restored. Beyond the restoration, an addition has increased the size and flexibility of the space.

Adaptive re-use, anyone?

The Granville building is among dozens of great old bank buildings that dot the ND landscape — including our own Stone Bank. And the Granville project demonstrates how durable and adaptable these great old buildings are. The Granville bank has something else in common with the Stone Bank — it became insolvent in 1923.

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Here’s a link to a story in the Minot Daily News that describes  the Granville Bank restoration and how the building is now being reused.

From the Stone Bank crew — BRAVO!

What do you think of this success story? Leave us a comment, because we love hearing from you.

And remember, our project is chugging along, but we need to raise matching funds for the $20,000 grant we recently received from the Historical Society of North Dakota. It’s easy to send us a donation. Think of Granville’s success and click the PayPal link in the right-hand column. We need your support right now! And as always, thanks for reading the Stone Bank Blog!

December 7, 2011

Stone Bank’s New Top

Posted in Roof tagged , , , , , , at 1:32 pm by stonebankblog

The weather cooperated — as much as the weather in North Dakota can (not much precipitation) — and Skinner Roofing reported today that they have completed work on the first 60 feet of the Stone Bank’s roof.

Tim Skinner also reported that they found a lot of problems under the old asphalt roof, and said that his crew “stepped through the roof in four or five spots.”

This part of the roof needed a little extra attention from the roofing crew. There were several places where the roofing was rotted through.

So, there will be a bill for extra time and materials, because the roofers made sure there was a solid foundation under the new roof.
Doesn’t it just look better?

The front 60 feet of the Stone Bank's roof is complete. The section of the building to the right of the chimney is being dismantled. When it is rebuilt next year, it will get a shiny new roof, too.

It is wonderful progress, but we a facing a cost overrun. If you are a Stone Bank supporter, your tax-deductible contribution will help pay for this lovely new roof.

December 5, 2011

Inside the Stone Bank

Posted in Inside Stone Bank tagged , , , , , at 4:38 pm by stonebankblog

Progress. Progress. Progress. That’s the mode we’re in at the Stone Bank. While the roofers finish up on their work, our contractor Fred Kainz has been inside the bank changing the landscape a bit.

Here’s the interior of the Stone Bank’s back end. The building is being dismantled to about the dark line in the pink wallpaper, at left.

This section of the Stone Bank will disappear very soon. The wall constructed of 2x4s has been taken down.

But the 2×4 wall was NOT discarded, it was reused! Our contractor Fred used that wall to build the temporary wall that will close the shortened building this winter. Bravo! Why waste new materials on a temporary wall? The Stone Bank’s story isn’t only written in shades a brown, burgundy and gray — but it’s going a bit green around the edges!

Here are the components of the old wall being reused as the temporary wall. Note the line in the pink wallpaper near the window to get a sense of how much of the back part of the building is being dismantled.

As soon as Fred finishes this interior work, Joe, the stone mason can get back to removing the exterior walls. Then what will we discuss? The weather?

Thanks again to Scott Wagar for his help with photography.