The Old West Trails Center sits on the corner of Main and Ida in downtown Odell. The 22 foot x 30 foot building was constructed of locally quarried limestone for J.D. Myers, president of The First Commercial Bank. That business ended in 1893 and later State Bank of Odell used the building from 1907 to 1928. Other uses of the building may have been a fire hall, a newspaper office and a garage.
The building fell into disrepair over the years and citizens of the village looked for ways to fund a renovation. The Odell Community Foundation was organized in 1993 and over a 12-year period $7,500 was raised to repair the roof and to have the stones tuck-pointed.
In October of 2003, The Village of Odell applied for a Transportation Enhancement grant through the Nebraska Department of Roads. The $104,160.00 grant was designated for the renovation of the building as a transportation center, an appropriate focus since Odell has a rich transportation history. The railroad played a major role in why the town was built where it is now; near the former route of the Oregon Trail and Oketo Cut-Off of the Overland Stage line.
Diller Telephone owned the limestone bank building and the lot on which it stood for a time. Bill Sandman, president of the company gave the building to the Village of Odell along with enough property to build an 18 foot x 17 foot wooden addition to the west. It connected to the main limestone structure much like the banker’s residence had years before.
The village advertised for bids in April of 2005 for the construction of The Southeast Nebraska Old West Trails and Transportation Center, since shortened to The Old West Trails Center. Marvin Webb and Company Architects, Inc. of Grand Island created the concept drawings and Five-Star Contracting won the bid for general renovation. Wrightsman Plumbing and Plymouth Electric also worked on the project.
Grant funds were delayed for over six months due to administration changes in the Department of Roads but as those funds became available, work began. Construction started in the fall of 2005 and an open house was held September 10, 2006 to celebrate completion of that phase of the project.
The original grant writer’s estimated the project would cost $130,200.00. Since that time the price tag has increased to nearly $235,000.00. Those funds were raised through grants and donations from organizations and individuals. The restoration of the building is complete. Most of the furnishings have been purchased and exhibits and displays are nearly finished. The grand opening is set for September 30th.
Major contributors to the project have been: The Nebraska Department of Roads; The Ethel Abbott Foundation; Martha and Margaret Thomas; Rose and William Sapp; The Gage County Visitor’s Committee; The Odell Consignment Sale Committee; State Bank of Odell; The Gene Stanosheck Family; The Sandman Family Trust; Beatrice Concrete; W.A. Scully; The Swanson, Biggs, Adams Foundation; The Gage County Foundation; Wal-Mart; Pinnacle Bank; Norris Public Power; The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; The Leigh Coffin Foundation; Shirley Coffey and The Odell Community Foundation.
Additional donations for exhibits, displays and on-going programs can be made through The Odell Community Foundation in-care-of Larry Stanosheck; State Bank of Odell; P.O. Box 185; Odell, NE 68415.
A board of six individuals, under the direction of the Odell Village Board of Trustees, is in charge of most aspects of The Center. They are Marilyn Lytle, Judy Baumann, Rick Masek, Dave Anderson and Larry and Robin Stanosheck.
The mission of The Old West Trails Center is preservation of area transportation history and local history. The mission statement might read “preservation, education and inspiration”, according to curriculum director Robin Stanosheck. “We hope to appeal to history buffs of all ages through a variety of special music and history programs. We also can boast a learning center with history-related computer games and “learning-boxes”.
Also at The Center, visitors can pick up information about area historical sites and museums as part of a net-working project which encourages tourism in southeast Nebraska and northeast Kansas.
The focal point of The Center is 100 feet of “transportation-related” interior murals done by Waverly artist, Dave Reiser.
The Center was nominated for The National Registry of Historic Places and has made it through the three rounds of the process. It is now through the state level and they will now go to the federal level. A final determination will be made this December.
The building is open the fourth Sunday of most months throughout the year for special programs. Hours will be increased as volunteers are lined up to man the building. Visitors are encouraged to arrange a tour by calling any of the following numbers: 402-766-3720, 766-3725, 766-4237; or 766-4275.
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