If you’ve driven by the corner of 16th and M streets recently you surely noticed a lot of activity at the Bryant House. Our Grand Lady is finally getting a face lift, thanks to a grant from the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation of West Point.
During a 1989 home repair of the front porch, a Chase & Sandborn coffee can was discovered beneath the floorboards. Inside was a treasure trove of information—the Bryant House’s very own time capsule.
There were several 1912 editions of area newspapers, a few advertising flyers and a note handwritten by E. W. Bryant. Mr. Bryant wrote about the 1912 changes being made to the exterior of the house. “This house was built in 1890. And is a well built house,” he wrote. “This is the first outside alteration and a wide porch is not only the style but very convenient. We are also painting the house and barn. A light gray, with white trim.”
The Bryant House board members have met with contractors to get estimates and bids for a variety of projects, including exterior restoration, additional structural support, new sidewalks and driveways and landscaping to address drainage issues. Once the exterior projects are completed, the focus will turn to the interior of the home where much additional work is needed: central air conditioning to regulate the correct humidity and temperature for the proper preservation of the home and its many valuable artifacts, repair and refinishing of wood floors, furniture repair and restoration including family portraits of earlier generations from the 1700s and 1800s.
Studying documentation and viewing old photographs is helping return this home, as closely as possible, to its original beauty. It was determined the porch screens were not original to the home, and the decision was made to remove them. Doing this has exposed the beauty and charm of the wrap around porch and its large tapered columns, so popular at the turn of the century.
Armed with estimates and the news of receiving the Nielsen Foundation grant, the time had finally arrived to begin the long-awaited restoration. The first step was to determine the order of importance of the projects. It was decided that the exterior of the home was the most critical, followed by additional structural support and replacing damaged and potentially dangerous concrete sidewalks and driveways.
Blake Uhing, owner of Blackboard Design, an Omaha construction company specializing in rejuvenating historic homes to their original beauty, and his crew began working on June 16. They have put in long days removing shutters, repairing damaged or rotting siding, facia boards and gutters. Once the necessary repairs are completed, they will begin prepping the house for new paint. Scraping, sanding every board on the house, caulking and priming must all be completed before the painting can begin.
The board is in the process of selecting the paint colors. It was decided to return to the gray with white trim as mentioned in Mr. Bryant’s note. Who would have guessed what a difficult decision selecting paint would be? There are many, many options of grays and whites and choosing the perfect colors has been a challenge.
The road ahead is long and expensive but the board is committed to restoring this beautiful Tekamah treasure to its original grandeur. We will continue to fundraise and search for grants to help make this dream a reality. We sincerely appreciate your interest and continued support.