WELLSVILLE — Janet Broers makes her way across the main floor of the former Wellsville Bank Building at 418 Main St.
Temporary lights hang from the ceiling, casting a dim glow on the floor below.
But beyond the dust and bare, aged walls, Broers, a Wellsville Historical Society member, can see the building’s potential, and what will eventually take shape here.
Brick covers the exterior of the two-story structure, which stands as one of the few remaining buildings built in town during the late 1800s. The building was constructed in 1884 — the same year the town was incorporated.
While it was mainly known as a bank, the building had many lives, housing everything from doctors offices to a candy kitchen, a bakery, a clothing store and a newspaper. It was also home to produce businesses, including M.L. Averill Produce, who occupied the building from 1947-1965. The Averill’s also had a Purina feed store there from 1966-1977, according to records.
But eventually, the building stood vacant, falling victim to age and neglect. Faced with the threat of being demolished, the structure received a stay when the local historical society became interested in it.
“We knew we needed another location,” Broers said. “We looked at other places, but then we thought about this building — but it was in disrepair and the city was thinking about having it demolished.”
But with the help of the late Elizabeth Moherman, whose family had strong ties to the bank, the historical society was able to purchase the building.
“She was really instrumental in getting this project started,” she said.
Knowing the building needed a lot of help, Broers and other members of the historical society’s building committee got to work. Broers, the group’s grant writer, secured a $100,000 endowment from the Kansas Heritage Trust Foundation in 2015 to help stabilize the building. The Heritage Trust Fund is a state program designed to provide matching funds to preserve properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Grant funds are used to reimburse expenses for projects that preserve or restore historic properties.
Some of the work covered by the grants included the addition of new bricks to the exterior. A new roof and half of the concrete floor inside were also replaced. A similar grant, which was received in May, totaled more than $88,000, and has helped to continue restoration efforts.
Eventually, Broers said, the building will house the city’s history, which, for now, is crammed into a small storage area that is quickly running out of space. Along with displays and exhibits, the building will also house offices, additional storage space and possibly a place for genealogical research. The museum will also feature a new wood floor, reminiscent of the building’s original floor.
Members of the historical society’s building committee, including chairman Harley Broers, Ron Hughes, Don Hrabe, Marlin Chanay, Janet Broers, Steve Layton, historical society president, and Nancy Lytle, historical society vice president, are planning a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the Wellsville City Library, 115 W. Sixth St. Members are planning to discuss progress on the restoration project as well as proposed plans for additional building improvements.