Published On: Thu, May 30th, 2013

A lot of history is located in two Laurel buildings

LAUREL —  Two buildings, which have been standing in the downtown area of Laurel for over 100 years, have a lot of history behind them.

The 115 year-old wood frame building, and the 103 year-old brick structure, had housed the Morten Hardware business until last year.

The two buildings are included in a construction project to expand a current business that sits directly west of them – the Bears Den.

The wood frame building could be the last of Laurel’s pre-fire wooden buildings and one of the oldest found in the state.

“It is the oldest wood frame building left standing in the State according to the Nebraska Historical Society,” said Julia Shear, one of the owners of the two buildings.

The wood frame building was erected by F.M. Torrence in 1898.

Dr. J.C. Hay had his office on the second floor. The building was also the first location for Roy Lathrop’s Jewelry Store.

A banker erected the brick building in 1910. The first tenant was Hoile and Ware’s. This was the site of the 1918 burglary that led to the killing of Dr. C.C. Sackett and Harold Crownover. Later on the brick building would be used as a movie theatre, a Gambles Store and then the Morten Hardware Store.

Laurel resident Harold Sudbeck has a lot of memories connected to the two buildings on Second Street. His father Isadore Sudbeck opened up a Gambles Store in 1934, moving the family here from Hartington.

“He had a chance to start a Gambles Store in Hartington or in Laurel,” Harold said. “He had a lot of family in Hartington but decided to go to Laurel.”

In 1950 Sudbeck sold the Gambles Store. A little over 10 years later the business would be moved to the site where the Morten Hardware business would eventually be located.

A candy shop and movie theatre had occupied the buildings before Gambles or Morten Hardware.

Harold remembers the “Sweet Shop” in the wood frame building that sat next to the brick building.

Harold and his wife had lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of the building for a year after they were married.

Gerry Cunningham was the manager of the Gambles Store in 1961-62 when the business was moved to the Laurel Theatre site.

“The movie theatre had a slanted floor. The floor had to be raised before Gambles moved in,” Cunningham said.

The brick and the wood frame buildings that were part of the Morten Hardware business have both been touched by fires that occurred in Laurel.

The brick building was damaged during the March 2013 fire that totally destroyed the 111 year-old Laurel National Bank building that sat on the corner east of the two Morten Hardware buildings. The wood frame building was spared during several fires in Laurel.

The building was preserved during the “great fire” that swept through the Laurel downtown Oct 27, 1900 and burned 12 buildings and made four families homeless.

The alarm came about 7 p.m. when fire was seen in the rear of a building that housed a harness shop. At the time there was no central water supply according to Laurel’s 75th Diamond Jubilee History Book.

The alarm brought men, women and children carrying any utensil that could hold water to pass along fire lines that were quickly formed around the pumps in the town. The women pumped, the children carried, and the men fought the flames.

Three adjoining buildings, which included one home, quickly burned down. Despite the super human efforts to save the large Park Hotel, the building burned along with a brick veneered saloon, a pool hall, the Klondike Chop House, the two-story hardware store.