A new city hall for Delavan
What could be viewed as a major loss to a small town has actually become a great gain.
And, one Delavan resident has been there to experience it full circle.
Trudy Anderson, who was an employee at Pioneer Bank in Delavan for 25 years, has returned to work again in that very same location.
However, she is no longer a bank teller; she is an employee of the city of Delavan.
The Pioneer Bank in Delavan closed its doors in September 2013, and many feared it would leave a major hole in the community which could not be replaced.
But, the owners of the bank saw it as an opportunity for the small town it was leaving behind.
“They asked if there was interest in the building for city use,” Mayor Butch Ottesen says. “They wanted to give back to the community.”
And the city, having their office and library located in a small building along main street, knew they could put the building to use.
“Pioneer Bank had offers on this building but they paid all the costs to transfer it over to us; it didn’t cost us a dime,” Ottesen says.
The city had a new location for their library and city center.
“We were able to take over the building by Oct. 1, 2013,” Anderson adds. “It took us probably five weeks to get all of the bank furnishings out.”
Now, when one walks through that same building, it would be hard to tell a bank was ever there.
The teller desks have been removed and replaced with shelves of library books and the back desk of the bank has been taken out and computer desks have been put in its place.
However, there are a couple of small things remaining which give away the building’s past use the bank’s old safes.
“Those are really nice. They give us lots of storage for old records, and they’re fireproof,”?Ottesen says.
The bank in Delavan started out as Farmers State Bank and was built in 1909.
In 1957 the original building was torn down and the owner, Ed Hahn, replaced it with the current building.
“The building hasn’t changed much since when it was first built,” Deanne Wallace, of Delavan, says.
Wallace and Anderson worked together at the bank; Wallace for 26 years and Anderson for 25.
Hahn’s son-in-law Al Hupner took over as president and Harriet Hupner, Al’s wife, worked at the bank as well.
“Mr. Hupner treated us like one of his family,”?Wallace says.
Anderson adds the customers were also like family.
“A lot of times they would come in just to visit,” Anderson says.
Both agree there were not too many changes throughout the earlier years at the bank.
After Al and Harriet Hupner took the reins, Al presided over the bank until 1994. In March of that year, the bank was sold to First National Bank of Elmore.
Pioneer Bank purchased the bank in 1996 and remained until last September.
“There weren’t a lot of changes with owners and managers over all the years,” Anderson says.
Even with the bank leaving town, there still hasn’t been too many changes, except for the fact that it’s not a bank anymore.
Anderson is working there again, and another very prominent person has been spending some time at the old bank building again.
Harriet Hupner, who is now 96 years old, has been helping out at the library, too.
“It’s nice to see it being used and not empty,”?Hupner says.
In fact, Anderson and Ottesen suspect the library is already being used much more than it had been before.
Now the new building allows room for a kids corner which is a special room with children’s books, bean bag chairs, puzzles and a table and chairs all just for the kids.
There is a meeting room where the book club meets and where the City Council holds their meetings.
The front office is where Anderson now works.
“It’s like deja vu for me being back here,”?she says.
And, Ottesen jokes that Anderson has finally gotten the front office after all these years.
“But, we really did luck out and it was all made possible by Pioneer Bank,”?Ottesen adds. “They deserve all the credit, they were very community-minded.”
The coffee crews are happy about the move, too, because now they have a place to meet up every morning.
In the very front of the building, tables are set up and used for people to come and enjoy their morning coffee together.
“Maybe other towns can use Delavan as an example of how they made the best out of a situation like this,” Wallace adds.
And of course, during the transition, the two former bank employees could not help but reminisce.
“I remember the old posting machines we had to use,”?Anderson says with a laugh. “We had to manually punch in all the numbers and crank it.”
Wallace adds although they didn’t see a lot of changes as far as owners and managers go, they saw plenty of changes in the banking industry.
“We went through all the changes and eventually we were using computers,”?Wallace says.
Wallace also shares a secret of the bank. Something that has remained in the same exact spot, even after the original building was demolished and the new one was built.
“In the corner of the safe is a round vault,”?she says. “When the new bank was built it was built around this round vault.”
Anderson and Wallace opened up the old round vault to reveal even the city has found a use for that as well.
“We’re using it for our drop box now,”?Anderson says.
So, although Delavan has lost a major part of their town, they have turned it into a positive experience.
Now instead of letting a building sit empty or waiting to see what might become of the old bank building, the city was able to put it right back to use.
“This is a win-win situation for everyone,” Ottesen says. “We really appreciate the move.”