Auditorium – Ravenna NE

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In December 1933, the Ravenna News reported that the city of Ravenna had been approached by the Buffalo County CWA (Civil Works Administration) Board with an offer of a grant for $6000.00 for the purpose of building a city auditorium. As a result of a bequest from a former citizen, William Bohning, in the amount of $5000.00, which was willed to the city for the express purpose of building a city hall, the city of Ravenna would not have to increase taxes in order to raise funds for the city’s portion of the funding for the auditorium. The building would cost Ravenna and its citizens nothing.

Within one week, notice of the grant was given to the city, and the CWA appeared to be trying to speed the project as much as possible. The city quickly hired Kearney architect John Helleberg, who planned a simple single story, brick and tile building measuring about sixty by ninety feet. The contractor, Judy Kauffman, planned to break ground for the building on Tuesday, December 26th, although plans for the building were not yet complete.

Ravenna planned for the building to be built on the northeast corner of the school grounds as the land was already owned by the municipality, and Ravenna would have to incur no cost to build there. An additional benefit was that the auditorium could be heated from the school’s heating plant, as the $11,000.00 set aside for the project was not thought to be enough for a heating system as well. Unfortunately, the project was forced to wait on a legal question that was referred to the State Attorney General, Paul F. Good, because there was some question about whether or not the school board had the right or authority to lease school grounds to the city for this purpose. Without waiting for answer from Attorney General Good, the city board decided to alter their plans, and build on another municipal property near the light plant that had become part of city park for horseshoe enthusiasts.

Work was soon underway, with the intention of completing as much as possible while the weather held, as the CWA had set an early date, February 15, 1934, by which their money needed to be spent. Within a week, the contractor had several teams of laborers, and work was progressing on the building night and day. The foundation was being poured under electric lights in the middle of the night. By the end of January, the walls were all up, and the girders for the roof were ready to be placed. The electrician was already at work. Windows were being placed. After the roof was in, the maple flooring would be laid by carpenters, and other woodwork would be finished.

An additional change had been made to the plans for the building. The American Legion contributed $850 and promised to raise $500 more in exchange for a meeting room on the back of the building in the basement, accessible from a separate entrance on the west and not accessible from the auditorium space. Their meeting space would also house the restrooms and dressing rooms.

By February 9th, the auditorium was nearing completion. The roof girders had been studded with joists, covered with shiplap covering, insulation and three layers of roof felt and asphalt. The concrete flooring had been laid in three sections, and the remainder yet to be completed. The carpenters were busy finishing window installations and the arch of the stage. The heating units had been installed and were working. Plumbing and maple flooring had yet to be installed, but was hoped to be finished by the February 15th deadline. Unfortunately, they missed the deadline. The concrete floors required a week to cure, and the maple floors could not be laid over them until they were dry. Because of this, the project did not finish on time, even though the only portion of the project that remained was the flooring. The Ravenna city board was left in flux, not knowing how to proceed, and awaiting word from the CWA. Very quickly, Ravenna received word from state CWA officials that the project would be allowed to proceed to completion, most likely because they were so near a finished project, although the newspaper preferred to interpret the news as an implication that the Ravenna auditorium was “one of the most important [projects] of the state.”

All in all, the community was proud of the progress that had been made, and the newspaper extolled the achievement, stating,

On January 3, thirty-six days ago, a grove of fine large three stood where now the building stands… What is probably an unprecedented building record during a winter season has been set up in connection with the building. Working during the months of January and February, when any day a blizzard might have come howling down, Contractor J.E. Kaufman [sic] has lost only one and a half working days.

A space for a dedication panel had been left blank on the front façade of the building, until such a time as the community had funds to procure one. However, the Paine Monument Company of Grand Island, Nebraska, donated an eight foot Vermont marble panel inscribed with the words “Bohning Memorial 1934.” The donation was made by Mr. H. B. Paine, vice president of the company and the Ravenna representative of the company, which had provided the grave marker for Mr. Bohning when he died several years previously.

The new Ravenna Auditorium was officially opened with the 39th annual Fireman’s Ball, held March 19th, 1934. A capacity crowd was anticipated, and indeed, between 700 and 800 people attended. The firemen raised $600 toward the auditorium fund, and guests came not only from surrounding small towns, but also from Broken Bow, Loup City, Grand Island, Lincoln, and Kearney. The opening was a success, and inaugurated a new era of public gatherings and sporting events in their new public building.

Source notes

Ravenna News, 8 December 1933.
Ravenna News, 15 December 1933.
Ravenna News, 22 December 1933.
Ravenna News, 29 December 1933.
Ravenna News, 5 January 1934.
Ravenna News, 12 January 1934.
Ravenna News, 26 January 1934.
Ravenna News, 16 February 1934.
Ravenna News, 23 February 1934.
Ravenna News, 9 February 1934.
Ravenna News, 2 March 1934.
Ravenna News, 23 March 1934.

Project originally submitted by Jill Dolberg on July 23, 2015.

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Location Info

Ravenna, Nebraska 68869

Location notes: Northeast corner of Alba Avenue and Genoa Street

Coordinates: 41.026327, -98.912721

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