Leises honored for work on downtown building
HARTINGTON — History Nebraska has honored a Hartington couple for preserving a historic structure in the Cedar County seat community.
Preston and Emily Leise have been named the 2022 Nebraska State Historic Preservation Award winners for rehabilitating a 122-year-old building in downtown Hartington to use for their businesses.
“It came as a complete surprise to us as our whole idea wasn’t to be nominated for any awards or any recognition for that matter,” Preston said.
“It started with us just wanting a nicer place for our businesses to be for a long time to come,” he said. “We then got in the process of wanting to keep the existing exterior architecture and then it moved on from there.”
The couple had been invited to receive the History Nebraska award in person during a special event on March 15 at the historic Kennard House in Lincoln, but they were unable to due to the nature of Preston’s business.
Preston owns Leise Tax & Bookkeeping at 107 N. Broadway Ave. in downtown Hartington and tax season keeps him busy this time of year.
Emily’s business, Emily Rose Photography, is located inside an addition to the structure that the couple had built on in 2018 to the property, which they own together.
After buying the red-brick building in August 2017 to be the home of their businesses, Preston and Emily knew that rehabilitation work was in their future for the structure, which dates back to 1900.
When the Hartington Downtown Historic District was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, the couple could begin using the Nebraska Historic Tax Credit program to bring their building back to its original luster.
“The process started, you could say, with the purchase of the building as the idea was always there,” Preston said of rehabilitating the structure.
“I started the process of exploring historical tax credits in the summer of 2019 as Hartington became a historical district with my building a contributing property,” he said.
The rehabilitation work started during the summer of 2020 and was completed in December later that year.
The finalizing of the building project and state historic tax credits was formally approved during the summer of 2021.
Preston and Emily originally were not sure what they wanted to do with rehabilitating the structure.
“Over the first few years of owning the property, I received numerous comments about the unique exterior of the building,” Preston said. “I agreed with this and thought it would be a neat feature to keep in the downtown.
“We then thought if we are keeping the exterior looking original, we should try to keep as much as the inside original as possible to match that historic look with the main feature on the interior being the original wood floors and HVAC registers,” he said.
The couple utilized historic images of the building’s original windows to have replacements created, had the roof replaced, had Americans with Disabilities Act access added and had mortar repointed – chipped out and replaced – based on the color and texture of the historic mortar.
Elements of the structure’s interior that could be saved were carefully refinished, the floor was restabilized, and new electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning were added as part of the rehabilitation work.
“It was a complete gut job down to the bones of the building,” Preston said.
RaDec Construction Co. Inc. of Hartington was the general contractor for the building project.
“RaDec was very instrumental in being very detailed and working with History Nebraska every step of the way,” Preston said.
“We used about seven different subcontractors on the project and tried to keep everything we possibly could local with purchases and subcontractors,” he said.
Preston and Emily are happy to receive the History Nebraska award and with how the rehabilitation work turned out on the building that houses their businesses.
“It was a total relief to be back in the building doing business and be able to have a final product that we could start to make our own,” Preston said.
“We love the statement the arched windows bring the downtown and the natural light inside,” he said. “We are very pleased with the final product we have that we hope to be in for a long time to come.”