Built in 1917, the Hoffman Building has contributed to the rich history of historic Ashland, Nebraska for nearly 100 years. Located between Omaha and Lincoln, the building stands sentry in the heart of downtown Ashland at the corner of 14th and Silver Street. The two story landmark is undergoing transformations to become the future home of Linoma Software‘s corporate headquarters.
A Little History:
The present day Hoffman Building is a two story brick structure that was constructed to house a grocery and department store. The business, George Hoffman’s Co., was founded in 1884 by Oscar Hoffman at the age of 16 and was named for his father who had to sign his business documents until he was of age. In 1888, Oscar joined forces with his brother John and the business became Hoffman Brothers until 1908 when he went solo again and renamed the business, Oscar Hoffman, General Merchandise.
The business later relocated to it’s final home in the newly built Hoffman Building in 1917, during a time when the city of Ashland was experiencing a major building boom. Not only could one buy groceries at Hoffman’s, there was also a wide variety of dry goods including everything from shoes, bedding and curtains to golf gloves, yarn and toys. A forward thinker, Oscar Hoffman often added to the store’s offerings and even provided delivery service. He ensured his new building would serve him well in the years to come by making sure it was outfitted with modern steam heat, electricity and a telephone, but he didn’t stop there.
In addition to Oscar Hoffman’s Store, the building’s second floor was home to the Hoffman Auditorium. A hub in the community, the auditorium was used for a myriad of community events including playing host to live plays, movies, dances, events and local celebrations. In times of crisis, the auditorium served the community well. When fire destroyed the original school building in 1919, high school classes were held there until the new building was completed. During World War II, sewing machines were brought in and the auditorium became a sterile environment for local women to stitch war-time bandages. Like the store, the auditorium space was considered to be state-of-the-art for its time with large dressing rooms, storage space, electric lights and a freight elevator to transport props and gear to the second floor. At the Hoffman Auditorium, Ashland residents were able to experience a variety of fine entertainment acts from performances by big names such as Tommy Dorsey to a traveling minstrel troupe and a tight-wire act.
The Hoffman Building has played a prominent role in the history and development of Ashland. Over the years, the Hoffman Store evolved to become primarily a grocery store until sometime in the 1980s when it finally closed its doors after decades of serving the Ashland community. Donco Tools occupied the building for a few years, along with a variety of other retail businesses including a flower shop, photography studio, café and The Brickhouse, a gym which currently occupies space on the lower level .
In December 2012, the building was purchased by new owners Bob and Christy Luebbe who announced plans to renovate the space for use as the corporate headquarters of their company, Linoma Software. “We love the downtown area and really wanted to stay here,” said Bob Luebbe, “The building was the right size for our rapidly growing company and I loved the history, the high ceilings and wide expanses. It just spoke to being a great collaborative space for a technology company like Linoma Software”.
Then and Now:
The Hoffman Building has shown considerable wear and tear over the years, withstanding a pigeon infestation in the 1990s, surviving roof damage, broken windows and multiple water leaks. Despite its age and variety of owners and occupants, many of the original features have remained surprisingly intact. Because of the beauty and character of the building’s original features, the Luebbes pledged to be diligent about preserving as much as possible during the renovation process. With the building pursuant to the National Register of Historic Places, the restoration plan is following their guidelines for historic preservation. Restoring and retaining the original pressed tin ceilings, surviving light fixtures, period trim and original stage backdrops from the 1920s — along with refinishing the solid maple floors — requires a lot of work and patience but, according to Luebbe, it will be well worth the effort.
“The state historical committee has been flexible in allowing for us to make it into a useable space while preserving as much history as possible. There are items like central heat and air that we need in a business space but, in order to remain compliant with electrical, fire and safety codes, some of these modernizations and updates required adjustments in certain areas of the building. The historical committee understands this and has been great to work with in identifying workable solutions.”
Restoration efforts are currently in progress and have included aforementioned overhauls of the electrical and HVAC systems along with a new elevator and brand new staircases. The first floor will house a large conference and training facility. The second floor will consist of a lobby and reception area, offices and collaborative space along with a kitchen and recreational area for employees. The building is slated for completion in early 2015.
Celebrating 20 years in business, Linoma Software provides secure managed file transfer solutions for thousands of customers worldwide with their GoAnywhere suite of products and IBM i software. “It’s an exciting time for us,” says Luebbe “We have experienced rapid growth in recent years which facilitated the need for a larger space. The Hoffman Building couldn’t be more perfect for us.” Named one of the Fastest Growing Companies in Nebraska by Inc 5000 for the past two years, it’s easy to see how the company might require more space for their staff. Luebbe says that everyone is excited about the move and looking forward to working in the historically significant building.
While new construction might be faster and easier, Bob Luebbe was determined to see the Hoffman building restored, “It’s a beautiful building with a rich history that we found to be fascinating. Our goal has been to preserve the history of the building for future generations but also make it into a functional space for Linoma Software. While the process of renovating a historical building takes a lot of time and patience, we are hoping that the end result can be appreciated for another hundred years or more.”
[To learn more about the history of the building, please visit the Ashland Historical Society's page on the Hoffman Building.]