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Updates On What's Happening Inside That New Writers' Place

Karen Shoemaker

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Can you tell I’m playing catch up this week with communicating with the outside world? It turns out buying a building and remodeling can take up a bit of a person’s time. It’s all good though! We love our new place, and we really love being in the Bethany neighborhood. I live at the edge of Lincoln and lots of people walk in our neighborhood, but it’s walking for exercise more than walking to get from one point to another. Not so here in Bethany. All day long I see people walk by on their way to the library or one of the shops along Cotner Blvd. or back and forth between homes and living centers. It feels like the small town it once was.

 This week the Dittmans (former owners of this building) stopped by with gifts for us – photos of the neighborhood from the early part of the century. I am ridiculously pleased by such gifts! Like a kid at Christmas. I love the way having those photos on the wall root us in this place. There’s history here, and now Larksong is a part of it.

 The building that now houses Larksong was built in 1925 and was a family home until the 1960s when it was converted to a commercial building. A bank or credit union held the main floor, and the second floor with its separate entrance was leased out for office space. It had been a Cornhusker Bank branch since 1987. The building is so entrenched in the public mind as a bank we still get people driving through several times a day trying to make deposits or withdrawals. Aside from a change of signs out front – and our yellow door – the exterior hasn’t changed much in the month we’ve “lived” here.

On the outside it won’t change a lot. The drive-thru is being converted to an outdoor patio but that’s about it in the foreseeable future. The location is close to perfect as it is. I’ve joked with John Dittman, Chairman of Cornhusker Bank, that I wished them out of this building. I had been driving around various neighborhoods in Lincoln for years looking for a suitable home for Larksong and I had had my eye on this building for almost as long. I spent so much time looking at it I worried someone would think I was casing the joint. But no, I was just wishing. As far as we were concerned this place had it all – a beautiful home-like appearance, lots of parking, commercial zoning, situated on a well-traveled street, near mid-city in a highly walkable neighborhood. When I saw Cornhusker Bank was closing this branch, I was certain my wishes had something to do with it. (Sorry to all the bank employees and customers who loved having a bank here! We promise to be good neighbors! Though, of course, we won’t lend you money….)

On the inside changes started being made the morning after the Open House. First on the agenda was to tear out the teller stations. (Did anyone lose $3.67 in loose change? If so, we found it beneath the stations.) Next, walls and ceiling panels started coming down in preparation for putting in a handicapped accessible bathroom on the main floor. Pulling panels out of the suspended ceiling revealed the bones of the old house and the modifications that created the open floor plan of today. The main floor, which would have been divided into a kitchen, dining room, living room and possibly a parlor back in the days of being a home, is currently one big room with an open staircase in the center.

That open floor plan is exactly the sort of space we want for readings and other events as well as both individual and co-working space. Whenever people ask me how we’ll use the space I tell them to think coffee shop without the barista – it’s a gathering space specifically for writers. A writers’ place, after all, is essentially a place to write.

When all the dust settles – and Covid restrictions allow – we’ll have Open Writing hours for members to come to write in the company of other writers. We’ll have in-person workshops and classes, we’ll host events and readings, and we’ll welcome established writing groups and encourage new ones.

For now, we’re continuing our classes on-line, and working at turning 1600 N. Cotner from a bank to gathering place for writers. It will be, as our motto states, a place “Where writing happens.”

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Larksong is committed to supporting both the writers who come to us for instruction and the writers who come to us to teach. We keep our class fees low, offer free programming, and pay our instructors. Please consider supporting our mission by making a donation.