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As city prepares for sale of Plains building, residents say goodbye
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CASPER NOTEBOOK

As city prepares for sale of Plains building, residents say goodbye

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Skip Hoffman and his friends made good car salesmen. It was the mid-1960s. They were teenagers. They knew how to work the clientele.

And they got good perks. Hoffman remembers being asked to take the new cars home, show them off, amass some envy and then direct that envy back to the dealership.

“I was here when the very first Camaro came out,” he said Wednesday night, standing amid other Casper historic preservationists in the dark belly of that old car dealership where he worked as a kid.

The group was on a tour of the building, led by Casper Community Development Director Liz Becher. They were there to see some of the space’s remaining historic elements before the city sells the building next month.

It’s bittersweet, Hoffman said, remembering the past lives of this now vacant, boarded-up brick building once such a prominent piece of Casper’s downtown. When Hoffman worked here, it was the Nolan Chevrolet dealership, built in 1925 and in business for roughly 40 years before being converted to a Plains Furniture Store.

As he walked through the space, he flicked his flashlight from wall to wall, ceiling to floor.

“This brought back a lot of memories,” he said, pointing his light upward, toward the bowstring trusses holding up the roof.

This was the showroom, where the newest Chevrolets would get lined up, meant to entice passersby looking through the dealership’s wide front windows. But while the structure is familiar to Hoffman, to those in the city who decided to buy the Plains building when it went up for sale in 2016, it was a surprise.

The city bought the building and those surrounding it with no clear goal. They just wanted to control how the area developed. At one point, the City Council wanted to demolish the building and build a parking lot in its place.

But whatever plans the city had were halted when two relics of 1920s Casper were discovered hidden within the former furniture store’s drop ceiling and sheetrock walls: The Chevy dealership and an old firehouse garage.

The city pivoted, sold the portion of the building with the garage to the man who owned the rest of the firehouse and now, instead of knocking the remainder down, they’re selling it to Downtown Development Authority board members Brandon Daigle and Kevin Hawley. The pair plan to build live/work spaces, with a mix of office space and downtown housing.

Hoffman said the project makes him a little sad, given all of the history here. But he said it’s better than knocking the building down.

Daigle and Hawley also have plans to preserve as many of the historic elements inside the structure as they can. The trusses that brought back so many memories for Hoffman will become the skeleton for an outdoor courtyard, for example.

The official sale of the building is scheduled for the City Council’s October 15 meeting. This was a final opportunity for Hoffman and other Casper residents to see the historic remains as-is. Hoffman said he was glad for the chance.

Follow city reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites.

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Hughes primarily covers local government. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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