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Upstairs downtown: The Brodbeck BuildingTell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by George Lauby
Looking downstairs from the second floor. The doors halfway down could be closed and locked.
Photo by George Lauby
Upstairs hallway
Photo by George Lauby
Connecting doorway between rooms.

When Rob and Danielle Kittle bought the downtown Brodbeck building in 2005, they were excited as well as aghast at what they needed to do.

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The building carried the potential for what they envisioned in their growing music business, with a dozen upstairs rooms that could be converted to music practice rooms. But the upstairs was in tatters.


This is one of a series of Bulletin reports on downtown buildings and their upstairs rooms.


“It was a disaster,” Danielle said. “The ceilings were in ruins. The first thing was did was haul out two dumpsters full of debris – mattresses, trash, old applieances.”

More than half of the second floor had been converted to a roomy three-bedroom apartment, but that was years ago, probably in the 1950s or 60s.

Slowly and steadily, the Kittles started renovating the upstairs rooms into practice rooms. They installed new furnaces and new plumbing. They stripped and refinished walls and hung new ceilings.

They are saving the best historical features, such as heavy wooden doors, the wide staircase and the banisters.

It’s been a labor of love, Danielle said.

“I wish we could have got here 20 years earlier,” she said. “We would have saved more of it. The skylights would have been gorgeous in their day.”

Skylights hung five feet or so above the original ceilings, but were covered by the time the Kittles took over.

The upstairs rooms are fascinating, numbered from 0 and higher, with room 0 in the back. The rooms are also connected by interior doorways, which would have opened up for parties. The old wallpaper in the hallways is several layers thick, covering walls that were painted pink.

Today the downstairs of the building is home not only to Kittle’s Music but also Excel Screen Print and Embroidery.


History

When Christian Brodbeck, “Christ” to all his friends, stepped onto American soil at Ellis Island, New York, on May 26, 1881, he declared America home for the rest of his life.

Christ departed Liverpool, England and went to Pittsburgh, Penn. to work as a butcher, a trade he’d learned in Germany. After working in Pittsburg for a year, he went to Chicago, Omaha and finally to North Platte in 1887.

Brodbeck went to work as a meat cutter and within a year he bought his own store at 418 No. Dewey, a small wooden building, between the Keith Theater and I.O.O.F. (International Order of Oddfellows) buildings.

He stayed there until he bought a lot for a new building on East Fifth. Construction began March 23, 1916 for a two-story brick building measuring 44 x 80 feet.

The first floor had two storefronts and it still does today. A door between leads upstairs.

The Brodbecks also sold groceries. The second floor, with more than a dozen rooms, housed a variety of offices until sometime between 1921 and 1923, when the Brodbecks rented the entire floor to June and Owen Trapp.

The Trapps opened a rooming establishment called Glendale Rooms, and ran it until 1932, when Violet Gosney took charge of the establishment.

Gosney had arrived in North Platte several years earlier and managed a rooming house a block or so away at 513˝ N. Dewey.

Gosney became one of North Platte’s most infamous madames, second only to Mable Kaufman, who owned the Broadmoor Rooms.

Violet was the girlfriend of Pat McHugh, one of North Platte’s most notorious gamblers.

The pair ran with a rough crowd. Both played a central role in North Platte’s negative reputation during its “Little Chicago” days.

Violet married when she was young and evidently didn’t have much family. She was 14 years old when she married Victor R. Nelson in 1910 before a justice of the peace.

Violet’s mother died on February 5, 1911, and her brother Arthur was in the Missouri State Penitentiary on June 5, 1918, according to historical records.

By the time Violet arrived in North Platte, she was evidently single again. All local records list her simply as Violet Gosney.

After an unfortunate accident in February of 1931, Gosney became known as the

“one-legged madam.” McHugh and Gosney were hunting prairie chickens. McHugh crawled through a barbed wire fence when his gun discharged, hitting his girlfriend in the leg. Doctors at the Platte Valley Hospital on the corner of Oak & 5th were unable to save her leg and it was amputated.

The Glendale rooms closed in 1952, after a “clean-up” of North Platte helped push out such businesses. Still, the Glendale Rooms had the notoriety of being operated by the same “Madam” for 20 years, the second-longest period of time in North Platte history. The dubious honor of the longest operation by a “Madame” went to Mable Kaufman in her Broadmoor Hotel a couple blocks away.

Pat McHugh and Violet Gosney headed north to Chadron but authorities kept after them. Both faced tax evasion charges.

The May 4, 1953 Omaha World Herald said that "Mrs. Violet Gosney McHugh of North Platte has appealed from a claim for $31,410.10 in income taxes and penalties for 1947-1950. In another appeal, Patrick J. McHugh of North Platte challenges a claim for $19,987.12 in back income taxes and penalties for the years 1948-1950."

On June 13, 1953, the Omaha World Herald reported:

'Chadron Woman Gets Tax Evasion Fines'

"Violet Gosney McHugh, 54, of Chadron, Neb., was fined one thousand dollars on each of three counts of income tax evasion by Federal Judge James A. Donohoe. The Government alleged the charges grew out of Mrs. McHugh's operation of the Glendale Rooms in North Platte during 1948, 1949, and 1950. She was charged with understating her income tax $7,460 for the three years, said Assistant United States District Attorney John Deming."

Meanwhile, the Brodbecks continued to run their downstairs market and grocery until 1970. By the time of its closing, they served North Platte for 78 continuous years.

Businesses came and went in the west half of the downstairs building -- including the James Shoe Service and the North Platte Cafe.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Violet Gosney McHugh passed away in Burbank, Calif. in May 1986.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 9/17/2012
Copyright © 2012 northplattebulletin.com - All rights reserved.
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