Business owner finds rich history in old building

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- One Omaha man hit the jackpot by taking a chance on buying an old building at 40th and Hamilton. The purchase sent John Hargiss on a surprising trip into Omaha's past.

"A friend of mine had suggested, you know you need to take a look at that building on 40th and Hamilton,” said Hargiss.

After 18 years in Benson, Hargiss String Instruments owner John Hargiss, needed a change in scenery.

"When I came here there was 10 food ceilings, debris, and it took us probably four, twenty yard dumpsters to get the trash out of this,” Hargiss said.

But little did he know, the building he just purchased was rich with history. He soon realized he stumbled upon a time capsule dating back to the late 1800s.

"We had no idea that this had once been a theater,” Hargiss said.

By tearing out newer walls and ceilings, he found hidden gems.

"It's like, 'wow, what is that grate doing there?'" said Hargiss.

What was once the Hamilton Street Enterprises in 1905 eventually became the 40th Street Theater, showing films to the masses.

"It's pretty well documented who was here and what was going on,” he said.

The historic building was also home to a bakery and a carpet store before Hargiss took over the building, and started restoring its history. He says it was like putting pieces of a puzzle together.

Hargiss said that with every passing day, there was a new find.

"The ticket grinder is an original piece to the building," Hargiss said.

While these pieces of history show the life this building once had, it's also fortunate the right person came along to found this hidden treasure -- and what lies just below the surface.

"I'm telling you, every day is like Christmas!” he said.

Hargiss says the space is already in use the band "Blue Moon" recorded an album there. It's seen ball room dancing and weddings and, musician Connor Oberst plans to do a concert there as well.