Like Joan Rivers and the chocolate chip cookie, the Transcript-Bulletin’s building turns 80 this year.
Also like the chocolate chip cookie, the building has had several add-ons, as well as, like Joan Rivers, a few facelifts and a little work done since its birth.
The building, third to house the company, has had 12 additions, plus some renovations, and has proved to be the roses rising from the ashes, said Joel Dunn, emeritus publisher of the Transcript-Bulletin.
The first building was located on Vine Street, just east of Main Street, but the company moved about a block west, to the other side of Main Street. The newspaper, run by Dunn’s father, Alex Dunn, was housed there, as was all of the printing equipment to publish it.
“It was an old-frame building, and Dad was concerned about it burning down,” Joel said.
In the autumn of 1932, those fears were realized. An early snowstorm that October broke a power line above the building, and the electrical sparks combined with the old wooden building to make a devastating fire. The building burned to the ground, taking all of the printing equipment with it.
Joel said replacing the equipment was out of the question, especially in the throws of the Depression, so Alex took the newspaper to a fellow publisher in Magna, who let him print it there late at night. Meanwhile, a new building started to rise on Main Street, this time made from cement, not wood.
“Alex Dunn used people who owed him money to build as much as he could to cut down on costs,” Joel said.
The building was completed in 1933, though the printing equipment took 20 years to entirely replace. The archives, dating back to the late 19th century, were lost, Joel said, though some were eventually found going back to 1910 that had been kept in a nearby church house.
In its early years, the Transcript-Bulletin building was sandwiched between the local telephone company’s switchboards on one side and a glass company on the other, while a gas station was situated north of that. Behind the building was a small house.
In the early 1950s, a second story was added onto the cement building, including a small apartment, which was rented out through the 1960s, Joel said. The remains of that apartment are still used today for storage of newspaper archives.
Joel said the tenants of the apartment seldom interacted with the bustling workers in the office portion of the building.
“At the time the press room was separate from the building, and there wasn’t any machinery below it, just storage, so it was quiet,” he said. “The only downside was that whoever lived there had to go up a back staircase to get up there.”
In 1962, to accommodate a new set of presses, a new press room was built behind the original building. The off-set printing presses were faster and could handle more pages at once, besides being capable of doing different kinds of printing. Joel said those presses, cutting-edge at the time, brought in business from large companies from across the nation, including Josten’s, a company that makes yearbooks, photo albums and class rings for high schools and colleges and championship rings for professional sports, including the Super Bowl.
In the 1970s, the Transcript-Bulletin started renting the telephone company building to the north, which had also been Beehive State Bank for a time, and then bought it in the early 1980s.
The press room got a small addition for storage in 1981, but its most significant addition came in 1990, when it was made higher, wider and deeper than before to fit new, taller presses.
The owners of E.L. Gillespie’s Friendly Excel Service expressed discontent at the new shadow brought by the larger pressroom, and discussions between the two parties resulted in the Transcript-Bulletin purchasing the service station. It was rented out to other businesses until 2002, when it was torn down and paved over for a larger parking lot.
Another add-on to the press room came in 1998, and yet another in 2002. Joel said most of the add-ons were done as a reflection of necessity, but the last was with an eye to the future.
“The long-term plan went in the last time we added on,” he said, citing a storage room and space for future expansions in the most recent addition. “Also, at the same time we added a loading dock for semis, which takes our waste paper to a company in Washington state.”
The series of additions to the building have mirrored the growth of the company’s workforce, Joel said. At the time of the fire, four people reported and wrote the news and printed it. A few years later, the workforce increased to five. Now the company’s workforce numbers 43, excluding the 85 or so newspaper carriers, making it one of the larger private employers in the city — besides being the oldest company still functioning in the county.
Joel said the combination of a relatively remote location and entrepreneurial attitude have played equal parts in crafting a legacy of self-sufficiency and progress that has been consistent throughout the company’s 117-year history.
“It’s been difficult to get help and expertise out here, so we’ve had to be more efficient,” he said. “We’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve. We were the first paper to go to a digital camera. We’ve been state-of-the art with newspaper equipment for many, many years because it produces a better newspaper and a better-looking paper for our readers.”