It’s hard to believe a gun battle straight out of Hollywood played out in the streets of downtown Buckley in the summer of 1925. During a visit earlier this summer, downtown’s three-block stretch was quiet. Dogs napped on a ledge in the storefront window of Klips By Kim, the local dog groomer. The Hometown Restaurant offered a deal on breakfast. The display window at Chuck’s Pharmacy showed historic photos of the town. Teenagers on summer vacation hung out at the Main Street Coffee House. The only noise came from the Timber Room lounge, where the melody of “Do It Again” by Steely Dan spilled out of the front door.
Still, one important remnant remains from that day 85 years ago when two bandits stormed the Bank of Buckley, held customers and employees at gunpoint, fled with $2,000 stuffed in a sack, and were gunned down in the middle of the street by law enforcement officers and townspeople.
The old building where the shootout occurred is still standing. The building, located at 766 Main Street, is owned by Steven and Marcia Nikolich, Lake Tapps residents who own several commercial buildings in town. They purchased the building six years ago with hopes of restoring it. “We did not know exactly what we were going to do with this building,” Nikolich told the Tacoma Daily Index in June. “I like researching things and I love history. So we bought it, started taking stuff up, and [did some repairs].”
Nikolich combed through county records and newspaper archives to piece together the bank’s history. He keeps all of it in a black binder full of old photos, newspaper clippings, and historic maps. He even has photocopies of deposit slips filled out by customers and signed by Christian O. Steberg, the bank’s president. “When I see things like this, I think, ‘Wow, this is cool!'” said Nikolich.
Since purchasing the building, Nikolich leased it to a coin dealer for a couple years. But the shop closed when the city tore up Main Street as part of a massive public works project, according to Nikolich. He would really like to see the building restored and preserved. Lots of people have ideas. Few have time or money. “I have a soft spot for this town,” Nikolich said. “This building has always been a centerpiece. I would like to see this become a working bank that invests back in the community.”
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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage, click on the following links:
Can the Bank of Buckley be Rebuilt? — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1798818&more=0 or http://wahmee.com/tdi_buckley_bank.pdf