Tag Archives: Pinnacle Bank

Downtown’s Iconic “Omaha”

March 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perhaps the most iconic image of the word “Omaha” is the one with big block letters that look a century old, scrawled across the Riley Building at 1016 Douglas St.

In fact, the advertisements were only painted on the east and west walls of the warehouse building in 1982. That’s almost 100 years after the building was built in 1889.

“We were all hoping it would last a couple years,” says designer nellie sudavičius macCullum (locals may know her now as the marketing director for Nebraska Shakespeare). Actually, the paint job hasn’t been retouched in over 30 years.

Now home to Pinnacle Bank, the Riley Building was then owned by Billie Lee Mommer, an interior designer and historic renovator. Mommer had hired macCullum’s advertising agency, Galen & nellie, Inc., in 1980 to create her own logo. Shortly thereafter, macCallum and business partner Galen Lillethorup moved into the Riley Building as well. It was then that Mommer asked macCallum to design something for the exterior walls.

“She said, ‘I want to be true to the building, but, nellie, whatever you want to do on the sides of the building, it’s yours’—ha ha!” macCullum remembers. “I incorporated things that I loved into that wall.”

macCullum started researching at what is now the Durham Museum. “I went to the turn-of-the-century telephone directory in the library. I pulled out four or five, and I went through every page looking at the advertisers,” she says.


She took several photos of the building, trying to get them straight-on. She made big prints, which she could write and draw on by hand—mockups the old-fashioned way.

First, she enhanced the few original advertisements that could still be made out on the wall. “For instance,” she says, “on the east side there’s a ‘Burlington’ that we just cleaned up. On the top left near the front of our building was a ‘Regis Hotel.’”

Original artwork made its way into the design as well. “Another love, because I was a music and art major, I wanted to put some music up there,” macCallum says. “So on the west, you can see the beginning to Beethoven’s 5th.”

Then, of course, the big “Omaha.”

“That nice beautiful ‘Omaha’ on the west side—that, I literally ripped out of the telephone directory. I just loved the look of it. It really matched the age of the character of the building,” says macCullum. “I had so much fun doing this. I think it took me at least three months to pull all the visuals together.” .

 When the time came to actually paint the designs, macCallum contacted Ric Darrell to do the job. “I knew it was something I couldn’t do alone,” Darrell says, “so I contacted Steve Hast.” Hast was on vacation in Big Lake, Mo., so Darrell drove down to talk to him about it.

“We both knew we’d have to quit jobs to do this,” Darrell says. They decided to go for it. Darrell and Hast formed Apple Graphics, with the Riley Building as their startup project. Painting began in September of 1982.

They took giant rolls of brown Kraft paper and hung them in Darrell’s garage in Millard. A projector set up in the driveway ensured they got the scale of macCullum’s mockups right. They traced the designs with an electric perforating machine, “like a pen that electrically burns a hole through the paper. It makes a little patterned hole every six inches,” Darrell explains.

With the paper up on the exterior of the Riley Building, Darrell and Hast went over the holes with charcoal again and again, so that the marks would show up through the paint. macCullum estimates they used 50 rolls of paper.

Darrell and Hast mixed colors to match what macCullum had in mind for distressed-looking paint. “I’m just amazed that it’s lasted this long,” says Darrell, giving credit to Diamond Vogel paints.

Each wall took about a month to paint, and their deadline was getting down to the wire. “It was November by the time we were on the second wall, and we had some days where we were fighting some pretty bad weather,” says Darrell. Other challenges included late design updates and weak electricity. “The power would knock out,” Darrell explains, a problem considering their scaffolding was electric staging. “And so we’d be stuck up there. So one of us would have to shimmy down the lifeline ropes, down five stories to the ground, and go in and turn the power back on.”

All in all, Darrell says it was an exciting job.

Nature-Inspired Office Space

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Tom Kressler

The four elements—earth, fire, wind, and water—connote strength, simplicity, and timelessness andwere the source of inspiration for the design of the Pinnacle Bank Headquarters at 180th & Dodge streets in Omaha.

Pinnacle Bank, a Nebraska-based institution now in eight states, worked closely with the team at Avant Architecture to make the building essentially a piece of modern art. Rising from the horizon, the stone, steel, and glass structure suggests strength and elegance, simplicity and beauty.

“We’re really all about Nebraska and the Nebraska way,” says Chris Wendlandt, Senior Vice President of Marketing/Retail. Having previously worked with Avant, Wendlandt says the architecture firm knew their philosophy well. “Avant worked to match the building with the brand, and I think they did a great job.”

Wendlandt says that the goal was to create a space that would be simple, warm, and inviting, and something that both employees and their customers would be proud of.


Since their grand opening in June 2011, the response of employees and clients has been overwhelmingly positive.

The overall design of the building is sleek, yet elegant. “The emphasis is on light, openness, and views [of the exterior landscape],” says Wendlandt. Italian tile runs throughout the approximately 82,000-square-foot building. Other materials carried throughout the building’s design are the dark, German wood veneer, Oberflex, used in cabinets and doors, as well as a Gage Cast bronze metal that can be found near the teller line, in the elevator, and in other parts of the building.

Glass plays a prominent role in the overall design as well. Running through the lobby is a green-tinted channel glass wall, hinting at the element of water and providing light, as well as privacy, to first-floor offices and conference rooms. Large glass-panel walls on both exterior and interior walls keep with the open and airy feeling.

“The consistency throughout the whole building gives it that warm feeling, but then the artwork really brings [to life] what our brand is,” says Wendlandt. While the design of the space is minimalist, the artwork is what captures the attention of the viewer.

Board Room.psd

Aided by Holly Hackwith of Corporate Art Co., the art in the building was commissioned especially for the Pinnacle Bank project. With the majority of the artists being from Nebraska and the surrounding area, their work conveys the feel of Pinnacle’s home state. “We went through and identified artists we thought worked for the building,” says Wendlandt. Some of the more prominently featured artists are Jorn Olsen, Helene Quigley, and Matt Jones.

Then, in what Hackwith calls an extraordinary gesture, the Pinnacle executives allowed their employees to select which pieces would go into their personal offices. The result is an art collection that is a healthy mix of traditional and modern, serene and vibrant.

“Their employees really felt like they were a part of the process,” says Hackwith. Each work of art includes a plaque detailing the name of the piece, the name of the artist, and a brief description of the piece and artistic process involved.

The executive offices on the upper floors have glass-panel walls that look into the hallways and common areas. Employee cubicles have lower walls with glass panes imbedded, giving nearly every employee access to natural light and breathtaking views.

Roof Deck.psd

A community meeting room was created so that many of Pinnacle’s nonprofit clients can reserve it for their own use. “Community is…very important to us,” says Wendlandt. She says that they made a conscious effort to include a conference room with community access to it. All conference rooms are equipped with the latest in audio-visual technology

The top floor houses a green roof as well as a meeting area surrounded by glass-paneled walls that can slide open and be used to entertain clients or hold business meetings.

The building has achieved its sought-after LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. To earn this distinction, the building must meet green building standards regarding energy performance, water efficiency and several other aspects. In September 2012, the Pinnacle Bank project was also honored for its superior design with a silver award in the Corporate-Healthcare category by the Nebraska-Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

President Sid Dinsdale and the executives at Pinnacle Bank have created a new work space that reflects their values as a company. In doing so, they have also built a monument to where they came from and the clients they serve.