We decided to spend the day in Lincoln, Nebraska’s state capitol. Our first stop was at the Visitor’s Center in the Lincoln Station
which lies in the heart of the Haymarket District.
There we began our history lesson on the city’s origins.
In 1859, a handful of settlers met on the banks of Salt Creek to organize Lancaster County in the Territory of Nebraska. As the county seat, they selected a grassy plain on the east bank of the creek, about a mile southeast of a natural salt basin. The county’s founders believe that a profitable salt collection industry could be developed there, but they were proven wrong. Instead, the future of Lancaster, the little hamlet which had “no original reason for existence” lay in the political squabbles over the location of the state capital for Nebraska, admitted to statehood in 1867.
Following months of fierce debate in the Legislature, a Capitol Commission was empowered to select the location. In July 1867, the commission met in Captain Donovan’s cabin near what is now 9th and ‘Q’ Streets and voted to make Lancaster, renamed Lincoln, the Nebraska capitol. In Lincoln’s first years, the ‘Haymarket’ area was a place of dwellings and retail stores. As the town grew, and especially as it succeeded in the 1870s and ‘80s in attracting railroads to the Salt Creek bottom lands, wholesale jobbing and manufacturing businesses began displacing the stores and houses east of the rail yards.
Many of the original 19th century buildings survive, although today’s businesses are mostly restaurants, bars and professionals.
which now houses
Where you can purchase everything licorice … including soap
Our next stop was a tour of the State Capitol Building, the second tallest in the United States.
The square base is 437 feet on a side and three levels in height. The building 400 foot to domed tower crowned with the 19 foot tall bronze figure of “The Sower”.
In front of one of the entrances there is a statue of Abraham Lincoln, created by Daniel Chester French who later designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
As we entered the building, we were surprised that there were no security check points, as in other capitol buildings we’ve visited. Wandering through the building trying to find the visitor’s tour office we were stopped by a friendly, gray haired gentleman … whom it turned out has a daughter living in Philadelphia. We talked for five or ten minutes and then followed his directions to the building’s tour office.
Talking with the tour guide before the tour began, we were surprised to discover our mentor was William Connelly. The senior Associate Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court (seated on the right in the front row).
We were even more astonished when Justice Connolly reappeared to bring us some literature on the State Capitol Building, which included a photo of the main hallway in which he was the only person wandering those towering hallways.
Each of the four (intentionally) dimly-lit corridors are adorned with mosaic and tiled walls, ceilings, chandeliers and floors depicting the past, present and future of Nebraska …
Busts of Nebraskan notables are found along several of the Capitol’s second floor corridors, including;
We had an opportunity to visit the current Senate Chamber
the old Senate Chamber, which has not been used since 1937 when the State adopted a unicameral legislature
and the Supreme Court Chamber.
From the 14th floor, we looked out over the city in four directions and down on teh Governor’s Mansion just across the street.
Across the street from the Capitol is St Mary’s Church
and a dramatic bas relief of a family on a building we were never able to identify.
In addition to some live elk
Grocery shopping and then “home” … only to discover that while we were in the market some “ass” had apparently walked by our Jeep and pounded a dent in the hood!