History Nebraska Blog

Seven New Additions to the National Register of Historic Places

History Nebraska is pleased to announce that there have been seven new Nebraska locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hartington's Downtown Historic District, Grand Island’s 4th Street Commercial Historic District, the Oshkosh Water Tower, the John C. Kesterson House in Fairbury, the Harry V. Temple House in Lexington, Camp Indianola, and Nebraska School for the Deaf were all considered and selected by the National Parks Service for listing. Read more about each of the new additions below.

 

For over a century, Downtown Hartington has been the commercial and entertainment hub of Cedar County. Buildings constructed as early as 1900 are still in use today, giving the area a distinct historic character. Downtown Hartington was listed because of its contribution to Nebraska History from 1900 to 1969, and because its buildings have retained their original look, feel, and integrity.

This designation opens up the possibility for the revitalization of this area. The Hartington Downtown Historic District is comprised of 30 contributing resources, all of which are now potentially eligible for federal and state historic tax credits.

David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office sees this designation as an incredible opportunity for Hartington. "There are some great historic resources in this district that have a ton of potential for historic rehabilitation," said Calease. "I think Hartington is a great example of a community that can better its future by embracing its past."

This seven-block district is centered along 4th Street from North Sycamore Street to North Cedar Street and is bound by the alley between 4th and 5th Streets to the north and by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the south. The buildings within the district reflect the various architectural styles common for commercial properties throughout the early- and mid-twentieth century.

The district contains 49 contributing resources that demonstrate Grand Island's commercial development from around 1895 to 1969. These resources are now potentially eligible for historic tax credits that can be applied to rehabilitation projects.

David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office sees great potential for the area. "The resources along 4th Street have a great history. This area was very busy with banks, a theater, hardware store, grocery stores. The historic resources that are there today are a testament to the story of the community.”

Proudly standing 120-feet tall, the Oshkosh Water Tower has been an iconic landmark in Garden County since 1920. Like a lighthouse to the plains, its welcoming presence can be seen from miles away.

The tower is in excellent condition and is a classic example of a “tin-man” type elevated tower. These “tin-man” water towers were once standard across rural Nebraska communities, but are quickly disappearing as new technologies take hold. Even though the tower was retired as a water delivery system in 2018, the residents of Oshkosh banded together to save this landmark.

David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office feels that this listing highlights the diversity of historic places on the National Register. "What I really like about this nomination is that it shows the versatility of the National Register program – it’s not just big buildings and fancy houses – we have historic resources all across the state, in nearly every community.”

With a stately appearance and eye-catching burgundy exterior, the John C. Kesterson House has long been a treasure of the Fairbury community. Built by and named after a successful horse-breeder, freighter, and businessman, the John C. Kesterson House was built in 1879 with a wing added to the north in 1885. The home retains an exceptional degree of integrity with a minimal amount of alterations over the years. The home retains most of its historic materials, including all of its original windows and an ornate front porch. The home also features several unique details including cast-iron gargoyles and a hitching post.

David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office appreciates the care taken by it's owners to keep important historical details intact. "Anyone who thinks that old homes need their windows ripped out and the floor plan rearranged needs to look at the John C. Kesterson House. Very comfortable home with great historic features inside and out. Some updating – I think we all appreciate indoor plumbing – but by and large, this home is a great example of late-nineteenth-century architecture that has been well maintained over its 140 years.”

Visitors to Lexington and its residents have long noticed the stunning three-story Queen Anne located just a half-mile northeast of downtown. The house is one of only a few Queen Anne homes still standing in Lexington. Despite years of minor renovations it still has the elements considered hallmarks of Queen Anne architecture: a steeply pitched roof, patterned shingles, asymmetrical form, and classic columns that support a wrap-around porch.

The house is named after Harry Vane Temple, a successful banker and early settler of Lexington (originally named Plum Creek). The bank he founded in 1881, now known as Temple’s First National Bank, is still standing.

David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office was impressed by the house's condition. "This house looks great on the exterior, but what really sets it apart is the interior details and craftsmanship. A few things have changed in the home since it was completed in 1901, but the woodwork remains almost entirely intact. The kind of work you see in the Temple House’s foyer, office, and dining areas are terrific examples of skilled craftsmen doing exceptional work that should be appreciated.”

During World War II, the residents of Indianola, Nebraska had a much closer encounter with the enemy than the average American did on the home front. Between 1943 and 1946, Camp Indianola, located just 1.5 miles north of town, housed prisoners captured in North Africa, Italy, and mainland Europe.

Today all that remains of Camp Indianola are concrete building foundations, two brick chimneys, and the standing frame of a water tower--but these ruins display the standard layout of POW camps. Furthermore, of the four POW camps in Nebraska, the ruins of Camp Indianola represent the best surviving example.

This chapter in Nebraska’s history is not well known. David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office explains. “The history of POW camps in Nebraska during World War II is surprisingly unknown to many in the state. It is a really fascinating history that I think Nebraskans would really enjoy and take pride in if they knew more about it. When you talk to people in the Indianola-area about the POW camp there, you can tell how proud they are about the role it played in the war effort, but also how mutual respect was forged between groups of men who were supposed to be enemies.”

Throughout most of the twentieth-century, deaf students all across the United States had to fight for their right to use sign language. Nebraska is no exception as the 1911 state legislature passed a law banning the use of sign language in classrooms. The students and faculty of the Nebraska School for the Deaf actively resisted the legislation in an effort to sustain their linguistic and cultural freedoms. Because of its compelling history, History Nebraska is pleased to announce the Nebraska School for the Deaf campus is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Nebraska School for the Deaf ran from 1871 to 1998. Its twenty-acre campus consists of a collection of Mid-Century Modern and Collegiate Gothic buildings. The school’s innovative vocational department made it a leader in deaf education. Vocational classrooms, as well as hallways, dormitories, and athletic facilities, were all spaces in which students and faculty actively resisted the ban on sign language until the repeal of the law in 1977.

“It was a great experience working on this nomination with the preparers. This campus and its story is an integral part of Nebraska’s history," says David Calease from our Historic Preservation Office. "It is the only school of this type in the State, bringing deaf students from all across the state together in one place. I think this helped unify and strengthen the Deaf community. On top of that, it’s also a beautiful campus.”

 

 

The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's inventory of properties deemed worthy of preservation.  It is part of a national program to coordinate and support local and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect the nation's historic and archeological resources.  The National Register was developed to recognize historic places and their role in contributing to our country's heritage. Properties listed in the National Register either individually or as contributing to a historic district are eligible for State and Federal tax incentives.

For more information on the National Register program in Nebraska, contact the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office at History Nebraska at (402) 471-4775 or visit the Historic Preservation page.

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