Lovers and Guinea Pigs in the Old State Capitol

When the third and present capitol was built, the second was temporarily left in place and the new one, completed in 1932, was begun around it. RG1234-13-8

 

After the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill in 1919 to provide for the construction of a new state capitol, the history and nostalgic memories of the old capitol (the state’s second) appeared in the press. Completed in 1888, its design was influenced by that of the national capitol at Washington, D.C., with a dome-topped central tower, 170 feet in height, which attracted tourists and others desiring an elevated view of Lincoln.

The Lincoln Sunday Star on July 4, 1920, noted nostalgically the graffiti left behind in the soon-to-be-replaced capitol, especially along the walls and steps leading to the tower. Love poems and initials carved within hearts were so plentiful that the Star expressed pity for “thousands of pilgrims, who have climbed the circuitous stairs of the present structure only to find that there was no wall space left on which to carve a name or an initial. Their inconsiderate predecessors had hogged the space.”

Not only romantic couples noted their presence in the old state capitol. “[T]he whole tower dome of the present building seems to have been constructed just as a place for visitors to leave their calling cards in Lincoln. Most of the names scratched or carved in full have out-of-town addresses attached. And most of the names are those of men. The girls are more modest and just leave initials.”

Perhaps the oddest thing to be found in the second capitol in 1920 was a colony of guinea pigs, reportedly being raised by the State Board of Health. The little animals were used in experiments relating to the treatment of smallpox, influenza, and spinal meningitis.

Workers began clearing ground around the second capitol several years later, in 1922. The old building was left in place and a new one begun around it. After this stage was completed, the old capitol was gradually torn down and the center of the new building, the present capitol, rose in its place. Read more about Nebraska’s third capitol online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website, along with other articles from past issues of Nebraska History magazine. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

African Americans in Nebraska History

African Americans in Nebraska History

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.