Nebraska’s First Territorial Capitol

engraving of two-story brick buillding with gabled roof and four chimneys

The first legislature of Nebraska Territory was convened January 16, 1855, at Omaha in a brick building erected for the purpose by the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company. It was occupied by the legislature for its first two sessions in 1855 and 1857 and afterward used as general offices for the Union Pacific Railway Company. The Nebraska Palladium (Bellevue) of January 17, 1855, described this first building housing organized Nebraska government as “a plain, substantial, two-story brick edifice, which we should judge was about 30 by 45 feet. The entrance to the building is on the east side, into a hall, from which the various state apartments above and below are reached.

“As you enter the hall below, the representatives room will be found on the left, and the governor’s apartment on the right. A winding staircase leads to the hall above, at the head of which, upon the left, you enter the council chamber and the committee rooms on the right. The building is a neat and substantial one, but altogether too small for the purpose intended.

“The speaker’s desk is elevated two or three steps above the level of the floor, and likewise that of the president of the council. The desks are well proportioned and tastefully finished.

“The desks for the representatives and councilmen are designed to accommodate two members, each having a small drawer to himself, and a plain Windsor chair for a seat. The furniture, including the secretaries’ and speaker’s desks and chairs, is of the plainest character, and yet well suited to the purpose for which they were designed. The size of the legislative rooms are so small that but very few spectators can gain admittance at one time.

“We were struck with the singularity of taste displayed in the curtain furniture of the different rooms, which consisted of two folds of plain calico, the one green and the other red, which we took to be symbolic of jealousy and war-which monsters, we fear, will make their appearance before right is enthroned and peace established.”

The second territorial capitol, also in Omaha, was larger, 137 by 93 feet. The supreme court, the library, and government offices were on the first floor, and the legislature and governor on the second. Corinthian columns planned for the building were removed as unsafe after several had collapsed. The building was erected in 1857 and 1858, but was later torn down to make room for Omaha High School, which in turn was later demolished and replace with the present Central High School.

Photos: top: History Nebraska RG1234-2-10; below, second territorial capitol, on present site of Central High School. History Nebraska RG1234-2-4

photo of two story building with columns and cupola

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
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.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

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.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

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.