I love the story about how Lincoln came to be the capital city. (Maybe I would not appreciate it so much if I had been in Omaha at the time). They literally started the city from scratch – transforming the tiny settlement of Lancaster into what would be a city. The part I really like – the folklore behind the move. The rumor that several men traveled through a blizzard to collect (steal?) the state’s papers and archives from Omaha since that town was rather reluctant (temper tantrum status?) and unwilling to give up their hold on being the state’s capital.
One of the men leading the charge for Lincoln – our state’s first secretary of state. Thomas P. Kennard was lawyer and businessman and a member of the capitol locating commission To show support and solidarity for this move, several politicians decided to build rather large homes in the newly formed town of Lincoln. Governor David Butler’s house was on the outskirts of town. Kennard and State Auditor John Gillespie became neighbors and had their homes built closer to the capitol. Since they felt their move to Lincoln was urgent in timing, they actually lived in the capitol building for a time. (Read to learn more about early Lincoln days!)
Picture taken at the Kennard House (their early Lincoln display).
This summer I decided to take my kids to visit this piece of Lincoln’s history. I had not been there since I was 4th grader – quite a few years ago. :-) I enjoyed getting to go back.
The house I remembered was yellow. Mr. Tom Buecker, the Nebraska State Historical expert who gave us a tour told us that they changed the paint color several years ago. Through the process of remodeling they found flaked paint chips that showed that the original exterior color was actually this slate gray. So, they changed it back.
The house used to be larger – you can still see the footing in the backyard. That 1 1/2 story section had gradually deteriorated, and the Kennards had decided that extra space was not as crucial for them later on. They decided to remove that section.
The house has been updated and remodeled to reflect what the house might have looked like at the end of the 1800’s. No interior pictures of the home were available. So period restoration happened rather than specific restoration to how the home looked when the Kennards were occupants. But you still get an idea of what might have been.
Four rooms are restored on the main floor. Great for my kids to see what life would have been like without electricity or other modern conveniences. And now they know the distinctions between the front formal parlor (the pre-mortuary resting place) and the living room. Mr. Buecker was so knowledgeable about the history of the house and Kennard – he made our tour so enjoyable!
Upstairs they have two bedrooms restored – a children’s bedroom complete with some toys and an adult formal bedroom. They also have a room devoted to pictures and information about early Nebraska. Seeing the Kennard House brings the beginnings of Lincoln to life.
Tours are available of the Kennard House by appointment. The Kennard House will also be open this Sunday December 8th in the afternoon. The home will be decorated for Christmas. You can experience the early days of Nebraska’s capital city for yourself!