Friday Flashback: Lincoln’s Early Architecture (Book Review)

Note: Unable to read the full review right now?  Please skip to the end to find out about the special event happening in Lincoln TOMORROW (Saturday June 14th) regarding this book.  If you want the article summary, I do highly recommend the book Lincoln’s Early Architecture by Lincoln authors Hansen, McKee and Zimmer.

Reading books that connect the past with the present are always the ones that intrigue me.  I relish titles that meld the distant past with current reality.  This is the perfect description of the book that I am in the middle of enjoying.  Normally a person should probably not suggest someone read a book that he or she has not actually completed.  Yet I can recommend the non-fiction work, Lincoln’s Early Architecture,  without reservation, even though I am only halfway through finishing.

Lincoln’s Early Architecture is written by the “who’s who” of Lincoln historic building experts.  Any one of these three men could have written a great historical Lincoln book on their own.  In fact, a few of them already have published historical Lincoln books.  By collaborating and sharing their own collections, the results are outstanding.   Matthew Hansen is a Nebraska preservation architect who has worked on restoring the Nebraska capitol.  James McKee is a business owner and just happens to be THE Lincoln city historian.  Edward Zimmer works as Lincoln and Lancaster County historic preservation planner.  See what I mean on their qualifications?

At only 127 pages, this book is not overly lengthy.  Covering so many places around Lincoln, the information to be absorbed is rather extensive.  Reading this book from cover to cover may not ever happen in one sitting for me.  Using this book as a reference will happen repeatedly.  In fact, I plan on keeping the title in my car for many months to come.  I do believe I will have to convince my husband to drive me downtown more often – that way I can stare about in identification mode and not get into any accidents!

Employing the use of historic photographs, the authors relay how Lincoln used to be. The result, for me, was a curiosity to know more.  Reading about what was is a great starting point.  Now I want to go to downtown Lincoln and see what still is.

 

Kennard Historic Lincoln

I took this picture of a picture inside of the still-standing Kennard House.  So hard to believe that this was Lincoln’s humble beginnings.  Of the buildings in this photograph, you can only visit the one. 

Several of the buildings are immediately recognizable to me just based on seeing the picture.  Trying to identify many of the others is more of a challenge.  Especially since the downtown Lincoln skyline is definitely a conglomeration between old and new.  Thankfully the book does make a note as to which buildings are still standing.  Many of these pictured structures have now been razed.  Several for parking lots. This makes me a bit sad.

Not all of the included buildings are found in downtown Lincoln.  Places throughout the city are included for historical reference.  This book answered a question that I had always wanted to investigate.

What is the significance of the Indian statue in Pioneer Park?
Indian smoke signals at Pioneer Park

Other than knowing the name of the statue (“The Smoke Signal”), I always wondered why the statue is even there.  While I believe a bit of this information is nearby the statue,  the story was incomplete.  By reading page 122 in this book, I finally know the full story behind the Indian!

Evidently before Ellis Luis Burman Jr. made his mark in special effects, props and make-up in Hollywood, he was a Lincoln man.  Hired as a sculptor to design several of the statues around Pioneer’s Park, this one is his most famous one.  Weighing in at five tons and standing at fifteen feet, this depiction of Chief Red Cloud makes an impression.

I know that I will enjoy learning more about Lincoln architecture past and present in the weeks to come.  Getting your own copy of the book is simple.  One of my favorite book stores in Lincoln, Indigo Bridge Books, is having a book reading and signing with at least two of the authors from 1:00-2:00.  You can purchase a copy of the book at that location!  Incidentally, snacks and coffee will be served.   Come for the food and the story – go home with an interesting reference book about Lincoln.  Definitely a worthwhile outing!  Unable to attend?  The book store will continue to have copies available, as do other book retailers.

P.S. Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book to review.  This would have been a title on my to-read list.  By bringing the book to my attention, my knowledge of historical Lincoln will continue to expand.  I will definitely be referencing the book again on this blog!

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Categories: Flashback Fridays, Lincoln, Metro, Nebraska History, People Behind the Place | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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