Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Frank House, Kearney, Nebraska

Here is a real photo postcard showing the Frank Mansion at Kearney, Nebraska by Solomon Butcher sometime before 1907. At the time this postcard was produced the building was being used as a Sanitarium.

Construction of the Frank House at Kearney, NE begain in 1886 and was completed in 1889. Built by George Washington Frank the house is made of red Colorado sandstone, with English golden oak interior paneling and lumber, and handcarved woodwork and had ten fireplaces (six remain today). Ten years after Edison invented the light bulb, the house would be the first house west of the Mississippi to be wired for electric lights during construction. The house even features a 5' x 10' Tiffany window. Other modern conveniences in the house included two bathrooms, steam heating, built-in closets (20 of them), and servants quarters. George's son, George William Frank, Jr. designed the house for his parents based on the H.H. Richardson Romanesque Shingle style.

George Washington Frank was born in New York state in 1830. Prior to his arrival to Kearney in 1885, he had been a partner in a bank in Corning, Iowa. After his arrival in Kearney, Mr. Frank began a major role in the development of the city. As president of the Frank Improvement Company, his projects included completion of the Kearney Canal, an electric power plant, and an electric railway system. The house was constructed to entertain Eastern capitalists for these industrial interests.

George first came to the Kearney area in 1871 or 1872 on a business trip where he purchased 1042 acres of land from the Union Pacific railroad. He had first heard about the area from his cousin, Col. W.W. Patterson, an employee of the C.B. & Q. railroad who was charged to locate a suitable place to create a junction between the C.B. & Q. and the Union Pacific RRs. Col. Patterson surmised that the Platte River and its underground water supplies could be used to create electrical power and irrigated farming lands. Patterson along with the other founding fathers of Kearney formulated the plan and began work on the Kearney Canal. George Frank invested in what became the Kearney Canal in 1885, purchasing 80% of the companies stock. His company completed construction of the canal in 1886. The opening of the canal allowed Kearney to be transformed from the desolate prairie and small fort that George had seen in 1871/72 to a booming industrial town with over 100 manufacturers. The George W. Frank Improvement Company ran the power plant and canal and an electric street car system.

The depression and financial panic of 1893 followed by a drought in 1894 bankrupted the Franks and much of the industry in Kearney. George Sr. now in his seventies and in poor health lost his fortune and his assets were divided among his investors. Phoebe died in February of 1900 at the age of 68. George moved in with family in Lincoln, NE, where he died in 1906 at the age of 76.

The Franks lived in the house from 1890 to 1900. After the Franks, the house was owned by Dr. Grothan who operated a private sanitarium in the house. In 1907 the house was sold to the State and was accessioned to be part of the Nebraska Tuberculosis hospital. The house was used as quarters for the TB hospital staff until the hospital closed in 1971. At that time, the buildings were transferred to Kearney State College and restoration of the house began. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The house is open for tours during certain times of the year. Go here for more info.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

S.D. Butcher: Electric Light Plant @ Kearney, Nebraska

This real photo postcard was produced by the famous Nebraska photographer, Solomon D. Butcher. This is one of about 450 photos in a collection that I had put together from 2000-2007. I have since parted with them but do have scans of each and would like to some day do a book on Butcher and his postcards.

This particular view shows the electric light & power plant at Kearney, Nebraska sometime around 1900-1908. The building was built in the early 1890s by the Frank Impovment Company which was run by George Washington Frank. Frank was instrumental in many of the community's early economoic development projects. Tune in again this week for another post about Frank and the exquisite house he built at Kearney.

On the morning of November 27th, 1900, a disaster in the making was discovered. Workmen arriving noticed water coming through the embankment above the power house. After trying to stop the flow of water, help was summoned from town. Townspeople and local farmers swarmed to the area to try to stop the enevitable from happening. They were unsuccessful as the flowing water eventually succeeded in destroying a portion of the building pictured. It was rebuilt and in operation until at least 1909. You can read more about the disaster and history of the power projects at Kearney here. There are also a number of pics showing the result of the disaster and future water projects that were constructed in the 1920s. (I am not certain but I believe the canal was to the Northwest of where the University of Kearney is now located).

If you are interested in Kearney postcards please visit my website where you will find a number of wonderful cards offered.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Old Sarpy County Courthouse, Papillion, NE c1908

Here is a photo postcard showing a view of the Sarpy County Court house at Papillion, NE around 1908. The structure reminds me of some of the earlier brick school buildings in Nebraska built around the same time. Note the incorrect spelling of the town on the postcard. Papillion photo postcards (and cards from there in general) are fairly tough to come by. I believe most of the photo postcards I have seen from there were produced by Olson of Plattsmouth, NE. I appreciate his work and might write a bit about him in the future, so keep tuned.

Sarpy County in Nebraska is among the oldest counties in the state and was organized in 1857. Bellevue was the original county seat, but its designation was moved to Papillion in 1875. Following the change to Papillion, a modest brick courthouse was constructed but by 1921 it was deteriorating and deemed inadequate. In that same year voters approved a bond issue for a new building. Construction began in 1922 and in 1923 the Classical Revival-style courthouse was completed. That building has been added to the Nebraska National Historical Register in 2005 and can be seen here.

Sarpy County is home to the following communities: Bellevue Gretna La Vista Papillion Springfield Chalco and Offutt Air Force Base.

I have had the opportunity to help a number of collectors in their pursuit of acquiring all of the 92 or 93 County Courthouses from Nebraska. This can be accomplished but there are a few of them which are a little difficult to find. Some collectors want any example, be it the original courthouse or the current courthouse, some want both. I also know of several collectors who collect courthouse postcards for all the entire U.S. One collector from Maryland has a wonderful website where you can view his collection of postcards from every State: http://courthousehistory.com/html/collection.htm

In 2002 a gentleman from Nebraska put out a book of all of the NE courthouses. He used a lot of postcards in the book which you can view here: Nebr Courthouse Book .

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Opera House / City Hall, Louisville, Nebraska c1911

Here is a real photo postcard of the Opera House at Louisville, NE around 1911. A sturdy structure which was probably constructed of native stone quarried from the area. Above the front doors it reads "City Hall 1911". I have been in Louisville a number of times in the last 10 years but can say I noticed the building and do not know if it is still there. Louisville is located in Cass County in Southesast, NE. Communities in Cass County are: Alvo Avoca Cedar Creek Eagle Elmwood Greenwood Louisville Manley Murdock Murray Nehawka Plattsmouth South Bend Union and Weeping Water .

It wasn't unusual for a commercial building to have an opera house on the upper floor of the building. I once had a postcard that I really enjoyed showing the opera house at Lodgepole, NE, in the Western part of the State. The building was an auto garage on the main floor with the opera house above. The false front building constructed by Frank Isenberger was also built in 1911 and still stands today. It is listed on the Nebraska National Register of Historic Places and looks almost as it did in the old photo that I once had. The postcard showed large letters across the top of the step-up facade which read "LODGEPOLE OPERA HOUSE". It then had "GARAGE" above the large doors on the main floor. You can see a view of the building from when the building was added to the NSHS website for the National Register here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Everyone is in town @ Bristow, NE c1908

This photo postcard shows a view captioned: "A Gala Day, Bristow, Nebraska". The image shows all kinds of people gathered on the dirt Main Street of the small town, possibly on the 4th of July around 1908. There are all kinds of horse drawn buggies and wagons present. The Bristow Band can also be seen entertaining the crowds. From the looks of things, I would say that no one was going to miss the big celebration. The photograph is attributed to Gustav Olson of Plattsmouth, NE.

Bristow is located in North Central Nebraska, just South of the South Dakota / Nebraska State Line in Boyd County. Other communities is Boyd County are: Anoka Bristow Butte Gross Lynch Monowi Naper Spencer .

You can view additional postcards from Bristow on my website.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Postcards, a disease that probably won't kill you

I have been wanting to start a blog for quite some time and finally decided to pull the trigger today.

My postcard disease started in 1997 while I was living in Kansas City. My Father was in town to do a flea market at the Kemper Arena. I had weekends off and went down to help him out. I didn't get to see him very much since I lived about 450 miles from home and thought it would be fun. He had brought old model airplanes and related items for his booth. After we had gotten his booth set up I decided to go look around. Not too far from us was a booth of postcards. I had never looked at old postcards at any shows in the past. I had been to dozens and dozens of antique shows and flea markets while I was growing up. Looking back, there were probably lots of great cards I missed out on. My Mother had collected postcards of both of my parents hometowns as well as several other Nebraska communities important to our family's heritage for the previous twenty years, so I knew she had an interest in them. I had looked through those cards but had never really thought much about them even though I have always been intrigued by family history and history in general. Anyway, I thought I would see if they had any postcards from McCook for her. I started going through the cards and found a great real photo of my parents building. (To this day it is still one of the neater cards I have found of the building.) I bought it and showed it to my Father. For some reason it didn't go back home with him but stayed with me. It wasn't very long after that someone at work told me about ebay. I started to check there for postcards from McCook, Fairbury (where my Father grew up) and Auburn (where my Mother grew up). I started to buy cards from these towns when I came across them and picked up some cards of places that seemed important or familiar to me. Shortly thereafter I met a postcard dealer who I had purchased from on ebay who lived right in the city. His name was Dick Lightle and he was a very nice man who had been dealing in postcards for quite sometime. Sadly, he has since passed away from cancer. I went over to his house and looked though some of his Nebraska cards for the towns I was interested in and made my first big purchase. I spent over a hundred dollars with him - goodness! He explained why a 1940s real photo of a street scene was $20 and I bought it. Good thing he broke me in early. =) I had really never collected any thing of much value growing up, even thought I grew up around antiques. I appreciated antiques but didn't seek them out. I had even always said I would never get into the antique business. Little did I know that these silly postcards were going to change my life.

Brady, Nebraska - Farming 1910

I will try to post something showing a postcard from Nebraska at least a couple of times a week.

This is a real photo postcard I haven't filed yet that I just purchased at Denver last weekend. The view shows a group of farmers in front of a piece of farming machinery. Most of the men and boys are sporting their bib overalls while a couple even have pipes in their mouths. I'm not certain but it looks like they are processing alfalfa. The image could be a little sharper but it is just a nice simple view with good symmetry. The card was never mailed but the photo paper dates the image to 1907-1918. My best guesstimate would be right around 1910. I love the writing in the upper right - what great penmanship ! It reads: Robert Jones Brady, Nebr.

Brady is located on the Eastern edge of Lincoln County on the Old Lincoln Highway and just North of I-80 near the Platte River. Other communities in the County are: North Platte Brady Hershey Maxwell Sutherland Wallace Wellfleet .