Wednesday, November 26, 2014

History along Nebraska’s Highways – Part VI

Every small town and rural county has its story…its history.  Some of these stories are more interesting than others, but they are all part of America’s fabric.  These bits of history are really part of what has been woven together to take us all where we are today…

Continuing with our early September trip through south central Nebraska… We drove south from North Platte on US 83 for about 66 miles until we came to the town of McCook Nebraska.

Note: To view a map of the USA showing the route of US 83 from the Canadian border to our border with Mexico, you can go to

The first property we found in McCook Nebraska that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places was the Senator George W. Norris House.  Senator Norris served in the House of Representatives from 1903 – 1913 and then in the US Senate from 1913 – 1943.  He was a prime mover in the establishment of Nebraska’s unique unicameral legislature as well as such landmark legislation as the Rural Electrification Act and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  (The first TVA dam built, the Norris Dam, is on the Clinch River, within an easy drive from our home)

The home was originally owned by a superintendent of the Burlington Northern Railroad.  I couldn’t find anything that pinpointed when it was built but George Norris and his wife purchased this 2-story 8 room house in 1899.  The home now operates as a branch museum of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

To learn more about this Republican, then ‘progressive’ Independent politician/Senator who was born to a large and poor family, just go to

This is the H.P. Sutton House, also in McCook Nebraska.  This Prairie style home was built for the Sutton family and it was completed in 1908.  Of significance is the fact that it was designed in 1905 – 1907 by the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  Mr. Sutton owned a jewelry store in town and he was very active in community affairs.  This house cost $10,000 to build…double what the Sutton’s wanted to spend.  $10,000 in 1908 is the equivalent of $261,000 today.  At that price, this home would be a bargain!

This mission-Spanish revival structure is the former McCook YMCA.  It has served as an important community cultural center from the time it was built in 1925.  For about a 10-year period, this building was also the home of the McCook Junior College.  It was remodeled in 1999 to provide 12 low-income apartments and a sign out front provides its current name…”Landmark Apartments”.  

To view a great photo that shows much more of this building, you can go to,_Nebraska)_from_NE_2.JPG.

This eye-catching building is the former McCook Carnegie Library.  The library, built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, was completed in 1908.  When the town’s library in the county courthouse had expanded beyond that building’s storage capacity, it was decided that a new library should be constructed.  Property was donated by a local firm and Andrew Carnegie donated $11,000 for the building’s construction.

McCook eventually built a new library and this building now serves as the home of the Museum of the High Plains.  There are displays of pioneer artifacts from the 1870s, the history of the American railroad, the Daughters of the American Revolution and more.  Political exhibits cover Senator George W. Norris and the three former governors from McCook:  Frank B. Morrison, Ralph G. Brooks and U.S. Senator E. Benjamin Nelson.  A collection of photographs provides an interesting glance into Nebraska History.  The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1 PM – 5 PM.  Phone: 308-345-3661.

The Keystone Hotel was constructed in 1922.  The hotel represents the organized efforts of a citizen group, the “Can-Do Club”, to pursue the organization and completion of a new hotel to expand the commercial attraction of downtown McCook.  It was designed in the Renaissance Revival style and it retains a high degree of structural integrity.  The hotel was in operation until 1970. 

Today a portion of the building serves as an event center.  That activity utilizes the conference room, a modern training room with advanced electronic systems, and dining hall, mezzanine or the grand lobby.  Two other floors are being leased out as office space.  The top 2 floors have been have been cleared of existing walls and provisions for utilities have been provided.  The space could be used for technology, programming, call center development, or apartment/condominium development.  There is 5,600 available square feet on each floor. 

This solid looking classic revival structure is the Red Willow County Courthouse.  McCook is the Red Willow County seat.  McCook became the second county seat in 1896.  McCook residents built a courthouse on the present site that served the county until 1927.  In 1926 the county passed a bond issue to finance this new courthouse.  Construction began the same year and the Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1927.  From what I’ve read, the interior of this structure is quite classy…with art glass windows, top quality woodwork, marble stairs and fancy plaster work…

McCook has a population of about 7,700… McCook was planned out in 1882 when the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was extended to that point.  The city was named after the Union Army’s Brigadier General, Alexander McDowell McCook, of the “Fighting Ohio McCooks”, who were known as military leaders and Indian fighters.  General McCook served the Union for 43 years, initially against Indian uprisings in the west and later against the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Another day…another county seat!  This is the Phelps County Courthouse in Holdrege Nebraska.  Holdrege was designated as the county seat in 1883.  Construction on this, the third county courthouse, began in 1910 and by 1911 the Beaux Arts-style “county citadel” structure was completed.  Buildings like this were designed to convey simplicity, strength and prosperity.  Holdrege is a city of about 5,500 residents.  It was established in 1883 when the railroad was extended to that point.  The town was named for George W. Holdrege, a railroad official.
Phelps County was originally named for a Mississippi River steamboat captain, Captain William Phelps. Thousands crossed the North end of the county on the "Oregon Trail."  The site of the “Plum Creek Massacre” is marked with graves in the northwest part of the county.  On Aug. 8, 1864, more than 100 Indians attacked a wagon train carrying freight from Sidney, Iowa, to Denver. All 11 men from the wagon train were killed in the attack and 1 woman and a boy were taken captive.  This attack was part of the Cheyenne War of 1864.  It would culminate in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado on November 29, 1864.  

To learn more about the Cheyenne War of 1864 in Nebraska, go to the middle of this page:

That’s about all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. absolutely true, all the sites have stories, I love pictures but especially the first house is absolutely lovely1
    Happy Thanksgiving David for you and Laurie and Im thanksful by be my friend:)

  2. Looks like those small towns are in great shape and kudos to the citizens. Some many small towns are crumbling and stores are closed. The first house is my favorite. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  3. I would not have guessed that Norris Dam was named for a Nebraska senator

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