…continuing with our July road trip.
After a short stop in Atkinson Nebraska, we continued west along US Hwy 20 toward our overnight destination. For your information, US Hwy 20 is 3,365 miles long, making it the longest road in the USA. This highway runs from Boston Massachusetts to Newport Oregon.
About 30 miles west of Atkinson, we came to the town of Bassett Nebraska. Apparently, Bassett was named for an early settler who established a nearby ranch. Like all the other towns along this route, the town was actually platted/founded in 1884 after the railroad came to town. With a population of roughly 540, Bassett is the county seat for Rock County. The town had a population of 1,066 back in 1950 before the railroad ceased service.
The Bassett Lodge and Range Café at 205 Clark Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Having been completed in 1951, it is a fairly ‘new’ structure as compared to most of the Register’s listings. This Streamline Moderne style building actually encompasses part of the Hotel Crook which was built in 1926. I love the sign! It is a classic…
The hotel and café were built in order to serve the then burgeoning Bassett Livestock Auction which attracted buyers from around the USA. It continues to serve as both a motel/hotel and restaurant. The Range Café itself has changed little since the 1950s but the rooms in the Bassett Lodge have been updated to today’s standards. You can stay here in a King Suite for $80.00 a night. Check it out at Bassett Lodge & Range Cafe.
My advanced research had suggested that we should have our eyes open for an old Phillips 66 Gas Station in Bassett. It is quite eye-catching for sure…
I clearly remember ‘service stations’ where attendants in uniforms cleaned windshields and checked the oil while pumping gas. A bit more research post trip revealed that this is non-functional store front with replica and refurbished parts to make it look like an old time gas station. However, five or more decades ago, this building actually was a gas station. In about 1997 the Bassett Tourist Council bought the building and refurbished it to look like it did in the 1950s and 1960s.
As I mentioned, Bassett is the County Seat for Rock County Nebraska. The Art Deco style Rock County Courthouse was built in 1939 and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This “County Citadel” type of building was one of 7 Nebraska courthouses that were built under the WPA/federal works programs of the Great Depression.
After the county was created there had been a big competition between several towns to be declared the county seat. It came down to Bassett vs. Newport. Bassett won by a close vote in 1889 and built the first courthouse. It burned down in 1899 and the county seat controversy heated up again. Bassett solved the problem by quickly building a new courthouse…which lasted until the current structure was built.
Rock County encompasses 1,012 square miles and has a population of about 1,400. (About 1.4 people per square mile) At its peak in 1940, the county had almost 4,000 residents… The passing of the railroad was a major negative for growth.
This is former Chicago and Northwestern Railway depot in Bassett. From what I could find, as per an old photo the depot was built in the mid-1890s. Another source indicated that it wasn’t built until 1922 but I think the earlier date fits it.
The caboose beside the old depot didn’t come into vogue until the mid-1920s. It’s called a bay window caboose. It provided a better view of the side of the train and eliminated the falling hazard of the raised cupola type. It also eliminated the need for additional clearances in tunnels and overpasses. Starting in the early 1930s, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built all of their cabooses like this.
The depot as well as St. Michael’s Catholic Church, a pioneer home, the Cosgrove school house and 2 other structures are located at the Rock County Fairgrounds. The church was built in 1897 and it was moved to this site in 1978. The various buildings are full of period items related to the founding and settling of the county. From what I could find, The Rock County Historical Society Museum is open daily from 9AM until 5PM from May 1 until October 1 but we didn’t see any signs of life when we stopped by. There isn’t any admission charge for visitors…
Moving 12 miles further down the road, we came to the town of Long Pine Nebraska. This home was built by a local dentist in 1895. By 1919 it was being used as a rooming house that was known as the Miller Hotel. The home had been expanded in 1914 when Long Pine boomed as a major railroad terminus. This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Its importance is tied directly to the railroad. The hotel always served railroad workers and they were the primary customers for over 50 years. At one time there were 5 hotels in Long Pine. The Miller Hotel was used by boarders until 1984. It now serves as the Heritage House Museum. One room is devoted to a diorama of Long Pine’s railroad heyday back in the 1930s. The museum is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 PM, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Phone: 402-273-4141.
As we cruised around Long Pine…estimated population 288…we came across this big old school at 402 South Pine. It has been weirdly decorated or landscaped with all of the strange objects and bits that are in front of the building. The phrase over the entrance reads: “and one tin soldier rides away”. I think that the look of this place ranges between spooky and pot smoking hippy.
The construction of this school began in the early 1930s by the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Emergency Relief Agency (ERA). It wasn’t completed and the roof leaked while the heat didn’t work either. The Great Depression’s Works Progress Administration helped the school district and they finished the project in1936. The work needed provided jobs for 200 laborers. The most recent information I could find showed that the school and the 5 acres around it were for sale. The building with its 18,750 square feet of space and the land could be purchased for just $50,000.
As for the town of Long Pine, it was founded ca. 1876 and it grew quickly once the railroad reached town in 1881. The town was named after nearby Long Pine Creek. This small depot was built after the town’s boom days just to handle the 2 trains per day that still passed through. At one point it served as a Bunk House for folks who are traversing the “Cowboy Trail”. This trail begins in Norfolk Nebraska and stretches 321 miles west to Chadron Nebraska. It is one of the largest Rails-to-Trail Projects in the USA. From a recent map, it appears that this building now houses the city offices.
Looking at Long Pine today, it’s hard to believe that the town had a population of 1,206 back in 1920. It was a hub for the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company along what was known as “The Cowboy Line”. At one time, the town had a large locomotive roundhouse, turntable and servicing facility. With the coming of diesel locomotives, all of the old steam servicing facilities, which also included a water tower and a coal chute, were torn down. The last train passed through Long Pine in 1992.
Lone Pine is located in a relatively flat area with moderate annual rainfall at best. Most of the land in the area consists of grassland, and thanks to irrigation, lots of hay and corn. Some of the last remaining tracts of mid and tall grass prairie also dot the landscape. But then there is this sight…a hidden paradise in the high plains. Unfortunately, Laurie and I took a long look at the dirt road ahead of us and, not realizing that the Long Creek Canyon and Hidden Paradise were only about a mile down the road, we turned around and headed out of town. Bummer!
In 1910, Carleton and Lucy Pettijohn along with 2 other entrepreneurs started Nebraska Hidden Paradise. It was originally called an amusement park with a few cabins but expansion continued and H.M. Culbertson added a large dance pavilion, a café and 65 cottages. The expansion also included “The Plunge” with a large water slide, dressing rooms and an enclosed pool. The “Plunge” was destroyed when a tornado struck in 1926 and it was never rebuilt.
Want to visit and stay in Hidden Paradise? Check it the cabin rentals on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Cabin/Hidden-Paradise-Cabins-440329712833576/.
Ainsworth, with a population of about 1,620 residents, is the County Seat for Brown County Nebraska. The county covers 1,255 square miles…about the size of Rhode Island…and it has a population of roughly 3,000. The town was named for Captain James E. Ainsworth, chief construction engineer of the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad, who arrived at the town site in June of 1882.
I learned that during World War II, Ainsworth was the site of a 2,496 acre Army Air Field where crews were trained to fly B-17 Flying Fortresses, P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts. In 1947, over 7,000 people attended the National Air Show here. This was one of 11 Army Air Force training bases built in Nebraska during the war. A few of the original buildings still stand. After the war, the airfield was turned over to the city and it still continues to operate as a municipal airport today.
That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave