Written by Laurie Richards
Nebraska has some amazing examples of re-purposed federal buildings across the state.
In Lincoln, the Grand Manse is located in the 1904 federal building that housed the US Post Office and federal offices. In addition to apartments and offices, the building now houses The Blue Orchid restaurant and a grand hall for weddings and receptions. The original US Court Room, most famous for the 1973 Wounded Knee Trials, is also available for meetings and receptions. The building’s tenacious private developer and management have saved a historic register property from the wrecking ball and made a huge addition to Lincoln’s economic and cultural vibrancy.
Another excellent example of adaptive use is in Kearney where the 1911 Post Office was re-purposed as the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA). The building was slated to be demolished by the city when a group of visionaries and arts supporters stepped forward and put a plan together to not only completely remodel the inside and restore the exterior, but to include a tasteful addition and sculpture garden on the site.
Other cities across the state that have re-purposed their historic federal buildings include Fremont, which now houses the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, convention and visitor’s bureau, community foundation offices , and the Main Street office; and Plattsmouth, where the historic Post Office building is now City Hall.
North Platte envisions their former Post Office becoming an arts center. North Platte’s Creativity Unlimited Arts Council has an amazing vision for the historic 1913 federal building on the corner of Fifth and Jeffers downtown. If they are successful, the new Prairie Arts Center will be a wonderful addition to downtown North Platte.
The old Post Office in downtown McCook is now an antique store and part of a cluster of historic buildings on each corner of the intersection with historic Norris Avenue, named after the founder of the Unicameral Legislature system (Nebraska’s legislative branch has only one house) and one of the founders of rural electrification through the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In Scottsbluff, the old Post Office in the Panhandle Community has been re-purposed as offices for an engineering and architecture firm.
Nebraska has been successful with re-purposing federal buildings statewide. Each one represents the stories of successful community projects and private development that preserve our heritage and tell our story.
Laurie Richards is the eastern field representative Heritage Nebraska, in Partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.