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Second State Capitol

The first Nebraska state capitol, built in Lincoln in 1868 and 1869, was replaced by a second less than twenty years later. Because the first capitol was built so hurriedly and with poor materials, it soon fell into disrepair. A replacement was needed. A second state capitol was begun in 1879 and completed in stages over the next ten years. Upon completion, some criticism of the new structure and the building contractor, W. H. B. Stout, was heard. Defects included a crack in the south wall of the east wing caused by the breaking of an arch over an old sandpit.

The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on January 8, 1889, defended the new state capitol: "The JOURNAL happened to hear a good many remarks of strangers and citizens who have been passing through the Nebraska state capitol building since the convening of the legislature, and the general expression is that it is the largest and best finished building for the money it cost, that they have ever seen. . . . THE JOURNAL has before it a calendar furnished by Humphrey Bros. that has plates of all the capitol buildings of the United States and invites the people who think Nebraska has a scrub building to take a look at these plates. We guarantee the assertion that the judgment of nine out of ten of our readers would be that the proportions of our capitol are as harmonious and the building as beautiful and symmetrical as any other of the forty or so buildings portrayed.

"As to its solidity and workmanship there can be no question by anybody who has examined it. Of course we shall hear the 'crack in the east wing' expatiated upon until the fault has been remedied, but whoever is to blame for that it is not the contractor. It occurs over a spot where a deep excavation had been made in 1868 to dig sand for the old capitol. The sand pit had been filled up for years and forgotten but the fact of its existence had been discovered, and the architect and superintendent ordered an arch to be constructed over the spot in the foundations. This was done. After the wing was finished it proved that the span of this arch had not been long enough, as one side of it settled, making a crack in the walls. A few hundred dollars will repair this injury, and it is the grossest injustice on the part of two-for-a-cent correspondents to hold the contractor, who does not pretend to be an architect, responsible for the accident. THE JOURNAL does not believe that there is a handsomer, stauncher or better building in the country for the money."

The second state capitol building proved to be too small almost as soon as it was finished. When the third capitol was built, the second was left in place and the new one begun around it. After this stage was completed, the old capitol was gradually torn down, and the center of the new building rose in its place. It was completed in 1932.

(August 2005)


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Last updated 23 September 2005

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