Nebraska Museums June 30, 2020
The G.W. Frank Museum Is Located In One Of Nebraska’s Most Opulent Houses
One of Nebraska’s many stunning but little-known museums is the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus. Its size and stature make it an unmissable part of Kearney’s landscape, and its roots stretch way back to 1889 when it was built by George Washington Frank.
When it was built, this mansion was one of the most opulent homes in the state - possibly even in the Great Plains. It was the very first home west of the Mississippi to be wired for electricity during its construction, which no doubt added to the building's cost: $40,000. That doesn't sound like much, but if you adjust the number for inflation it comes out to more than $1.1 million in today's dollars.
Businessman G.W. Frank had the Kearney home built after he and his wife, Phoebe, moved there and founded the George W. Frank Improvement Company. Frank's business dealings revolved around electricity, and he showcased the miraculous new technology throughout the home with bare-bulb light fixtures.
The massive home contains a library, grand reception hall, front vestibule, drawing room, kitchen, range room, butler's pantry, dining room, George and Phoebe's private quarters, servants' quarters with space for nearly 50 staff members, and many guest rooms.
The large stained glass window on the second-floor landing is one of the home's highlights. The house originally contained 10 hand-carved fireplaces made from imported tile; seven of them still exist today.
Unfortunately, the Franks didn't get to enjoy their luxurious home for long. The economic downturn of the 1890s, George's business overextensions, and Phoebe's 1900 death were all factors in the foreclosure of the home. The Franks' belongings were auctioned off and the home changed hands several times.
In 1907, Dr. Ole and Georgina Grothan purchased the home and converted it into the Kearney New Sanitarium. After the Grothans divorced, Georgina sold the home to the state of Nebraska, which then turned it into the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis. Sadly, many of the home's original features were stripped away during this time.
After the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis closed in 1972, the building and property were transferred to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, then known as Kearney State College. As interest in local history was growing at the time, the Frank home was used during Kearney's centennial celebration in 1973. After the event, locals began a campaign to save and restore the historic building.
The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. After a lot of hard work and painstaking restorations, the G.W. Frank House opened in 1976 as a museum. Originally, visitors were only allowed to tour the main level, but in 2018 the second and third floors and the basement were opened for tours as well. Collections of historic items are shown in the home, including objects that belonged to the Franks and other pieces that have been donated.
The Frank House is also a popular event venue, hosting everything from concerts to poetry readings along with college events and private events. All of the home's available spaces are utilized, with some events taking place entirely indoors and some spilling out onto the front porch and yard.
The G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture is open for tours or private rentals. Admission for tours is always free, though donations are gratefully accepted. To find out more and to book your own event, or to become a volunteer and help keep this lovely piece of history alive, visit the
Kearney is full of interesting history and unique attractions. The Archway qualifies as both –
find out more about it right here.
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Address: University of Nebraska at Kearney 2010, University Dr, Kearney, NE 68849, USA