Nebraska’s state parks and hiking trails are spectacular, but when you need an indoor attraction for your next outing, these 15 historic homes are just perfect.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
Arbor Lodge, Nebraska City
The 52-room mansion was the home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day and 1890s Secretary of Agriculture under President Cleveland. Inside you'll find a wide variety of items from Nebraska's history as well as Morton family history.
Scout's Rest Ranch, North Platte
Formerly the home of "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Scout's Rest is located on the grounds of Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. The home has been lovingly restored and maintained along with plenty of photos and items inside that belonged to Cody and his family. The park also features a barn and a number of outbuildings that you can explore on a self-guided tour.
Bess Streeter Aldrich House, Elmwood
Aldrich, a celebrated Nebraska writer of the early 20th century, lived in the home she and her family named The Elms. Today, the home is filled with memorabilia from the writer's life and items from Elmwood's history. There is also a Bess Streeter Aldrich museum about six blocks from the house.
Bailey House Museum, Brownville
This gorgeous seven-gabled Victorian brick house once belonged to Captain Bailey, a Civil War Veteran. It now houses a museum that highlights Brownville's early days. As a bonus, the museum is said to be haunted by the ghost of Captain Bailey himself.
Carson House, Brownville
Another Brownville gem, the Carson House was built by Richard Brown, founder of Brownville. It later changed hands and became the family home of local banker John L. Carson. The Brownville Historical Society now maintains the house along with its many original furnishings and historic items.
Dowse Sod House, Comstock
Sod houses were common in Nebraska's early days, but the William R. Dowse house in Custer County is one of the few that remains standing today. The house was built in 1900 and occupied until 1959; in that time numerous improvements were made, including a new ceiling, a wood floor, an addition, electrical wiring, and exterior concrete reinforcement. The fascinating home is now a tourist attraction.
Bowring Ranch Sod House, Merriman
Although not an original sod house, this reproduction located at Bowring Ranch State Historical Park is definitely worth a visit. Don't miss the rest of the Bowring Ranch, a working Sand Hills cattle ranch with an impressive visitor's center detailing the lives of Arthur and Eva Bowring.
General Crook House, Omaha
The Crook House was built in 1879 for General George Crook, a decorated veteran of the Civil War and National Indian Wars. The beautifully restored home contains furnishings from the 1880s and is open year-round. Visit in November or December for a stunning Christmas display in each room.
Joslyn Castle, Omaha
This 1903 mansion was built by newspaperman George Joslyn and his wife Sarah. It adds up to an impressive 19,360 square feet sitting on a 5.5 acre grounds. The home has passed through the hands of a few organizations but is now maintained by the Joslyn Castle Trust. You can visit the home for a tour or rent it for weddings and other events.
Mahew Cabin, Nebraska City
This small cabin built in 1855 is recognized by the National Park Service as the only Underground Railroad site in Nebraska. A dug-out area beneath the cabin features a recreation of a place where escaping slaves might have hidden. The site is a fascinating look into pre-Civil War America and the role Nebraskan John Kagi played in the anti-slavery movement.
Senator George Norris House, McCook
This understated building was once home to Senator George Norris, a Nebraska politician who was instrumental in the Rural Electrification Act as well as other important legislation. The home contains original furnishings which were donated to the NE State Historical Society along with the home in 1968. Today you can tour the house for a reasonable $3 - kids 18 and under are free.
Sudman-Neuman Heritage House, Chappell
This 1911 house is notable for its excellent (restored) condition and unique design. It contains furniture from the early 20th century as well as items from the Washington, D.C. office of Nebraska Congresswoman Virginia Smith.
Willa Cather House, Red Cloud
Willa Cather, author of frontier life novels such as My Antonia and O Pioneers!, spent her formative years in this home in Red Cloud. The home is just one of the eight structures that make up the Willa Cather State Historic Site.
William H. Ferguson House, Lincoln
This majestic home, built in the Second Renaissance Revival architectural style, was originally the private residence of entrepreneur William Ferguson and his wife Myrtle. Today the Nebraska Environmental Trust occupies second floor of the house, but the home is still available for tours and private events.
Thomas P. Kennard House, Lincoln
This 1869 home is the only remaining building in Lincoln's original plat, built for Thomas Kennard, Nebraska's first Secretary of State. It is now known as the Nebraska Statehood Memorial. The fully restored home is open for tours year-round; on the tour you'll learn about the process and procedures that were involved in creating the new state capital.
All of these historic houses are enough to make you pick up a history book…or at least turn to Google for some additional information on their fascinating pasts. Are any of these houses on your must-see list?