TwHP Lessons

Thomas P. Kennard House: Building a Prairie Capital


Cover Photo: The Kennard House (Nebraska Statehood Memorial)
(Nebraska State Historical Society)

“No man in his senses believes that the present location [is] to be permanent. It is in one corner of the state -- away from all lines of travel, possessing neither the advantages of railroads, navigable rivers nor telegraphs.”

Omaha Weekly Republican, Wednesday, August 7, 1867

 

T


his is how one of the state's leading newspapers described the site chosen to be the capital for the new state of Nebraska. The three commissioners followed the Nebraska Legislature's orders to relocate the capital, which went against the interests of the city of Omaha. The commissioners selected the tiny village of Lancaster as the future seat of government and changed the town's name to Lincoln in honor of the late president. These commissioners were Governor David Butler, Auditor John Gillespie, and Secretary of State Thomas Kennard.

The commissioners had high hopes for a grand capital city in the midst of open prairie near Salt Creek. In addition to the construction of a new capitol building, they planned for a state prison, mental asylum, and university, none of which existed in the newly-organized state. To bolster confidence, the men all risked their own money and built imposing homes, exhibiting some of the finest architecture in the state at the time. The Thomas P. Kennard House is the only one of these houses that still remains. Today, visitors can tour the house as a way to gain a deeper understanding of Lincoln's early years and an appreciation for those whose vision shaped its development.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
  1. Map 1: 1866 U.S. General Land Office Map of Kansas and Nebraska with close-up of SE Nebraska
  2. Map 2: The Original Plat of Lincoln, 1867

Determining the Facts: Readings

  1. Reading 1: Lincoln's Beginnings
  2. Reading 2: Investing in Lincoln
  3. Reading 3: The Architecture of the Kennard House

Visual Evidence: Images
  1. Photo 1: Thomas Kennard and John Gillespie houses, 1872
  2. Photos 2-4: Lincoln in 1868 and the 1872 Lincoln Panorama
  3. Photo 5: Thomas P. Kennard House and Nebraska Statehood Memorial, 2010

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Breaking news in the territory
 2. City Planning: Design a state capital
 3. Local history on the Web
 4. Places where your state made history

Supplementary Resources

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This lesson is based on the historic Thomas P. Kennard House (Nebraska Statehood Memorial) in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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