OGALLALA, Neb.- Ogallala is a town with much to offer, and you can find out all about what's there at the Spruce Street Visitors Center.
The visitors center was once a gas station on the historic Lincoln Highway. That highway was what travelers used to cross the state and the nation before the Interstate system. The Lincoln Highway, or what is now Highway 30, crosses through several towns in the state, and Ogallala is one of them.
The Spruce Street Visitors Center hearkens back to a simpler time. The building itself was constructed in 1922 by Standard Oil Company, at the beginning of the Lincoln Highway era. In fact, Spruce Street in Ogallala was part of the old Lincoln Highway. While visiting the station, you can imagine travelers pulling in to get gas, and getting "full service" from a service person that would do everything from wipe your windows to check your oil. "The title of the statue out front (of the visitors center) is 'Full Service'", Ogallala resident and curator of the Petrified Wood Gallery Kathy Zeller said. "It was created by Gary Ginther, who is a Nebraska artist from Cambridge, Nebraska," Zeller said. The statue is that of a friendly hometown mechanic waving to drivers passing by.
Gas was actually pumped at the station until about 1984. After that, the building was used in various ways. Then in 1998, the organization called "Ogallala Main Street" worked to save the building. "A bunch of merchants purchased the building for about $22,000, and then our dilemma was how we were going to repair it," Zeller said. "We actually got a Department of Roads transportation enhancement grant to repair it to the tune of $132,000, and then the city of Ogallala chipped in with in-kind and also some financial aid for us," Zeller said.
Now the building is used to help give visitors an idea of what there is to see in Ogallala and Keith County. If you are ever traveling in this part of Nebraska, the Spruce Street Visitors Center might be a good place to start your journey.