The story behind the Pioneers Park columns

Pure Nebraska
Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 12:49 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 2:03 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - They are a popular place for people to take pictures, and the Pioneers Park columns have quite a bit of history behind them as well.

We talked with Ed Zimmer about this. He is the retired Historic Preservation Planner for the City of Lincoln. “The stone source is Virginia, but they were made into columns in Washington D.C.,” Zimmer said. It is said that President Abraham Lincoln stood among the columns to review troops during the Civil War. “So it is said, but not by me,” Zimmer said. “These columns are from the old Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. Many of the original buildings were made of this soft, tan stone. As you can see, it was not really that durable. They were installed and designed by the architect Robert Mills. Mills designed several of the Washington buildings It had a beautiful colonnade along the east front of the Treasury building. But, the early 20th Century they were deteriorating. They were replaced by granite in 1909. The long row of columns were taken down, and there were many ideas on how they might be used.” Zimmer says it turns out that all but four survived. The rest were destroyed. “These four, the man who acquired them gave them to his son,” Zimmer said. “His son gave them to the city of Lincoln to honor William Jennings Bryan.”

It turns out the columns were first installed at the old entrance to Antelope Park. That would be around 23rd and O Streets, where there is a former grocery store and now health care center. In the 1950′s, they were taken down, and stored by the parks department. Eventually, they were placed in Pioneers Park as a bicentennial project.

There is a plaque next to the columns in Pioneers Park where you can read more about the columns and their history. The plaque itself is cast from metal recovered from the battleship Maine.

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