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Mansion on the Hill continues to inspire

Pure Nebraska
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 10:08 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Ogallala offers a number of great sights, and one of them is a unique mansion that has many stories to tell.

We caught up with Karen Nelson, who is the curator of the Mansion on the Hill. “The mansion was built in 1887,” Nelson said. “It was built on an entire block, but now we have about half of a block back. A man by the name of Leonidas A. Brandhoefer built the house. He never lived here. We don’t think he ever intended to live in the house. It was started in March and it was done in September. By the first of January of that coming year, in 1888, the McWilliams moved into the house. He was a banker in town. They lived here exactly two years to the day. The economy went bad. It was the depression. About 10 days after the McWilliams moved into the house, Nebraska experienced the blizzard of 1888. That basically wiped out the cattle industry from Texas to Canada. This house got caught in the middle of that. The McWilliams’ left here, went back to Omaha, and then for three years, this house sat empty. Then it was sold seven or eight times, then in 1918, it was bought by the Campbell family, and they owned it until they sold it to the Keith County Historical Society in 1966. Since then, the house has been a part of the Keith County Historical Society.”

Nelson says the woodwork is one of the best features in the house. “The woodwork was brought in from Denver,” Nelson said. “All of the doors have corner blocks, and sometimes the designs in those blocks change from room to room. In the main bedroom upstairs, you’ll see hand-painted wild roses. There’s no reason to believe those have ever been touched. We think the woodwork is all original in this house. What happened in the 1990′s, the plaster was caving in. Crews came in and pulled all of the lath and plaster on all three floors and put in drywall. The wallpaper in the house is of the period but not from here. The interior shutters in the library we believe are all the original shutters to the room. Just the parlor, the upstairs bedroom, and the library have original shutters.”

Those who run the mansion are always working to update exhibits. “We’ve done a lot particularly in the last 5 or 6 years,” Nelson said. “We’ve learned more about how the house was lived in. We’ve updated about all of the exhibits. Upstairs we’ve redone the bedrooms, because they were all very nicely done. Now, we always set a formal dining room table.”

If you’d like to see the Mansion on the Hill, it’s open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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