The Linoma Lighthouse serves as a familiar landmark to many drivers along Highway 6 between Lincoln and Omaha. Its origins can be traced back to the 1920's. At that time, trains brought people to the area for public swimming.
"A gentleman by the name of Lawrence Simpson, he was with the Chicago Lumber Company out of Omaha," Chuch Niemeyer with the Linoma Lighthouse Foundation said. "He decided the trains were beginning to decrease in popularity, and autos were becoming a big factor, so it became very important to have iconic filling stations." Niemeyer says Simpson decided to build a filling station featuring a lighthouse. It was a way to attract customers. "I remember growing up in Hastings, and you would have tee-pees built around a filling station there. So you just had these filling stations popping up all over just to be something above and beyond," Neimeyer said.
Today, remnants of the filling station remain. "In fact the old pump platforms are still down on the ground floor. You can still see them on the outside," Niemeyer said. "It would have been an interesting place to be many years ago, because just a little bit off of where we are now is where the beach activity would have been. They had a big dance pavilion here of some sort." Some of the dances were on Sundays, which caused a bit of dismay. "It got to a point where a lot of the local churches in Ashland and Gretna were complaining because they were starting to lose parishioners, and they were blaming the dance pavilion. They actually went to the Legislature and got them to ban the dancing here," Niemeyer said.
With all of the incredible history surrounding this lighthouse, a group of people bought it. Now, the Linoma Lighthouse foundation has been formed. It means it will never be privately owned, and will be governed by a board of directors. "We decided a couple of years ago, that this place needed to stay," Niemeyer said. "Now work is being done to restore it. "The lighthouse was in a fair amount of disarray when we got it," Niemeyer said. "The panels were blowing off the sides. So far, we've accomplished redoing the exterior, and redoing the dome on top. We've taken down all of the original lights that were on the outside in the late 30s and 40s, and we want to get those restored. We have a lot of work to do on the first floor. If you notice, there are eight sides, which were actually eight glassed areas in the bottom at one time. We have to restore that as well. They were vandalized at one time, and broken out. So that's another goal. Maybe next year."
It's not likely that tourists will be able to go inside the lighthouse. But as renovations continue, it will go on being that unique landmark visitors will be able to see from the road and the the surrounding area. It's an effort to preserve the past. "It's a neat icon of the Midwest," Niemeyer said.