Early Omaha: Gateway to the West
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Nebraska Territory came into being on May 30, 1854 when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed by the Senate on May 25th and the House on March 3rd. On February 22, 1855 a resolution to place the Territorial Capitol in Omaha was passed. Governor Izard appointed James C. Mitchell to locate the site to build the capitol. On March 17th 1855 he reported that it would be built in the center of Capitol Square, where present day Central High School sits at 20th & Dodge. By December the foundation was complete. It was in use as the Territorial Capitol from approximately 1858 to 1867 when Nebraska became a state and the capitol was removed to Lincoln. The Territorial Capitol was 137’ x 93’ with the Supreme Court, Library and government offices on the first floor. The Legislative and governor’s offices were on the second floor. In 1869 the building and grounds were presented to Omaha. By 1872 it had been completely torn down and replaced by Omaha High School.
This image, looking northwest from 12th and Farnam in approximately 1867, shows the Nebraska Territorial Capitol is located on the horizon. In Farnam Street it appears that an auction is taking place at Newman, Porterfield’s Auction & Commission company. To the right is a Variety Hall, and Fancy Goods & Toy store. To the west is a tobacco and cigar store, and on the corner a store selling groceries and provisions. Across 13th Street is Champion Bakery and a wholesale grocery store. The steeple of the First Methodist Episcopal Church located on 13th street is seen behind the Champion Bakery building. A sign for W. H. Major selling Shoes, Hats & Caps is seen in the lower left.
Text written by Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, November 2003
Andreas, Alfred T. History of the State of Nebraska, Vol. 1. Chicago, IL: Western Historical Company.
Larsen, Lawrence H. & Barbara J. Cottrell. The Gate City: A History of Omaha. Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Publishing, 1982. Pages 13-14.
Nebraska State Historical Society Marker. Text available online at: http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/markers/texts/capitol_hill.htm
Wakeley, Arthur. Omaha: The Gate City, and Douglas County, Nebraska, Vol 1. Chicago, IL: The S. J. Clarke publishing Co., 1917. Page 66.