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Renovation of the  Kennard House


Kennard house, 1870 or 1871 Kennard house, 1870 or 1871 [L741-11, 2849a]

Through the years many exterior alterations have been made to the house. The original rear wing was removed in 1923 when the house underwent major remodeling, which returned it to its original use as a single-family dwelling. Much of the Italianate ornamentation was removed and some of it replaced with "Colonial" ornament. The cupola had already been removed around the turn of the century. Although unnoticeable today, the house stands on a slight elevation. When it was built, at what was then the southeast edge of Lincoln, the entire town and miles of surrounding prairie could be seen from the cupola. Trees later obscured this view.

Kennard house, before restoration Kennard house, before restoration [L741-12q, 16328]

Interior alterations were even more extensive. The bay windows and main staircase with walnut balustrade remain in good condition, but door openings, partitions, fireplaces, and staircases had been added or removed, and electricity had replaced the original kerosene lamps. During restoration crewmen scraped layer after layer of paint, varnish, and wallpaper off walls, woodwork, and floors, retracing the interior design of the house in their attempt to discover its early appearance. The State Historical Society staff conducted the preliminary research and provided immediate supervision to the total restoration project.

First floor hall First floor hall [KH5]

Throughout the house, both outside and in, the greatest care has been taken to restore or reconstruct the early appearance of the building. Beauty has always held second place to authenticity. This desire for integrity has in many ways been intense. For example, while much of the door hardware on the second floor is original, modern door and shutter knobs, hinges, and window locks of the first floor were removed and replaced with period hardware.

Because of the difficulty and expense of importing hardwoods, most of the interior woodwork was made of pine. Exceptions are the walnut shutters and the staircase balustrade. During the restoration this pine woodwork was painted its original off-white color, except for the window sash and doors, which were originally "grained" (i.e., painted and varnished in such a way as to cover the coarse pine grain and suggest a finer-grained hardwood). Reproduction wallpaper has been carefully chosen to approximate in color and design the early wall covering. Electricity remains, but the wiring is hidden and controlled by only a few switches. Modern light fixtures have been replaced with period kerosene lamps adapted for electricity. Evidence found in the house indicates that it was originally heated by small stoves placed in the rooms. These were replaced quite early with steam radiators. The cleaning of these radiators through sandblasting revealed a patent date of 1877, well within the period to which the house was being restored, and it was decided the radiators should remain.

Front parlor Front parlor [KH6]

Some rooms are not furnished as they were originally used, because of the demolition of the rear wing in 1923. Currently a front parlor, dining room, library, and kitchen are located downstairs; and two bedrooms, a museum display room, and a curator's office are upstairs. The kitchen and dining room were originally located in the wing. After 1923 the kitchen was moved to what could have been a library originally. What is now the dining room was probably the back parlor.

Kitchen Kitchen [KH7]

In furnishings and interior decor the house has been restored to approximate the
home of a moderately well-to-do family of the late 1870s. Where possible, American
furnishings have been used almost to the exclusion of European. An attempt has been
made to use items which formerly belonged to early Nebraska statesmen or which have
other early Nebraska associations. The restoration has been designated not as a
memorial to a specific city, family, or individual but as a memorial to statehood.

Library Library [KH8]

Important furnishings in the library include the desk of Governor David Butler,
the bookcase and secretary from the Governor James W. Dawes family, and the fireplace
from the razed 1876 home of Governor Arthur J. Weaver in Falls City. The fireplace is
cast iron, painted to resemble marble. On a shelf next to the desk are wooden cups, part
of an 1885 collection of Robert W. Furnas, second governor of Nebraska and an active
promoter of agriculture and forestry in the state.

Dining room Dining room [KH9]

In the dining room is a corner whatnot that belonged to Furnas. An interesting
object in the dining room is the walnut Eastlake high chair that converts into a stroller. The china is stored in a Louis XV Rococo rosewood cupboard that was originally designed for use as a bookcase.

Northwest bedroom Northwest bedroom [KH10]

In the northwest bedroom is a bed and dresser thought to have been a wedding gift from British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to his granddaughter, Mrs. B. Kohn of Philadelphia and later of Omaha. The furniture is Renaissance style, which was just beginning to lose its popularity in the 1870s, and can be contrasted to the Eastlake furniture in the southwest bedroom, which was just gaining acceptance.

Southwest bedroom Southwest bedroom [KH11]

In 1992 a University of Nebraska archeological field school was held in the backyard of the Kennard House. A volunteer dig was sponsored by the Nebraska State Historical Society the following summer. The footings of the wing, the base of the chimney, the well, and the cistern were uncovered during the excavations. These features are now marked for visitors wishing to take a self-guided tour of the backyard.

The historic house at 1627 H has been saved from destruction and renovated, and it would seem that all work has been completed at the Statehood Memorial. However, this is not necessarily the case. Restoration of the house is a continuous process. During the summer of 1997-98 the exterior brick walls were painted gray and the wood trim and windows were painted white. These original colors were determined by a paint consultant who examined layers of paint taken from the house. Additional restoration could involve reconstruction of the rear wing when funds become available. Also important for the future is the growing effect of the memorial through the thousands of people who visit it each year. If the memorial is serving its purpose, this should mean that more and more Nebraskans, as well as those from out of state, will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the state's early history and the rich heritage of which they themselves are a part.

Thomas P. Kennard House, Nebraska Statehood Memorial Thomas P. Kennard House, Nebraska Statehood Memorial [KH1]


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Last updated 20 March 2000
 

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