There are currently 21 National Historic Nebraska Landmarks located in within the state. These range from important archaeological sites to homes of famous Nebraskans to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town. Each one shows the rich history that has made Nebraska what it is today.
While not all of the Nebraska landmarks are available to view today, many are available and serve to remind us of the history of the state and, in some cases, the nation.
Nebraska’s famous Fossil Freeway gave birth to quite a number of important archaeological digs and Nebraska landmarks over the last century. In addition to the discovery of large prehistoric mammals, several of the sites provide important clues to the Native Americans who occupied these lands thousands of years ago. While seven of these historically designated sites are not open to the public, you can visit Ash Hollow Cave in Ash Hollow State Park and get a glimpse into the past of the Apache and Central Plains Indians, as well as inhabitants from AD 0-1100.
Also of historic archaeological interest is Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, home to bones estimated at 19 million years old. Fossils from digs can be found at the visitor center and you can hike trails into the nearby quarries. Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Site is also an active dig site in Antelope County that now has a massive visitor center (Hubbard Rhino Barn) where you can see what paleontologists have discovered (including camels, three-toed horses, and rhinos).
Robidoux Pass, located in the Wildcat Hills near Scottsbluff, was hailed as a historical Nebraska landmark for its role on the Oregon Trail. More than 400,000 emigrants traveled the route through this gap to reach the West to homestead or seek their fortune in gold. Now within the boundaries of the Scotts Bluff National Monument, visitors can see the reconstructed Robidoux Trading Post and take a self-guided tour of the route of those early settlers.
Six Nebraskans are honored with national historic landmarks: Williams Jennings Bryan, an orator and politician, who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and ran for the presidency three times. His home now houses the Bryan Museum and is open to the public. Author Willa Cather’s childhood home is also so honored, and is part of the Willa Cather State Historic Site in Red Cloud. You can tour the home and learn more about this wonderful Plains author. On a more grandiose scale is the Nebraska City home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day and ardent lover of trees. His 1850s mansion and outbuildings are not only a Nebraska landmark and national historical landmark, but are now part of the state park system, known as Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arboretum.
Nebraska career politician George W. Norris served his state well, with five terms in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and his home in McCook was dubbed a historic landmark in 1967. It is now operated by the Nebraska State Historical Society and open to the public. The Dr. Susan Picotte Memorial Hospital, founded by the first female Native American doctor, was recognized for its work with the Omaha Tribe. It now serves as the Susan La Flesche Picotte Center on the reservation in Walthill.
The final Nebraskan honored with one of the six historical Nebraska landmarks is the benevolent Father Flanagan, founder of Boys Town. Located in…Boys Town, the original site of his orphanage is truly a part of Nebraska history, and in 2017 will be celebrating its 100th year helping children and families across the state and the country.
Also on the list of historic places you can visit are two ships. The Captain Meriwether Lewis is a steam paddle dredge used to control flooding and improve navigation along the nation’s rivers and is now located at the Museum of Missouri River History in Brownville. The USS Hazard, a WWII naval minesweeper used to patrol Hawaii and later around the waters of Japan, now floats in Freedom Park on the Missouri River.
Fort Atkinson, the first army outpost west of the Missouri, was the first “town” in Nebraska, occupied by soldiers, trappers, and frontier families starting in 1819. Head to Fort Calhoun to find a replica fort in the Fort Atkinson State Historical Park. Another historical outpost, Fort Robinson, was instrumental in the Sioux Wars in the late 1800s and as home base for the all-black unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers. A visitor favorite of all the Nebraska landmarks, you can visit this fort, managed by Nebraska Game and Parks, as well as the Trailside Museum of Natural History, located two miles west of Crawford.
And last, but not least, is the beloved Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. Towering 400 feet into the air, it can be seen – thanks to the flat plains – from almost 30 miles away in every direction. Built from 1922-1932, it is still in use today as the seat of government for the state, and tours are available daily.