When you drive towards Lincoln, Nebraska from the East, West, or North, the first feature you see is the tower of the state capitol building. By city ordinance, no building can be taller than this structure.
If you decide to take the guided tour of our state capitol, you may be told that it was once considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings of all time, second only to the fabled Taj Mahal. The tour guide may also tell you that the building is the second tallest state capitol building in the US, exceeded by 90 feet by the capitol building of Louisiana. Once you view the details of the exterior and the artistry of the Nebraska capitol building, you will be impressed, too.
The planning and early construction of this structure came vividly to mind this month as I gleaned through some of dad’s old papers and documents. Inside of a large, yellow envelope were four, very old back issues of The Nebraska Blue Print magazine. The December 1921 copy was on the top. The cover illustration was an artist’s rendition of the proposed state capitol building. This was before the actual ground breaking ceremony in mid-April of 1922.
The December 1921 magazine did not have anything about the building beyond the cover drawing. The main article was titled, “Printing, Telegraphy”. The article derided what was to eventually become multiplexed teletype technology.
The next “Blue Print” issue was that of November of 1926. The cover feature was a photograph of the then, recently completed, south face of the building. By this time only the first few stories of the tower had been built. Three of the four arms of the inner cross were also under construction. The capitol article was two pages and featured two artist’s renditions of what the building would eventually look like.
The writing style is very flowery with poetic descriptions of the architecture and the architect’s visual intent was meant to be. The primary architect was Bertram Goodhue. Some of Goodhue’s noteworthy projects include: The Los Angeles Central Library building, the Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Saint Thomas Church in New York City, and the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC. The article appears to be a tribute to Goodhue because the architect had died two years prior, in April of 1924.
The May, 1929 issue of The Nebraska Blue Print contained a one and a half page biographical article titled, “Bertram Grosvernor Goodhue–A Brief Sketch of His Life”. This was an even more worshipful piece than the earlier article. It went on to claim that the Nebraska State Capitol “…is a climax to the attainments of this noted architect.”
The last magazine of the collection is dated March, 1935. The cover is a beautiful example of the Art Deco style. It is certainly worth framing for display. This issue was published three years after the completion of the state capitol building, one year after planting of the landscaping. The main article was an opinion piece/analysis of contemporary architecture. There is a full page photograph of the North Entrance to the building. On the next page are three photographs of the Art Deco style relief “pylon” figures. They are King Louis IX, Abraham Lincoln, and an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Also shown is a half-page photo of a “bathing establishment” on Lake Zurich, Switzerland.
According to the 1935 masthead, The Nebraska Blue Print was established in 1901. The magazines were printed monthly, during October through May by the College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The magazine is still in publication, now semi-annually. There is also an online version.
These old “Blue Print” magazines contain several interesting technical articles and many illustrations. They will make good “rainy day” reading material in the future.
The Blue Jay of Happiness noticed some 1921 college student humor on one of the pages. “Professor Mickey states that hydro-electric plants are often required to shut down, temporarily, at high cost, due to the impossibility of dogs, cats, eels, etc. through the nozzles of the turbines. We have patented a deflector to be placed in the penstocks for diverting such articles down a chute to a sausagemill on the shaft of the turbine. The vast possibilities of success for this device are obvious. Anyone wishing to purchase stock in the Accidental Hamburger Machine Corp. can get information at the Leaky Valve office.