20th Century Local Milestones

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook December 31, 2021.

As 2021 comes to a close, I wanted to share some 20th Century Milestones for North Platte and Lincoln County History. Simply put, “Our town is Amazing!” Read on, and then go through all the photographs attached to this post. A huge THANK you to the North Platte Telegraph and other historic newspapers that covered these major new events and community/county milestones. Without heir tireless coverage, these pictures, stories and history would not exist. Enjoy!

1901 Mar 4: Col. William F. Cody selected to lead the parade in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President McKinley.

1904 Mar 4: University of Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Substation begins operation at North Platte on land purchased for $15,000, of which, approximately half was donated by North Platte and area citizens. It is now the UNL West Central Research and Extension Center.

1905 May: President Theodore Roosevelt’s railcar stops in North Platte and he delivers “a splendid speech.”

1908 May: Federal building funds of $110,000 “engineered through Congress” by Congressman Moses P. Kinkaid. The construction of the first post office and federal building was completed in 1913 at Fifth and Jeffers Streets. (Now the Prairie Arts Center)

1908 Sept 23: The Keith Theater opens. The first all-talking movie was shown on Dec 26, 1928.

1911-1912: Opening and dedication of a new Carnegie Public Library. The building is now the home of the North Platte Area Children’s Museum. And the North Platte Public Library celebrated 100 years of service to the North Platte and Lincoln County communities in 2012; and we are still going strong!

1913 Nov 3: New UP Roundhouse occupied.

1916 Jun 16: North Platte Country Club formed.

1916: Keith Neville of North Platte was elected governor of Nebraska. The 32-year-old Democrat was called “the boy governor.” He served a two year term, 1917-1919.

1916: McDaid Catholic School was completed.

1917: “A Massive brick building, two stories in height” was erected on Front and Vine Streets for a fire station and city offices at a cost of $12,000. Privately renovated, it is now a private residence and Steele Antique Depot.

1921: North Platte Chamber of Commerce organizes private funding to buy land and build an airport.

1921 Feb 21: Jack Knight flies the North Platte to Omaha leg of the first night air mail flight, then from Omaha to Iowa City, and on to Chicago, helping establish a new transcontinental record and building support for an air mail service.

1922 Nov 24: The Fox Theater opens, hailed in a Nov 22, 1922 Evening Telegraph headline as “Wonder House Best in the West”.

1923 Apr 3: Lincoln County courthouse destroyed by fire. Later found to have been set by County Treasurer Samuel Souder in an effort to conceal embezzlement of county funds. Souder was convicted of arson on Dec 23, 1923.

1929: Jeffers Pavilion is built by Union Pacific Athletic Club as an open-air dance pavilion, later enlarged and enclosed. Pavilion was the site of appearance by great names in the Big Band era.

1930 Jul 5: North Platte’s first radio station goes on the air as KGNF, later changed to KODY.

1930 Dec: Classes move into the new North Platte High School, replacing the high school built in 1899. This facility was torn down in 2003 to make way for a new facility on the same site as the 1930’s building.

1934: Robert LeRoy Cochran, who graduated from Brady High School and had been Lincoln County Surveyor and later State Highway Engineer is elected governor. He served for three terms.

1935 Nov 6: A dinner at the Pawnee Hotel celebrated completion of the last link to be paved in the Lincoln Highway (2.5 mile segment west of North Platte) giving the nation its first hard surfaced transcontinental highway.

1937 Aug 19: Jeffers viaduct opens at a cost of $156,866.00.

1941 Dec 25: North Platte World War II Canteen opens at the Union Pacific Depot.

1946 Apr 1: North Platte Canteen closes.

1948: Union Pacific builds first retarder or “hump yard” at North Platte. Cost $3.5 million.

1951 Apr: Kirk Mendenhall is elected Mayor of North Platte. His campaign promise was to eliminate prostitution and gambling that had given the city a reputation as “Little Chicago.” He appointed a new police chief, Charles Dick and the “rooming houses” were closed.

1952 Nov: Robert B. Crosby of North Platte is elected Governor of Nebraska. He would serve one term, then be defeated in a face for the U.S. Senate by Congressman Carl T. Curtis, of Minden.

1956: Jeffers Pavilion, where many had danced to bands from the Big Band era is destroyed by fire.

1959 Sept 23: Celebration at Thedford, Nebraska marks completion of paving on the last segment of US Highway 83 (11 mile segment north of Stapleton) making Highway 83 a hard-surface road from Canada to Mexico.

1960 Jul 28: Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society leaders open drive to raise $37,500 for one-half the purchase price of a part of historic Scout’s Rest Ranch. State Game, Forestation and Parks Commission will match that amount and make Cody home, a state historical park.

1965 Jun 24: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is dedicated.

1965 Aug 29: Open house marks start of the North Platte Junior College in former Post Office building at Fifth and Jeffers.

1966 Sept 22: Interstate 80 opens to North Platte.

1966 Nov: North Platte selected as permanent home for statewide NEBRASKALand Days celebration by a 4-3 vote of the Game Commission. First year in North Platte to be 1968.

1968: Eastbound hump, the new Bailey Yard completed, named for UP President Ed Bailey, who called North Platte home. Cost: 12.5 million.

1968 Jun 17-23: Nebraskaland Days started in Lincoln in 1965, is celebrated for the first time in North Platte, its new permanent location.

1971 Apr 22: Formal opening of the new Union Pacific Diesel Repair Shop at North Platte. Cost: more than $10 million.

1971 May 1: Passenger train service to North Platte ends with a mock Wild West train robbery on the last passenger train.

1971 Jun 23: Construction begins on $4 million Mall Shopping Center.

1972 May 4: North Platte gets $692,262 federal grant to begin downtown urban renewal program.

1972 Jun: NebraskaLand Days Wild West Arena is completed for the 1972 Buffalo Bill Rodeo, which had been held at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

1973 Nov 1: Union Pacific begins demolition of its Depot, ending community efforts to save the building the housed the famous World War II Canteen.

1975 Aug 9: New Great Plains Medical Center building dedicated, climaxing an effort that had begun in 1969. The name would later be changed to Great Plains Regional Medical Center and now GPH: Great Plains Health.

1975 Oct 21: Voters approve a $10 million bond issue to build a new junior high school, one new elementary school and new buildings or additions at several elementary schools.

1976 Jul 4: Dedication ceremonies held for the new Lincoln County Historical Society Museum on North Buffalo Bill Avenue.

1980 Jul 20: Dedication of new westbound hump yard at North Platte. Cost: $40.1 million.

1980 Sept 18: Ceremonies mark completion of the new 8,000 square foot jet runway at North Platte Lee Bird Field. Frontier Airlines jet service starts Oct 1, 1980.

1981 Jul 27: Willow Street Viaduct construction begins. Dedicated in Nov 1982. Cost: just over $2 million.

1982 Jun 25: Dedication of Gerald Gentleman Power Station near Sutherland. Cost of Unit No. 1: $335 million; Unit No. 2: $287 million.

1983 Dec 9: Grand opening of the Neville Center for the Performing Arts in the old Fox Theater building that was donated to the Community Playhouse by the Neville sisters and renovated after a fund campaign that raised more than $265,000.

1987 Aug 13: President Ronald Reagan visits North Platte for a barbecue at the Ted Long ranch and a speech at the Nebraskaland Days Wild West Arena before a crowd estimated at 15,000 people.

1989 Nov 1: Buffalo Bill viaduct opens. Cost: $3.8 million.

1997 Nov 11: Flying J Travel Plaza opens south of North Platte east access off Interstate 80.

1997: Life-size statue of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody comes from England to Cody Park.

1998: Plans are announced for the building of a 20th Century Veterans Memorial near North Platte I-80 Interchange.

1999 Jan 14: Plans are announced for 150-foot Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center at Union Pacific Bailey Yard and a fund campaign is launched to finance the project.

1999 Jul: Construction begins on new McDaid Elementary at E and Tabor adjacent to St. Patrick Junior-Senior High. New Catholic elementary building will replace the one at Fourth and Chestnut, which construction completed in 1916.

May the next century be filled with many more milestones for our community and county! See you next week for another North Platte History Post! Happy New Year!

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