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Hall County History Minutes

These "Hall County History Minutes" run daily on 1430 am KRGI and are compiled and read by the staff of Stuhr Museum. For more information please give us a call at (308) 385-5316 or shoot us an email at info@stuhrmuseum.org. Enjoy!

A photo from Stuhr’s collection shows six unidentified children posing by the fountain in Grand Island’s Pioneer Park in 1915.  Pioneer Park, located in the 600 block between West First and Second Streets, was once the site of Hall County’s first courthouse, built in 1873.  When the present day courthouse was completed in 1904, the original two-story, brick structure was abandoned.  In 1906, the former courthouse was destroyed and the block was turned into a park through the fund-raising efforts of the Women’s Park Association.

A photo from Stuhr’s collection of the 100 block of East Second Street in 1890 paints an interesting picture of the Grand Island business community at the time. One two-story brick building housed R.R. Watson’s butter, egg, and poultry business. The photo shows a horse-drawn delivery wagon with three milk cans, parked in front of Watson’s store.  A canvas cover protects the horse from flies and other biting insects. At the far right is Grand Island Steam Laundry which was purchased by  J.C. Alexander and A.W. Marsh of Grand Island in 1887. The photo shows the dirt streets and residential neighborhood that surround the two businesses.

A photo from Stuhr’s collection taken on May 14, 1911, shows the storeroom of J.A. Wingert’s Tin and Sheet Metal Work in Grand Island.  Wingert’s shop was located at 224 East Third Street at the time this photograph was taken and shows eight employees standing on the 5-foot tall Lennex Torrid Zone 026B furnaces.  These furnaces were manufactured in Marshalltown, Iowa. The small child sitting on one of the furnaces, is Mildred Wingert, daughter of Jeremiah Albert “Bert” and Stella (Heath) Wingert.

A photograph from Stuhr’s Collection shows Grand Island’s City Hall, built in the 1889-1890 period at the northwest corner of Second and Pine Streets.  This 1890 building was razed in 1938 for the construction of the 1940 City Hall, still standing on the same corner.  The three-story 1890 brick and stone structure was designed by Grand Island architect Julius Fuehrman and was built at an estimated cost of $25,000.  Large twin doors on the Pine Street side (right) mark the location of the city’s central fire station.  Grand Island’s Police Department was located on the Second Street side (left) at the far west end of the structure.  The corner entrance at this time led to the mayor’s office.  The office for the city’s Water Commission was also located in this building.

Three unidentified men pose with their Harley-Davidson motorcycles in front of the Grand Island Daily Independent building at 211 North Locust Street in Grand Island in a photo from Stuhr’s collection.  This photograph was taken by Grand Island photographer Henry W. Locke in about 1915 to 1920.  The man on the far left wears a sweater with the familiar Harley-Davidson “Bar & Shield” logo.  The famed motorcycle company first used this logo in 1911 and trademarked it at the U.S. Patent office one year later.  Several people can be seen behind the motorcycle riders reading the Independent’s headlines posted on bulletin boards outside the newspaper’s offices.

Grand Island photographer Julius Leschinsky captured this image of the overwhelmed St. Libory’s postmistress on November 17, 1913.   According to official Howard County records, St. Libory was originally called Grantville.  Its first post office was established on May 16, 1878 in a sod house in section 28 of Howard County, about 7/8 of a mile east of the railroad depot.  A few years earlier in 1876, a group of emigrants from St. Libory, Illinois established a Catholic parish at the site that would become St. Libory, naming their new church Saint Liborius after their former church in Illinois.  Soon after the Grantville post office was established, a petition was circulated and presented to the United Postal Service requesting moving the post office and changing the name to St. Libory. On May 16, 1878, this post office was reestablished as the St. Libory Post Office.

A photo of a magical garden is the backyard of the Grand Island photographer Julius Leschinsky at his home located at 518 W. Koenig Street.  The lovely Miss Vivian Donner poses as the garden fairy.  This photograph was taken on May 23, 1911.  Miss Donner was born September 5, 1899 in Nebraska.  She graduated from Grand Island High School in 1917.  Shortly after high school, Miss Donner enlisted in the United States Navy to serve her country during World War I.  During the war, she worked in the Bureau of Navigation in the Identification Section, the Finger Print Division. 

From 1898 to 1922, Grand Island was home to no less than 8 cigar factories.  A photo from Stuhr’s Collection shows the Brandt Cigar Company and what a typical Grand Island cigar factory looked like. This factory was bought from H.G. Brandt in 1915 by Emil F. Rickert when it was located in the G.A.R. Building.  The company’s most popular cigar was called “The Lincoln Highway”, which was released to promote the nation’s first transcontinental automobile road.  Most of the cigar factories closed over the subsequent 20 years.

In 1924, Wolbach and Sons Department Store celebrated their 50th Anniversary, shown in a photo from Stuhr’s collection.   Michael Wolbach arrived in Grand Island from New York City in 1873.  He selected the southwest corner of Third and Pine Streets to build a small, one-story frame building 20 by 50 feet.  In 1874, Michael’s brothers Jacob S. and Samuel N. joined him in Grand Island and the store became known as Wolbach Brothers.  In 1881, a new two-story brick building replaced the original store at the same location.  In 1884, S.N. Wolbach became the sole owner and renamed the store Wolbach & Sons.  For the 1924 celebration, the Wolbach’s recreated the original frame store, seen in this photograph adjacent to the brick store on Pine Street. A large crowd has gathered on Third Street to see the huge cake visible in front of the store.

In 1924, Wolbach and Sons Department Store celebrated their 50th Anniversary, shown in a photo from Stuhr’s collection.   Michael Wolbach arrived in Grand Island from New York City in 1873.  He selected the southwest corner of Third and Pine Streets to build a small, one-story frame building 20 by 50 feet.  In 1874, Michael’s brothers Jacob S. and Samuel N. joined him in Grand Island and the store became known as Wolbach Brothers.  In 1881, a new two-story brick building replaced the original store at the same location.  In 1884, S.N. Wolbach became the sole owner and renamed the store Wolbach & Sons.  For the 1924 celebration, the Wolbach’s recreated the original frame store, seen in this photograph adjacent to the brick store on Pine Street. A large crowd has gathered on Third Street to see the huge cake visible in front of the store.

Even in this skeletal state, Grand Island’s Yancy Hotel is recognizable in a photo from Stuhr’s collection. Work began on the Yancy in April 1917 under the direction of the North American Hotel Company.  However, the project ran in to financial difficulties and construction stopped.  The hotel stood as a concrete frame until Omaha’s Herbert S. Daniel and associates financed the hotel’s completion after World War I.  It opened in late October 1923.  The hotel was named for William L. Yancy, who leased it from the Daniel’s group.  The ten-story building went through several other ownerships before closing in December 1982.  In 1984 and 1985, it was remodeled into an office-apartment-condominium complex.

Over the years, Grand Island has seen many different types of businesses come and go.  Industries and businesses develop to fill the needs of the communities.  To stay alive, businesses had to change and evolve with time and technology.  A photograph the Leschinsky Studio Glass Plate Negative Collection features the Staple Fence Mold Company taken in 1918. The man at the left wearing overalls is using a large medal scoop to pour a concrete mixture into molds for fence posts, which was new for the time.  The concrete fence posts were likely used for decorative landscape purposes such as ornamental fences around yards or even hitching post for horse-drawn vehicles.  A large concrete mixer can be seen behind the man in the overalls.

In a photo from Stuhr’s collection, Mandena Hubbard poses in a cowgirl costume in 1911 for Grand Island photographer Julius Leschinsky.  This whimsical image is one of seven Leschinsky took of Mandena  showing her as a gypsy, an elegant lady, an innocent girl, and a tomboy. In the mid-1890s, Margareta Niemann opened the “Margot Niemann Costuming Company” in Grand Island.  Margot, an actress since the age of 15, used her theater experience to open a costume shop and was well known throughout the area.  If nothing in her vast stock of rental costumes tickled your fancy, Margot could also create new costumes made to order. 

Grand Island’s Lyda Theater went all out in 1922 to promote the release of Universal Pictures’ The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe in a photo from Stuhr’s collection.  A blockbuster of its time, Robinson Crusoe was a black and white silent film that starred Harry Myers, Nobel Johnson, and Gertrude Olmstead.  Known for his elaborate promotional displays and gimmicks, Lyda theater manager Tyne Hayman turned the Lyda’s ticket booth into a grass covered hut for the release of Robinson Crusoe.  Sand was spread across the theater’s entrance to create a beach.  Washed ashore on the Lyda’s “beach” are two rifles, a wooden barrel, and some driftwood.  A stuffed black bear, armadillo, badger and a lizard add to the Lyda’s wild adventure theme.   The Lyda Theater opened in 1912 at 306 West Third Street.  In 1931, the Lyda became the Grand Theater.  The Grand was expanded and remodeled in 1936 into the movie palace Grand Islanders know and enjoy today.

Two unidentified young women pose on the roof of the Leschinsky Photograph Studio, 109 East Third Street, Grand Island in a photo from Stuhr’s collection.  Acting as the women’s backdrop is the Koehler Hotel.  The Koehler stood at the southwest corner of North Locust and West South Front Street.  Built by Gustave Koehler at a cost of $100,000, the ninety-five room Koehler Hotel opened in October 1893.  The hotel’s prime location directly across the street from the Union Pacific Passenger Depot made the Koehler Grand Island’s leading hotel at the turn of the Twentieth Century.  Maybe more interestingly is the behavior of the women, as this photograph would have been considered fairly risqué at the time it was taken.  The two women appear to be pouring themselves glasses of unknown clear liquid.

It’s fair time in this photo from Stuhr’s collection.  The Hall County Agricultural Society was originally organized in 1872.  In 1874, the Agricultural Society purchased a track of land suitable for use as a fairground for $1.00.  That same year, however, a grasshopper plague devastated Hall County’s crops and fair was cancelled.  In 1875, Hall County held its first successful fair.  Over the decades the popularity of the Hall County Fair would raise and fall.  It was reorganized and relocated several times.  This photograph was taken by Grand Island photographer Julius Leschinsky at the 1917 Hall County Fair.  An unidentified man poses with the award winning produce featured at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home booth.  According to the September 21, 1917 edition of the Grand Island Independent, 3,159 people took in the fair in a single day and 1,300 stayed for the fireworks that night.

Automobiles were a popular photography subject when they first appeared on the streets, and a photograph from Stuhr’s collection shows a beautiful machine for the time. This early 1910s roadster is much different from modern race cars.  The photo shows a crank start in the front and the chain drive on the driver’s side rear.  The hood is also unique, hiding what is clearly a large engine.  In addition, access to the engine is provided by a center hinge as well as louvered mid-panels. This photograph, which features four lovely ladies hanging around the car, was likely taken at Grand Island’s race track in Delwood Park.

A photo from Stuhr’s collection taken in the mid-1890s, captures the daily hustle and bustle of Grand Island’s business district, specifically Third Street.  It was likely taken from the second story window of the Leschinsky Studio located at 109 East Third Street.   It looks west towards the intersection of Pine and Third Streets with the Michelson Building and its distinctive clocktower prominent in the background. The Michelson Building was built in the mid-1890s and still stands today.  The clocktower and its distinctive German style, was removed in the 1930s. 

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