Weekly Wanderings: Lincoln, Nebraska

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I’ve decided to institute a weekly feature here at Joy in the Journey. As I’ve said, I’m a wandering kind of girl, and, at least for the foreseeable future, I will be making an almost weekly trip somewhere. Last weekend it was Lincoln, Nebraska.

I’ll admit my bias upfront. I lived in Lincoln for 11 years or so (which ties it for longest in my lifetime to date). I was born there and my mom’s family is from there, so I’ve been making my way up O Street for as long as I can remember.

Lincoln bills itself as a large small-town. Now that I’ve lived in more “city-like” places – Omaha, Denver and Topeka – I’d have to say that I agree with that assessment. There’s something about Lincoln that never quite makes it to “citified.” I haven’t lived there since 2000, though, and they’ve experienced some growth since then. Because I have been going there since the ’70s, the changes in Lincoln are the most obvious to me. Landmarks that used to mean “We’re almost there!” are now swallowed up in residential areas. Looks like ~100,000 new residents have moved in since 1970. The green, tree-lined streets I miss are still plentiful, though, as is a smile on a street corner downtown.

Lincoln has a very interesting dynamic as a town pretty much created by and for government. The little village of Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and accepted as the state capital of Nebraska in 1867, when the city planners laid out future streets in a blissful grid. 

One of my favorite places to visit is the state capitol, which is the second tallest state capitol (apparently Louisiana trumps us) and the home of Nebraska’s unique one-house state legislature. Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the capitol was constructed between 1922 and 1932 and actually came in a little under budget. It’s filled with lovely ’20s art deco, surrounded with wonderful verbage (you know, little quips like, “Honor to pioneers who broke the sods that men to come might live.”) and topped by a statue called “The Sower.” 


Another city feature, “The Lincoln Mall” runs from the capitol to the Nebraska Historical Society and boasts many levels of fountains, trees and landmarks, such as Pershing Auditorium and the State Office Building (which I called the SOB when I temped there one summer).

The sculpture “Wind Spirit” is also on the Mall. The plains and the wind are one, and this sculpture does a wonderful job of capturing the “tameless, and swift, and proud.”

Of course, Lincoln is also the home of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, so it has that “college town” feel as well. We residents looked forward to school starting with both excitment and trepidation. As others who’ve lived near colleges can, I’m sure, attest, there’s just nothing like waking up one morning and finding 23,000 extra people have moved in over the weekend.

Of course, then there are those special weekends when it’s 78,000 invaders who come to watch the Huskers play at Memorial Stadium, another place I’ve been going since the ’70s (or was it the ’80s? Dad?) and where most of my family will be this weekend, eager for a new hope.