could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

Today is:

From Stockyards to Housing

After discussing stockyards, a related issue was brought up by one of the council members
Squatters on the Union Pacific right of way between H & F.
A large number of small shacks had been built pushing further and further onto the right of way
Needed to be stopped before a “shanty town” developed on railroad property.
A road was built just south of the railroad right of way that required the removal of most of those shanties.

Builders & Construction Companies

Overall view of Kearney’s history – Four Building Booms

Building Boom #1. When Kearney was founded

Men came to set up their business in the new town
        No buildings for either homes or businesses.

Which to build first? - Many built both in one, business in front or ground floor, living quarters in back or upstairs.

Most came with lumber to build their business, constructed it, then started up their business.

Some spent time building and then after a year or two went into business or another occupation

Henry Achey – came to Kearney with load of lumber to build for Keens & Nightingale and for Williams.
        He worked for the builder, David Webbert for a couple years
        Then homesteaded south of Odessa.
        Mrs. Achey’s Come Back letter
            She had arrived a day early and was taken to the Webbert homestead east of Kearney [on Ave. H]
            Speaking of the Webberts, she wrote:

But they were very nice people & done the very best for us they could. They had some 40 day boarders, but had no place for lady except us. Most of them slept on the prairie as there was lots of work for men as they were putting out houses as fast as they could. But the weather was nice so they got along very well.
    [It was a long warm fall and no snow until Christmas]

David Webbert

Carpenter by trade in Ohio
Brought his family to Kearney in July 1872 [140 years ago]
His services were in constant demand
As his 3 sons were growing up they learned the skill of carpentry.
Webbert died in 1893 at age 62, buried in Kearney Cemetery

– wife, Mary, went home to Ohio and lived with mother for a few years.
– Returned to Kearney, lived next door to daughter, Lilly Rhone
– Moved in with daughter when in her 80’s,
– Died a few days short of age 92, buried in Kearney Cemetery

Building Boom #2. During Kearney's Boom Period

City Directories - 1889
        Carpenters, Contractors and builders - 38 names
                36 individuals & 2 partnerships pairs
                Two were owners of brickyards – Hibberd and Mannix
City Directories - 1892
        Carpenters, Contractors and builders - 20 names [Boom ending]
                One did grading only

Walter Knutzen

        Directory listing in 1892
            Knutzen, Walter , contractor & builder, [business at] 2209 ave A, [near the railroad]

                res 318 W 30th [north edge of town, on other side of Second from Good Sam]

Born in Norway – learned cabinet making
Came to US in 1872 – spent abut 5 yrs in Chicago & Great Lakes area
        Most of the time as carpenter
Went back to home town in Norway for a wife in 1879
Returned to US & came to Kearney

Engaged in building business for over 37 years
        Built Longfellow High School

William T. Scott

        Directory listing in 1892
            Scott, William T., contr and bldr, dlr lime, cement, agt for Colorado red and gray stone
                [business at] 17 W 22nd st, [also near railroad, just off Central]
                res 2103 3d ave [about 3 blocks west of business building]

        Born in England
        He & wife came to US in 1872 – came to Kearney in the 1870’s
        Leading contractor and builder during the Boom
        Sons took over the building business
        W T was still managing the cement block business at age 71 in 1910
        He and wife went to Long Beach, California in 1914 – both died there within the next 4 years.

The 45 years after the boom when Kearney recovered and slowly moved on

City Directory - 1910 – No builders or contractors listed in the city directory

        City Directory - 1917 – Just one – Fitzgerald & sons

        City Directory - 1931 – Many categories but not many businesses, many listed more than once.
            Mostly individuals, with some exceptions -

            Architects - Helleberg, John & McClure, Hugh
                McClure also listed as general carpenter & general contractor
                McClure designed the Sonotorium at Harmon Park

                12 including Walter Knutzen & Son
                    Son kept company name and continued operating it; Walter died in 1919

            Contractors—Mason - Hibberd Brick

            Contractors—Carpenter - 2 listed
            Contractors—Concrete - 3 listed
            Contractors—Floor Surfacing – 1 listed
            Contractors—Plastering - 2 listed
            Contractors—Road - 2 listed

Building Boom #3. The War II Years


Construction of Air Base as well as homes for new people moving into Kearney

City Directory - 1941-1942

Not so many categories but some names that might be familiar

            Helleberg, John
            McClure & Walker
            Kalous, Joe (Marjorie), General Contractor, Roofing and Cabinet Work, Office and Res 426 E 25th

                [nw corner of 25th & E]
            Knutson, Henry

Building Boom #4. The Present

In Hub about a week ago –
“Kearney is pinched by a housing shortage. There simply aren’t enough homes available for those who want them.”

Multiple pages in 2012 phone book, so many categories and specialties.

Building boom seems to have been going on for 20 years or more as Kearney continues to grow.


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Revised: 02/06/2018