I first heard about this school outside of Kearney, Nebraska, from a friend who travels that way fairly often, Kelly Maeser. She originally took a picture and posted it on Facebook last summer. I noticed it and of course asked her if she minded if I drove out there at some point to take pictures. She was kind enough to tell me where the location was, and she advised that I wait until late winter/early spring for the sand hill crane migration. The three pictures below were taken by Kelly.
This amazing piece of history is actually for sale, as you can see from the sign! Here is the link for more information. I would love to purchase an old abandoned place like this, and turn it into a writing retreat with horses.
The building was once in Assumption, Nebraska, where this 107 year old School building was moved 23 miles to its current location on the banks of the Platte River near Interstate 80. The building was completely gutted of several tons of 100-year-old plaster and brick before being moved, I assume due to the weight, which is a shame. Per the seller’s website: It is ready for reconstruction to fit your desires. At least 5 guest rooms can be located on the second and third floors while the first floor can be used as a residence as well as a kitchen and dining area. It’s current location is midway between the Kearney and Grand Island exits on Interstate 80.
We headed out early one Sunday morning, hoping to arrive around sunrise, which we barely missed. The old school is pretty easy to spot from the highway. The grand building stretches across the wild grasses next to the river, the white paint fading from the splintered siding.
I researched the history of the town the school came from, as well as the school, and it’s quite interesting! The school was constructed in late 1899, when the families of Assumption decided they wanted their children to receive a religious education and instruction in the German language. School started in September of 1900, with the initial head count of students at 50. The two large rooms on the second floor were classrooms. Until a convent was built-in 1955, the main floor functioned as living quarters for Sisters. Enrollment reached its highest numbers between 1912 and 1915, with around 120 students. During winter months when it was bitterly cold, some of the girls boarded with the sisters, to avoid walking the long distance home, while others attended public schools closer to home. A room in the southwest corner of the room was reserved for boarding students. The Sister who filled the role of cook constructed their meals and the girls ate alone in their rooms. Some of the girls in later years complained of loneliness and feeling homesick.
I found the two small photos along with the history, but I’m not sure of the timeframe. If anyone has some insight, I would love to hear from you.
Before World War I, many children were unable to speak English, and the Sisters were bilingual in German and English. During the war, German classes were forbidden by the State of Nebraska, and no one was allowed to speak it anywhere, in public or even on the phone. It’s unimaginable to me what that must have felt like to not be able to speak your own language. Some people who were unable to speak English were unable to shop in Hastings to avoid physical assaults. The school finally closed its doors in May, 1978, due to financial difficulties and declining student enrollments.
The school was moved with the intention of opening a bed and breakfast, but once it was placed next to the river, the plans did not work out. It stands empty on the Nebraska acreage, waiting for a creative, patient buyer ready for an adventure and a piece of history. I really hope someone rescues this rare find!
“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist.” –Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
Trish Eklund is the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten & Decayed. She is also the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community, an online community and resource for divorced and remarried parents, step-parents, same-sex parents, adopting parents, and all other non-traditional parents. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, www.bigblendedfamily.com, and Her View From Home. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and, LinkedIn.