In 2022 the Office of the Capitol Commission is recognizing the 100th anniversary of the construction of this third Capitol beginning with the 1922 groundbreaking ceremony. Preparation for the task of creating a third Capitol began with the passage of the Mears Tracewell Act in 1919, when the Nebraska Legislature voted to create a Nebraska Capitol Commission to oversee a competition to select an architect and then oversee construction.
The Office of the Capitol Commission will recognize significant events in the construction of the third Nebraska State Capitol with displays in the Capitol, articles in the Capitol Sower newsletter, and updates to this website.
One hundred years ago in the fall and winter of 1921, as competition winner Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s monumental Capitol designs were being converted into construction drawings, load bearing tests were being conducted to see if the Dakota sandstone sub strata under the Capitol site. Once it was determined the substrata could bear the weight of the over 600,000 ton building a groundbreaking ceremony was planned.
On April 15, 1922, a large crowd of Nebraskans watched as Governor Samuel R. McKelvie broke ground for the new Capitol by plowing a furrow on the northeast lawn of the Capitol with a team of two white horses pulling a sod cutting plow. In his remarks McKelvie spoke of the transformation of the state from a vast treeless prairie to a garden. As Capitol architectural consultant Thomas Rogers Kimball, FAIA, wrote in the competition documents, the new Capitol to arise on the site would become ” …the outward sign of the character of its people. Their respect for its traditions and history, their belief in its importance and worth, and their love of its fair name… .”
Following the groundbreaking, crews immediately got to work on the foundation. During the spring and summer of 1922 Lincoln residents witnessed the basement being dug and foundation walls going up in anticipation of an Armistice Day cornerstone laying ceremony.
On Veterans Day November 11, 2022, the Nebraska Capitol Commission and the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs commemorated the centennial of the cornerstone dedication with a program in the 2nd floor rotunda.
Once the cornerstone was in place, beginning in the winter of 1922, and through all of 1923 and 1924, the walls of the first phase of the construction of the new Capitol rose on the site. The first of the four phases of construction would build the outer north and south sections of the 437′ base. Hundreds of masons and steel workers were on site to see the work done. During 1924 work continued on the outer north and south sections of the Capitol square base. As the new sections were completed, sculptors began work on the exterior bas relief panels and contractors began to finish the interiors. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s very sudden death was deeply felt, but his Associates and the Capitol Commission worked together to complete his vision.