Downtown Lincoln Haymarket District

2. Burlington Northern Railroad Depot/Lincoln Station

201-225 N. 7th St.
Lincoln, NE 68508

CATEGORY: Historic Haymarket Tour

1927; W. T. Krausch, Burlington Engineer of Buildings

Lincoln's railroad era began in 1870, when the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad became the first line to enter the new capital.  Burlington's first station was a small wooden structure located at approximately 5th and Q Streets.  The second station, a handsome Victorian Gothic structure of brick and stone, was built on the 7th and P site in 1880-81 and replaced in 1927 with the current, Neo-classical Revival style depot.

          Railroads were the lifelines of Midwestern towns when Lincoln was founded, and a top priority of the new capital's leaders was to secure rail service.  Lincoln and Lancaster County voters approved substantial bonuses to the first railroad to reach Lincoln by certain deadlines, but as a local newspaper editor observed, "It's easier to vote bonds than to build railroads."  For reaching Lincoln in July 1870, Burlington collected $50,000 from the county.  The State of Nebraska awarded the railroad 2,000 acres of land per mile of track built.  Seven more lines reached Lincoln by 1900, for which the city and county paid bonuses totaling more than $500,000.

          The railroads were not attracted solely by the bonuses, but also by the opportunity to share in the city's growing wholesale shipments.  In turn, the jobbing trade expanded as rail service increased, transforming the mixed retail and residential west edge of downtown into a busy warehouse district.

          The 1927 depot is one of the few Haymarket buildings designed with equal attention to all four facades.  Walter T. Krausch signed the original blueprints as the railroad’s "Engineer of Buildings." Krausch, a Chicago-based engineer, inventor, and architect, designed many Burlington depots across Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.  The east side, with its glass and cast iron canopies and limestone engaged Doric colonnade, is obviously the primary facade—the depot's (and railroad's) face toward the city.  The west side is simpler but similarly dignified, befitting rail passengers’ first glimpse of the city.  The stone trim is restricted on the west face to the corner quoins and the cornice, while brick pilasters take the place of the east's stone columns.  The long, covered platforms on the west side are another fine feature of this station, which was built by Omaha-based Peter Kiewit and Sons, now a worldwide construction firm.  Inside, the central, two-story waiting room retains its trim of marble, terra cotta, and plaster.

          The Burlington depot was renovated as Lincoln Station in 1989-1990 by the Arter family of Lincoln, providing shops, offices, and the “Great Hall” in the former waiting room.  It continued to provide an office and waiting room for Amtrak until a new depot was completed a few blocks west at Q Street and Pinnacle Bank Arena Drive in 2012.

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