As a teenaged resident of Hastings, I’ll admit that I have occasionally succumbed to the “Hastings is boring, there’s nothing special here” mentality. Over the years of living here, however, I’ve realized that that is completely untrue. To the untrained eye Hastings could very easily be viewed as a boring little town in the middle of nowhere. But the truth is, one just needs to look a little harder to find the true attraction that makes our quaint little town so great. You see, it’s the history behind it all that’s so fascinating. Hastings is home to a number of important places. It’s almost impossible to walk around Hastings without coming across something of important historic value.
Nothing is ever quite what it seems here in Hastings, as there are several buildings today that were very different in the past. Each one holds an interesting story that makes it a treasure to our town. For example, the Kensington retirement home on North Hastings Avenue wasn’t always what it is today. When it was built in 1914, it became the very popular Clarke Hotel, designed by a Hastings architect named C.W. Way. In its day, the Clarke played host to several of the town’s social events. Anything from informal meetings to important ceremonies and conventions would take place in this famous hotel. Many famous people were drawn to the luxury as well. Presidents including William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy have made appearances as well as New York governor and 1944 and 1948 Presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. In 1987, when the hotel was renovated into the Kensington, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Another famous building in Hastings is the Victory Building on West 2nd Street. Also designed by C.W. Way, the building boasts a great example of early 20th century architecture. In 1917, a man named William Dutton needed a factory and warehouse for his harness-making company. The building is so named in honor of America’s victory in World War I and was even partially financed by the conversion of Victory Bonds into company stock. When the building was finished, it had many amenities that were very modern for the time such as a water heating system, fire sprinklers, and steel sash windows. The building is currently in use by the Dutton-Lainson company and was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
A very popular attraction to Hastings residents and visitors of all ages is none other than the Fisher Rainbow Fountain on 12th Street. This beautiful fountain was built for the County Fair and Electrical Exposition in 1932. During this time, Hastings was going through extreme drought and rough heat waves. Patrons of the fair were in awe of the jets of colorful light and water as water was in short supply. The fountain was later moved to Highland Park as a representation of hope during the desperate times of the city, but was nearly destroyed in 1984 in an explosive act of vandalism. The city came together to raise money to rebuild the fountain and it was rededicated on Mother’s Day in 1985. The fountain now stands as a monument to those who built the city as well as people proudly living in the city today.
The incredibly unique structure of the Chautauqua Pavilion in the park on West Fifth Street is not only a fun gathering area but also a site on the National Register of Historic Places. Also built from the plans of C.W. Way, this structure was the resolution to the common engineering problem of trying to fill a large amount of space without internal columns that would get in the way. The pavilion was built in 1907 during the Chautauqua, a movement that brought entertainment, education, and culture through rural America until the mid 1920’s with public speakers, preachers, musical acts, and more. As a location for the local Chautauqua of Hastings the pavilion was home to many famous speakers including politicians such as Robert F. Kennedy and William Jennings Bryan. In the late 1900’s the pavilion became a victim of arson and was nearly destroyed. It was later rebuilt to a practically identical version of the original structure. Today, the pavilion is used for many public events such as concerts and church services and is considered one of Adams County’s most enduring landmarks.
The topics discussed in this article barely scratch the surface of the historical content of Hastings. You can’t go anywhere in this town without experiencing its history first-hand. Wherever you go there is a new story to be told. So perhaps outsiders would view Hastings as a boring little town, but I know from experience that they are just missing out. I am proud to live in a town with such an amazing history and can’t wait to learn more about it.
Sources: Adams County, Nebraska by Jeff O’Donnell and the Adams County Nebraska Historical Society website.
Tags: Historic Hastings
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