Nebraska at 150: Burt County Museum in Tekamah

Editor’s Note: Nebraska is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017. As the state observes its sesquicentennial, we are revisiting some of the state’s attractions. Today, we take a look at the Burt County Museum in Tekamah…

Burt County Museum

Imagine pouring gasoline or kerosene into your iron and lighting it with a match. How about putting charcoal in an iron? Then, imagine actually using it to press clothes.

These antique irons and several more are on display at the Burt County Museum in Tekamah, Nebraska. Tekamah is about a 45-minute drive north of Omaha.

Burt County Museum

A section on irons and other laundry-related antiques are located in the basement of the museum. The museum, itself, offers a great look into the past.

The museum is housed in the former E.C. Houston home. The house was built in 1904 for Houston and his family. Houston owned the Houston Lumber Company.

The house became home to the Burt County Museum in 1985. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places a year later. It is one of 11 attractions in Burt County on the Register. The house underwent renovation from a previous owner, so it’s not in the same layout as when the Houstons lived there.

Burt County Museum

The first thing visitors notice when they enter the house is the dark oak staircase. The detailed work on the columns is impressive.

Burt County Museum

We started our tour on the main floor. The parlor room was spacious. It used to be two smaller rooms, but the previous owner had removed a wall. We still enjoyed the view. The museum makes excellent use of mannequins, dressing them in period places throughout the house.

Burt County Museum

The parlor offered a view of antique furniture and furnishings.

Burt County Museum

The room features a painting from the 1700s depicting The Last Supper. The painting was donated by a local priest.

Burt County Museum

An old phone is located in the hallway. During its day, people would pick up the earpiece and talk into the microphone in front of the box. They would be connected to the local operator and advise them who they needed to call. Can you imagine any young kid using it today? “How do I take a selfie?”

Burt County Museum

The dining room featured a tea set among the many items in the room.

Burt County Museum

A spoon collection featuring Tekamah and its school hangs on a wall. Spoons became popular to collect in the late 1800s, growing from a European fad. Wealthy Americans would bring souvenir spoons with the names of the cities they visited on them.

Burt County Museum

The kitchen has been converted into office space, but a collection of dishware is available for viewing.

Burt County Museum

We finally ascended the oak staircase to the second floor. A sitting room is located atop the staircase. I saw my first corner heat radiator.

Burt County Museum

The room also had a trunk from 1714, with its original owner’s initials.

Burt County Museum

The bedrooms had a rarity for their time – closets. Not just one, but two in both the master and the children’s rooms. Historically, homes would have armoires in the bedrooms.

Burt County Museum

The master bedroom had a four-post bed and a baby cradle.

Burt County Museum

A desk had an array of items, including a book.

Burt County Museum

The kids’ bedroom featured an old football helmet among its items.

Burt County Museum

Wreathes made from human hair were on display.

Burt County Museum

The bathroom featured a seat in the tub.

Burt County Museum

The room also featured a variety of bath-relate exhibits, including shaving brush, gowns and vases.

Burt County Museum

The museum has a room devoted to toys of years past. It has several games, dolls, a doll house and rocking horse. Lisa reminisced about the doll house her grandpa made them years ago. Anyone remember paper dolls? My sisters played with them as kids.

Burt County Museum

I loved the Buck Rogers ray gun.

Burt County Museum

The top floor is the music floor. The wide-open floor has enough space for dancing, as well as musical instruments. A stained glass window stands behind a drum set. It was from the courthouse. It had to be removed in order to renovate the building.

Burt County Museum

We headed to the basement, where we saw the irons, along with several other antique laundry items. We saw an old basket that appeared heavy enough to require two people to carry it.

A replica of an old kitchen is located in the basement.

Burt County Museum

An ice cutter and other tools are on display. People take the ice cutter via horse to the Missouri River (a few miles east of town). A saw would be used to score the top of the ice, in order for the horse-drawn cutter to make its deep cuts of the ice. Then the chunks would be pulled ashore and transported to town via a horse-drawn sleigh.

Burt County Museum

The museum has several old typewriters on display, along with cash registers.

Burt County Museum

A dentist’s work space made me cringe with the thought of having to have a tooth pulled in the early to mid-1900s.

Burt County Museum

An exhibit recognized the history of nursing in the medical field.

Burt County Museum

Having finished the tour of the house, we didn’t have time to check out the one-room school house that is also located on the property. Another time.

Burt County Museum

The E.C. Houston is one of two houses owned by the museum. The E.W. Bryant House is a few blocks away. That house will have to make our itinerary on a future trip.

I’ve mentioned previously that visiting rural communities in your state offer a learning opportunity for culture and history. I suggest stopping in at the Burt County Museum when in the area. Plan 2-3 hours for the visit, so you can take in all the historical society has to offer.

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