Iconic State Parks Centennial Events End at Arbor Lodge

The third and final signature event of the Nebraska State Parks System Centennial Celebration took place Friday, October 1 through Sunday, October 3 at Arbor Lodge State Historic Park, which was the first state historic park in the commission after the Morton family donation. in September 1923.

Friday night events at Arbor Lodge included a picnic on the mansion lawn, an outdoor screening of “Adventures in History: Exploring Nebraska State Historic Parks” and a laser light show. .

Saturday and Sunday events included binoculars and bird watching, fish printing, fishing and throwing activities at Steinhart Park, gasping mud balls, turkey calls, wildlife trails and living history demonstrations.

The Topeka Westerns hosted a vintage 1860s-style baseball game on the field on Saturday afternoon.

The Nebraska State Park System was created in 1921 when the State Parks Board was established within the Department of Public Works.

That year, the legislature set aside a section of school property in Pine Ridge, which became Chadron State Park. The park had 10 cabins and a swimming pool in 1930.

The Nebraska City News reported in its Friday July 20, 1923 edition that a date had been set to transfer ownership of Arbor Lodge to the state of Nebraska: September 27, 1923. The report was taken from the Daily Lincoln Star from Saturday:

“September 27 is the date that has been officially decided for the official transfer of Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City to the State of Nebraska for use as a state park and museum. The time was originally set for August 9, but at Joy Morton’s request, the postponement was accepted so that a number of improvements could be made at the expense of Morton’s estate, before handing over the property. It is understood that approximately $ 15,000 will be spent in this manner. New fences will be one of the features of the upgrades.

The report continued: “While members of the Morton family wanted the road to Arbor Lodge from the main part of Nebraska town paved, Governor Bryan, chairman of the state park board, asked Engineer of State Cochran, his secretary, to prepare the necessary plans for federal approval. The Otoe County Board of Directors has requested that the first federal and state funds owed to the county for highway construction be used on this piece of road, which is approximately three-quarters of a mile long.

“Governor Bryan will travel to Nebraska City for the presentation ceremony and personally accept the gift on behalf of the state,” the report continued. “The park council at their meeting last Wednesday gave him and Grove Porter, caretaker of Arbor Lodge for the Morton family, the right to formulate the program. All board staff will likely attend the function.

“No top hat or long tail coat will be worn during the Relief Ceremony, as the goal is to conduct it with the democratic simplicity that was one of the hallmarks of the late J. Sterling Morton.

“The state park board will defer the selection of a custodian for the property until it is taken over, but in the meantime Governor Bryan and Secretary Howard have been authorized to receive nominations and investigate the qualifications of those seeking the position. A man and his wife are both needed for the tasks at hand. There is a house on the grounds of Arbor Lodge for the keeper’s occupation, ”the report concludes.

On Friday, September 28, 1923, the Nebraska City News front page featured an article titled “GALA DAY FOR THE CITY OF NEBRASKA” “COUNTRY EYES ON” A CITY THAT GIVEN THE WORLD A BIG IDEA “- MANY ATTEND TRANSFER EXERCISES “” Arbor Lodge and Morton Park become state property of Nebraska – A contest showing changes to the “yesterday and today” functionality of the morning program. “

Thousands of people attended the festivities throughout the day, the newspaper reported, from the parade of the Three Divisions on Central Avenue in the morning to the official transfer ceremony this afternoon, an event that included speeches by the governor, senators, members of Congress and members of the Morton family.

Other events related to the transfer ceremony included a tree planting by Joy Morton, Indian songs and dances by the Kickapoo, a historic high school skit, and a free dance at Eagle Hall.

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