Two Cambridge spots named 'Hidden Treasures'

Thursday, May 7, 2009

GERING -- Two historic places in Cambridge are listed on the first-ever list of "Hidden Treasures and Fading Places" created by Heritage Nebraska, a new statewide historic preservation advocacy and education group.

The purpose of the list is to "help celebrate Nebraska's unique heritage as evidenced through its built environment, culture and landscapes." The list includes the Faling House, now used as the Cambridge Bed & Breakfast, and Thorndike Hall in downtown Cambridge.

The list of nine "Hidden Treasures" and 12 "Fading Places" was created using nominations from preservationists and preservation groups.

The Faling House / Cambridge Bed & Breakfast is a "Hidden Treasure." Owner Gloria Hilton said the Faling House will celebrate its 100th birthday in February 2010.

According to Heritage Nebraska, the 10,000-square-foot home was constructed from 1907 until 1910 by William H. and Anna Faling.

The home's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 notes the neoclassic architecture by William F. Gernandt, original fixtures and faux painting by Danish artists Charles Hansen and James Willer, of Copenhagen, who traveled to and worked in Nebraska in 1908. Hilton said that Hansen and Willer also painted the walls in the World (now Fox) Theater in downtown McCook, murals hidden behind acoustic panels.

Preservationists say the Faling House is set apart by its size, the quantity and quality of architectural detail, the faux paintings, Austrian leaded and beveled windows, stained glass, millworks and original fixtures.

"Thorndike Hall," on the second floor of a downtown Cambridge building, is listed as one of 12 "Fading Places."

The hall's east and west walls feature murals by Hansen and Willer, and a tin-tile ceiling embellished by the two Danish artists, Hilton said.

The building and hall were built in 1907-08, and last used in the 1940s and 1950s. Heritage Nebraska indicates that Thorndike Hall is where big-band musician and band leader Glen Miller played in a band led by Cambridge native Tommy Watkins in 1924. "They were trying out new 'swing' and 'big band' sounds," Hilton said.

Watkins had met Miller in Denver and invited him to play trombone, collaborate in musical arrangements and play in jam sessions and small band performances in Cambridge, Hilton said. Miller later pursued his big band career in California, she said.

The "Hidden Treasures" list includes: Downtown Fremont, the Hamilton Avenue Methodist Church / Pentecostal Temple in Hastings, Joslyn Castle in Omaha, Hotel Chadron/Olde Main Street in Chadron, Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft, Nicholas Street Historic District in Omaha, Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor Agricultural Learning in Hastings and Prospect Hill Cemetery and Caretaker Residence in Omaha.

The "Fading Places" list includes: Archeological sites statewide, Aurora Apothecary/Knights of Pythias Hall in Aurora, Boot Hill Cemetery and Camp Lookout at Sidney, Hastings Junior High School and endangered schools statewide, Metz Hall in Elkhorn, Naval Ammunition Depot in Adams and Clay counties, the Oregon Trail statewide, Pershing Auditorium West Wall Mural in Lincoln, rural schools statewide, Starke Round Barn and Webster Telephone Exchange Building in Omaha.

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