Kearney Cotton Mill: According to the Nebraska State Historical Society, early Kearney business leaders foresaw the future of Kearney as a major manufacturing center. Although they forecasted this in the 1880s, Kearney is still an important city in Nebraska for manufacturers and business leaders alike. (Plus, it’s one of the best places for millennials to live!) Back in the early 1890s, the Kearney Cotton Mill was launched, along with paper mills, plow and canning factories, brick works, machine shops, and more.
When the mill was completed, it was the largest manufacturing plant in Nebraska, and was one of the few to survive the economic depression of the 1890s. It employed 450 workers and produced 26,000 yards of unbleached muslin daily. The mill stood west of Kearney at mile marker 148 on US 30, but unfortunately, the building itself was destroyed in 1922. Imagine that you could see the mill in all its heyday: bustling with workers, overflowing with raw cotton—a promising beginning to Kearney’s future as a manufacturing center.
Omaha Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant: Drive past 1514-1524 Cuming Street in North Omaha, a building more commonly known as TipTop Apartments. While today the apartments are a popular living space for Creighton University students, the building used to be one of the most prolific manufacturing plants in the state.
In 1916, Albert Kahn designed the building as a Model T assembly plant. The space is still recognized as an important step in the development of Ford’s assembly process since it was the first to enclose the entire car manufacturing process under one roof. Assembly began on the lowest floor, and moved upward, meaning that finished cars were most likely stored on the roof. During operation, the plant employed 1,200 people and built approximately 450,000 cars and trucks.
Glenn L. Martin-Nebraska Bomber Plant: This plant is located in Building D at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue. It is widely recognized as one of the “most important works of engineering and architecture in Nebraska and one of the most historically significant World War II era buildings in the United States.”
Designed by the same architect who designed the Ford plant, Albert Kahn, the plant was built in 1940 to assemble aircraft as the U.S. headed into World War II. By the end of 1944, the plant manufactured more than 50 B-29s each month. The Glenn L. Martin Company was renamed Lockheed Martin in 1995, and is still an important aircraft manufacturing company. This plant made a significant impact on America’s performance in World War II, and for that reason is worth remembering.
Take a driving tour to hit each of them if you’re feeling ambitious, or simply make a note to pay homage to the spaces and places that have dramatically influenced Nebraska’s economic activity throughout the years.
Photo credit: Enterprise