Education was very important in the growth of the new state of Nebraska, and colleges were established in many communities. Bethany Heights, Blair, College View, Crete, Fremont, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha, Peru, Seward, Spalding, University Place, and York, to name a few, all had a public or private college before 1900; some thrived, others did not. One still very much in existance today was founded by the gentleman pictured above, Thomas Doane (Doane College Library collection).
Doane, chief engineer for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, helped establish the Crete Academy in 1871 which became Doane College after the grant of acreage on the hills east of Crete from the railroad in 1872. Doane continued to support the college until his death in 1897 by sitting on the board of trustees and contributing funds.
Other benefactors of the college included Charles Boswell, the stepfather of one of the instructors, for whom the Boswell Observatory (left) was named. One of the first astronomical observatories in Nebraska, the building also housed weather observation equipment and a Greenwich Mean Time clock. The clock was connected to a “time ball” atop Merrill Hall (right). Shown in the lowered position, the ball indicates that it is past noon on the day this photograph was taken. Each day at noon the clock in Boswell Observatory would send an electrical pulse to the ball at the top of the shaft on Merril Hall; the 56-pound ball measuring 32 inches in diameter would then fall down the shaft, slowed by a brake before coming to a rest at the roof. A student using a pulley system would raise it back to the top each morning. Standard time was just coming into common use and people from the community as well as at the college would watch the ball on top of the building on the hill fall at noon to set their watches and clocks.
Merrill Hall, the first building built on the new campus, was just one of the buildings at the college designed by a prominent architectural firm. While Thomas Doane hired a Boston firm to design Merrill Hall, two former Doane students working for a Chicago architectural firm designed the dormitory, Men’s Hall (Men’s Hall and Brandt Bridge, left), in the Collegiate Gothic style. Built in 1929, the men’s dormitory contained the latest modern conveniences. A women’s dormitory designed in the same style sat at the opposite end of the campus.
See other pictures in this newest Nebraska Memories collection under Doane College Library.
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