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Kearney Women’s Club
Originally known as the Hanson-Downing House, the building is now the home of the Kearney Woman’s Club. Situated in a modest residential neighborhood in the Buffalo County seat, this picturesque house stands apart due to its distinctive asymmetrical composition and rich variety of textures and ornamentation. The design of this well-preserved, late-nineteenth-century dwelling is an American interpretation of the cottage orné, or rustic, decorated cottage. The style, popular in England a century earlier, is rare in Nebraska. Boldly demonstrating the versatility of wood, the house blends an imaginative assemblage of architectural forms and details drawn from numerous sources, including the Queen Anne and Stick styles.
The house’s wood-framed construction conforms to a cross-shaped plan with projecting gable roofs, and features a delicate offset tower marking the entrance and painted trim accentuating the abundance of architectural details. Semi-circular and subtly pointed arches atop columns support the side and front porches, the latter features a vaulted ceiling. Portions of the facade, especially those in the front, are sheathed with fish-scaled shingles and carved decorative sun and floral motifs adorn the brackets and gable peaks. Caps with bracket supports shade many of the side and rear windows. The square tower is topped with a pyramidal roof featuring scrolled brackets and a carved wood finial. Stained glass windows and fanlights enhance the tower’s sense of lightness and transparency. In contrast to the visually arresting exterior, the interior is considerably more restrained due to several episodes of remodeling.
A native of Sweden, Charles E. Hanson built the house in 1886. Hanson was a local businessman dealing in agricultural implements and corn seed. Wallace A. Downing purchased the house the following year. Engaged in the saddle and harness business, Downing participated in a variety of business and civic activities including serving as president of the Kearney National Bank, as a member of the city council, and on the Kearney County board of supervisors. The Downings occupied the residence until the late 1920s. In 1930 the daughter of Wallace and Susanna Downing, Mrs. Maren Downing Morrison, presented the house as a gift to what is today the Kearney Woman’s Club, an organization dating back to the late 1880s.
Gilkerson, Joni, “Hanson-Downing House,” Buffalo County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1980. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
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