The Hotel Wilber was a significant addition to the commercial development of the small town of Wilbur in Southeast Nebraska. It stands on the site of an earlier wooden building, the Wilber House, built in 1874 by the eponymous Charles Dana Wilber. When fire swept through the downtown area in 1895, the Wilber House was destroyed. Within a few months, a stock company was formed to erect a new hotel and the resulting building was finished that same year. Envisioned as a first-class destination and the town’s primary hotel, the Wilber became a social center for locals and a welcoming accommodation for travelers.
Constructed of brick on an L-shaped plan, the hotel is a two-story building with Italianate details expressed in the cornice and window details. The symmetrical front facade is quite elaborate with a two-story porch supported by simple turned columns. The bracketed metal cornice embraces a decorated pressed metal pediment above the main entrance. Window and door openings are finished with rough-cut stone lintels and sills. The side (north) and rear (west) walls are clad with stucco and the meager ornamentation is limited to a bracketed cornice executed in corbelled brick and windows spanned with segmental arches. The first floor contains the lobby, kitchen, and several parlors. An ornate wood staircase provides access to the second floor guest rooms. Interior enhancements include pressed metal ceilings and antique furniture and accessories.
The hotel changed owners a number of times until the 1970s. In 1978 the family of Joe and Amelia Barta donated the building to the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber who managed a volunteer restoration program. Today, each of the refurbished guest rooms bears the name of the donor.
The Nebraska Czechs of Wilber is an active citizens’ organization devoted to perpetuating Czech culture and traditions in a community where the majority of residents are of Czech descent. The town’s annual Czech Festival, begun in 1962, brings thousands of visitors to the Wilber in early August. In 1963 a governor’s decree designated Wilber the Czech Capital of Nebraska; in 1987 a presidential decree made it the official Czech Capital of the United States.
The Hotel Wilber continues to welcome guests, a rare example of a small town hotel in an age of corporate chains.
Spencer, Janet Jeffries, "Hotel Wilber," Saline County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1978. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.