Located in Kearney, Nebraska within the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus, the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture is a living history museum preserving the former home of George and Phoebe Frank, the parents of Nebraska architect George William Frank, Jr. The Frank House was originally designed as a residence for George and Phoebe Frank, who resided within the house until 1900.
George Washington Frank, the son of a doctor from Warsaw, New York, served as a United States Congressman during the American Civil War and is credited as being an instrumental part of passing legislation to end slavery in the United States. He married Kearney schoolteacher Phoebe McNair in 1854 and had four children, including son George William, Jr., who became a renowned Nebraska area architect. In 1886, Frank completed completed construction on the Kearney Canal, which transformed the Kearney area from a desolate prairie area into an industrial town. The Frank House was designed the same year by George William, Jr., as a gift to his parents and was one of the first American homes west of the Missouri River to be wired for electricity upon its construction.
Following the nationwide Panic of 1893 and the Frank family’s ensuing financial crisis, the home was occupied by several temporary owners before being acquired by local medical workers Ole and Georgiana Grothan. The Grothans operated the home as the Grothan Elmwood Sanitarium for the next several years, and following their divorce in 1911, sold the property to the state of Nebraska for use as part of the Nebraska State Tuberculosis Hospital. The property was used as the hospital’s staff living quarters until 1971, when it was acquired by the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Following the acquisition, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Permanent Exhibits and Programming
Today, the Frank House is operated as the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture, open to the public as a living history museum for tours. As a historic home museum, the Frank Museum strives to preserve the social and cultural history of the Great Plains region through preserving the stories of the individuals and organizations associated with the homestead. Constructed according to the Richardson Romanesque Shingle style of architecture, the three-story home is made from red sandstone imported from Wyoming. Seven of the home’s original 10 fireplaces have been preserved, along with tiling work imported from the Netherlands and an original stained-glass window.
Museum collections are displayed throughout the restored home and include a variety of pieces donated to the University over the past four decades, including original home furnishings owned by the Frank family. Notable items include an urn produced in 1774 in the French city of Sèvres, originally showcased in the home’s library and said to be George Frank’s favorite possession, as well as an Italian blown-glass chandelier from the 1920s, an oak secretary cabinet presented to the Franks as a wedding gift, and a doctor’s cabinet formerly used by the Nebraska State Tuberculosis Hospital. A photo archive also displays photographs from the property’s use as a family home, sanitarium, and hospital. Relevant collection donations are accepted on a continuing basis and may be donated by contacting the museum directly via phone or email.
The home is open for private docent-led tours Tuesdays through Sundays during the summer months, with limited touring availability during the off-season months. Tours last approximately one hour and include exploration of either the first two or all three floors of the home, at visitors’ discretion. Appropriate walking attire is recommended for visitors touring the third floor, as access stairways are narrow and steep. Admission for all tours is free, though donations to the museum are recommended. Group tours for school groups and organizations may be arranged by contacting the museum directly via phone or email.
Periodic special exhibits are showcased at the museum, including exhibits of cultural artifacts such as historic quilts. A Frank Talks series is held on Saturday afternoons, offering educational lectures on aspects of Nebraska history along with complimentary home tours and refreshments. A Parlor Performance Series also offers special music and drama performances on select Sundays.
The Frank Museum may be rented for private special events, including weddings, receptions, and business conferences by contacting the University of Nebraska at Kearney directly via phone or email. Reservation requests must be submitted at least three weeks prior to event date. Walk-in volunteer training is also offered during afternoon hours throughout the regular operating season, for volunteers interested in assisting with tours, gardening, and maintenance.
2010 University Drive, Kearney, NE 68849, Phone: 308-865-8284