Located in Omaha, Nebraska’s Gold Coast Historic District, the Lynhurst mansion, commonly referred to as the Joslyn Castle, is a Scottish Baronial mansion and the former home of newspaper magnate and civic leader George Joslyn, now open for tours as a living history home museum. Throughout the first two decades of the 20th century, George and Sarah Joslyn were the wealthiest residents of the state of NE.
As an entrepreneur in the newspaper business, George was the owner of the Western Newspaper Union, which became the United States’ largest supplier of ready print newspaper by the turn of the 20th century, serving nearly 70% of the country’s population by 1900. As noted philanthropists in the Omaha area, George and Sarah were active founders or donors for a number of area charities and nonprofit organizations, including the Board of Charities, the Child Saving Institute, and the Humane Society. George was also a major donor for the University of Omaha, providing $25,000 for the funding of the university’s first permanent location. Following George’s death, Sarah funded the creation of the Joslyn Memorial in honor of her husband’s memory, which has grown today to become the Joslyn Art Museum.
Upon their move to the Omaha area in 1893, George Joslyn began to landscape a farm area near the city’s outskirts. In 1903, the Joslyns hired architect John McDonald to design an estate for the farm named Lynhurst, inspired by the Scottish Baronial style of architecture. McDonald’s design was completed 11 months later for $250,000, a cost equivalent to $6 million in modern currency. Following minor additions in 1906, the home’s square footage totaled 19,360. After Sarah Joslyn’s death in 1940, the home was used as the headquarters for Omaha Public Schools until 1989, when it was purchased by the state of Nebraska for the purposes of historic preservation. In 2010, the Joslyn Castle Trust purchased the home from the state and opened it to the public for historic home tours.
Permanent Attractions and Tours
Today, the four-story Joslyn Castle is operated as a living history museum, open to the public for guided tours. As the namesake of Omaha’s Joslyn Castle neighborhood, the home is an Omaha Landmark Historic Structure and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The castle’s grounds are also preserved within the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.
The 35-room mansion has been restored to its original turn-of-the-century condition, featuring period-appropriate furnishings, including original possessions owned by the Joslyn family. Rooms within the mansion’s interior include a ballroom, music room, reception hall, drawing room, and library. A carriage tower house tower made of Kansas silverdale limestone is also featured, completed two years prior to the home’s construction. Preserved detail work includes stained glass windows, carved wood, chiseled stone work, and a large wrought iron front door weighing more than one ton. Five acres of landscaped formal gardens, as well as greenhouses and a conservatory within the house displaying exotic plants, were designed in 1913 by landscape architect Jens Jensen.
Public drop-in tours of the home are available weekly on Monday mornings, as well as every first and third Sunday morning and afternoon, excluding major national holidays. Private group tours may also be scheduled for groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated tours for school groups. All castle tours include docent-led exploration of the home’s first and second floors and grounds, and may include tours of the third floor when possible.
Ongoing Programming and Education
Following in the tradition of George and Sarah Joslyn’s commitment to educational philanthropy and public service, the Joslyn Castle is the host for a wide variety of public educational and cultural programming throughout the year. Many events include special opportunities to tour areas of the mansion not generally open to the public, including the Joslyn Castle Unlocked event, which allows attendees to tour the mansion’s basement and explore historic photographs and architectural drawings connected to the home’s construction. Ticket sales include a group dinner and a cash bar available for beverage purchases. In November, a Historic Home Tour and Boutique event provides opportunities to explore other nearby historic properties, including the Pittack and Doyle Homes and the historic Augustana Lutheran Church.
An annual Halloween Masquerade at the Castle event offers tarot card readings, dancing, and a costume contest, along with holiday-themed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. On Thanksgiving, a Joslyn Castle Turkey Trot 5K Walk/Run is held at Omaha’s Turner Park, offering trophies for the top 10 male and female finishers and raffle prizes from local businesses. The Joslyn Castle facility may also be rented for private special events for up to 125 guests, including weddings, receptions, and business gatherings.
3902 Davenport St, Omaha, NE 68131, Phone: 402-595-2199