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December 16, 2010


They’re not giving up on saving this building

by Deena Winter

These yard signs supporting preservation of the historic Industrial Arts Building on the former state fairgrounds are popping up around Lincoln.

Supporters of saving the Industrial Arts Building at the old state fairgrounds in Lincoln aren’t giving up their fight.
In fact, they seem to be gaining momentum. Have you seen their yard signs, which say “Sustainability + Innovation = Industrial Arts Building” with their website on the bottom?
Apparently they started putting them up a few days ago, and I’ve already seen a few around town. They also have a website and 466 “friends” on Facebook, which says they will soon be adding a billboard around 12th and K streets.
It’s like a genuine movement to preserve history — which I haven’t seen a lot of since moving to Lincoln six years ago. I was always surprised every time the City Council would consider a plan that would involve tearing down old buildings downtown and in the Haymarket, because nobody ever showed up to save them. Think about all the buildings that have been demolished in the Haymarket recently: those two buildings where WRK and UNL plan to build a hotel and Sheldon extension; the former antiques store where B&J plans another hotel; the old mattress factory which is now The Option. And farther east, downtown buildings have come down for what a project called Urban 38 — although those didn’t look historically significant, the ones slated for demolition now are quaint and historic.
I can’t think of a single project that drew concern from anybody who thinks old buildings should be preserved. I figured Lincoln just didn’t have a strong historic preservation group — but that could be changing.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. paige Namuth
    Dec 16 2010

    That’s because the history people are brokenhearted about their city. You think that a porno shop just burned down but we know that it was Earl May. We look at the barracks surrounding the city and know that the war has been lost.

  2. Roger Yant
    Dec 16 2010

    I agree with Paige. We have a city who has no sense of history. If it’s old rip it down and put up an ugly building. There was a very large group of us that wanted to preserve State Fair Grounds for this reason, for the historical site that is was. For all the great old buildings and grounds that took 107 years to cultivate and make so grand. They would not spend a dime on the grounds but moved it and spent $50 million on the new grounds. If they would d have spent the money here in Lincoln then we too would have had a show case for all to see. I truly believe that the state and the city if the university wanted the ground that they would vote to move the State Capitol to Scotts Bluff or elsewhere. What they have done recently in the Haymarket, is horrible. Now there at block 38 they want to rip down those buildings on the SE corner of 13th & “Q”, why not build the project with these buildings in mind, keep them. They can make it work in the project if they want. People we keep asking why is all this going on, why can’t we preserve the Industrial Arts Building? There is no reason it can’t be saved. It’s the arrogance of the university of Nebraska the holyer then thou university. I’m sick of them running rough shod over Lincoln. We keep electing cowards who are afraid to stand up to them or just want to be their buds. This building is rare and historical it should remain and be brought back to life.

  3. Fletch
    Dec 16 2010

    While on the one hand, I appreciate the sentiment, on the other hand, I don’t believe that everything that is old is awesome. Not all old things are awesome. Some old things are antiques, and should be treated as such. Some old things are garbage or unsafe or have outlived their useful purpose – and should be treated as such. I don’t know much about the IAB, but what are its redeeming qualities and characteristics other than being old?

  4. Roger the Reality Dodger
    Dec 16 2010

    Roger would forsake all the opportunities of Innovation Campus for the worn down Grandstands and stinky hog and cattle lots on the State Fairgrounds. He’d sacrifice the future generation of talented professionals who would like to be employed in Nebraska but can’t find the opportunities other cities and states offer. Roger cares more about his childhood memories than the future of Lincoln. Roger is one selfish SOB.

  5. ej
    Dec 17 2010

    Those who want to tear this building down have done a much better job of explaining why it’s not worth saving and why it’s not practical to save it than anyone has done explaining why it should be saved.

  6. Dec 18 2010

    No, we haven’t given up, and will keep up the effort until the end. Hopefully that end will be the adaptive reuse of the Industrial Arts Building, preserving a piece of Nebraska’s history while turning it into a useful building on Innovation Campus.

    Sure, it’s an easy thing to just say it tear it down, but there are several reasons for preserving it. A few of these are: 1) Innovation Campus touts sustainability – what is sustainable about destroying a large building that is still structurally sound (in spite of years of neglect). Sure, the roof is shot but I”ve been in the building several times this year and the brick, concrete and steel structure is still sturdy. 2) It’s architecturally unique, a real gem that should be saved. 3) It has historical significance, a part of our State Fair for 90+ years, representative of a grand era in state fairs when huge exhibition buildings were constructed, and the site of many exhibits, memories, and even airplane construction. 4) Since NIC research will be ag based, the IAB (which was originally Agriculture Hall) makes a great segue from the achievements of our past to the future accomplishments at the NIC. Are we not proud of our past? Do we forget on whose shoulders we stand?

    I agree that not all old buildings are worthy of being saved, but the IAB and 4-H building should be.
    I don’t think the IAB should be restored to its original state – the NIC has no use for a large exhibit building. But the IAB can and should be remodeled into something useful for the NIC while retaining certain architectural aspects.
    I support saving the IAB, but that doesn’t mean I hate UNL. I’m disappointed that the State Fair has left Lincoln, but I do not wish for Innovation Campus to fail – I hope it succeeds, and that it includes two updated and repurposed buildings: the IAB and 4-H.

    For more information and photos, go to If you really do care about the IAB, please get involved in a proactive way and make a difference. Thanks!


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