Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


For more than a century the buildings of Thomas Rogers Kimball have graced the landscape of Nebraska and surrounding states. His architecture has a refined character that reflects his highly developed training. Kimball was born in Linwood, Ohio, into an influential railroad family in 1862. In his early teens the family moved to Omaha, where he completed his high school education. His formal education in architecture began at the University of Nebraska (1878–80). He continued his studies at the Cowles School of Art in Boston (1883– 84), at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1885–87), and finally with the artist Henri Harpignies in Paris (1887). Through this training Kimball learned to visualize structures in three dimensions, and he was able to design in many architectural styles.

Over the course of forty-four years Kimball's buildings changed the skyline of Omaha. Major structures include the Omaha Public Library (1892), the Burlington Station (1896), the Omaha Country Club (1900), St. Cecilia's Cathedral (1905–59), Philomena's Church and School (1908), the Fontenelle Hotel (1913), and the Omaha World-Herald Building (1915). Outside of Omaha, Kimball designed many important government and commercial structures, including the Lincoln, Nebraska, Telephone Building (1894), the Dome Lake Club, Sheridan, Wyoming (1895), the Hall County Courthouse, Grand Island, Nebraska (1901), the Battle Mount Sanitarium, Hot Springs, South Dakota (1902), and the Second Church of Christ Scientist, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1928).

Kimball achieved a national prominence. In 1896 he and his Boston partner, C. Howard Walker, were selected as the architects in chief of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition held in Omaha. In 1901 he was selected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and in 1909 he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to the Commission of Fine Arts. Walker and Kimball were reunited in 1903 as members of the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition Architectural Board, and they designed the Electricity Building for the exposition. Kimball served as president of the American Institute of Architects from 1918 to 1920.

One of Kimball's major contributions to architecture was made behind the scenes in 1919, when he was asked to write the design program for the Nebraska State Capitol Commission. In this capacity he gave the architects full freedom and flexibility, ultimately resulting in Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue's magnificent structure.

David L. Batie East Carolina University

Haynes, James B. History of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898. Omaha: Committee on History, 1910.

Thomas Rogers Kimball Collection, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln.

Previous: Hispanic Architecture | Contents | Next: Landscape Architecture

XML: egp.arc.030.xml