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Monday, December 12, 2011

Relive 19th Century Christmas Past at the General George Crook House Museum This Holiday Season

In 1879, the General Crook House (Quarters One) was built for Gen. George Crook at Fort Omaha. In these hallowed halls the General and his wife Mary entertained President Grant and Hayes as well as other dignitaries who came to Nebraska. More than 133 years later it is still a gathering place. On this occasion, my husband and I were there for a private holiday party, and guests were allowed to roam around the house freely. A Docent was on hand for tours as well, which Brian and I took full advantage of.

Tree in Gen. Crook's Bedroom
The Crook House Guild, with help from area design students and designers, help transform every room in the house to provide a glimpse of Christmas past every November until the end of December. If one likes Christmas trees now is the time to visit. Several trees are scattered throughout the palatial house. Not one tree is the same. My favorite tree greets visitors as you walk up the stairs to the second floor landing. It’s a Christmas tree full of hats. Various different dainty hats are scattered throughout the limbs. They aren’t just any hats – all so ornate and delicate – these vintage hats could’ve perhaps been worn by the Queen of England herself or reproduced for the recent royal wedding. No matter, the hat tree surely will bring a smile to others who happen upon it. The trees will remain up until the first of the year.

Fort Omaha where the house resides is a National Register District and the General Crook House Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1878, Gen. Crook was given $12,000 to build the residence and he came well under budget at $7,716. The laborers were all soldiers. The house is solid brick. Inside the walls it’s foot thick brick. Look for the area next to the powder room on the second floor that unveils a glimpse of the interior brick wall.

The General Crook House Museum is one of the few houses in the Omaha area still standing that represents Italianate style architecture. In 1976, The Douglas County Historical Society acquired the house from Metro Technical Community College and the restoration begun. The wallpaper is documented reproductions. When visitors enter into any room remember there was a lot of study to what authentic wallpaper appeared like in that period.

The furnishings are from the 1880 Victorian period. The furnishings are genuine antiques only one piece was owned by the Gen. Crook, a recently acquired ice chest. All the rest are representative of the period he lived in. A horse hair chase was the most unusual piece of furniture we encountered. A rope was draped across it preventing visitors from using it as a resting place. Made of horse hair, at the touch (I asked permission of course), it was soft and velvety supple. We were also told that it was stuffed with horse hair. All the wood work, door fixtures the knobs and hinges are all original to the house. The original wood floors still remain, too. Documented reproductions of the wallpaper, curtains, rugs make up the rest of the house. The writer in me loved the travel writing desk our Docent pointed out in the President’s Bedroom.

Tree in Presidential Bedroom.
Don’t forget there’s a game going on as you tour the residence. A game for the young and young at heart; Gen. Crook and Standing Bear paper dolls are secretly hidden in each room. Though a great "Indian fighter" for the military, Gen. Crook was also sympathetic to their plight. Visitors are encouraged to play along and spot the paper dolls in each room. The game is to see who can find them first in each room -- no surprise to me that Brian was good at this.

Hearing the backstories about Gen. Crook, his wife, Standing Bear and the restoration of the house really made us come to cherish that we have a landmark such as this in our hometown. The house is available for parties, organizations, businesses or private groups. Anyone may choose to rent out the whole house or meet in the Educational Level (basement), only area in the house that has been fully renovated. Those wanting to also stop by, museum visiting hours are: Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit; call 402.455.9990; or email
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2011 population-we, LLC 
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