Kimball, Nebraska

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Kimball is the biggest place you’ll find in the southern end of Nebraska’s panhandle.  But Kimball isn’t proud of being big, it’s proud of being small, and it’s done a good job of maintaining the feel of a nice, old-fashioned, small mid-western town.

Kimball’s “main” street is South Chestnut Street, which is where you will find a couple of blocks of businesses…

… and the Goodhand Theater, a single-screen movie house that’s still showing flicks.

Kimball’s city offices feature a beautiful brick facade, just like another local landmark:

The historic Wheat Growers Hotel on Oak Street (two blocks east of “downtown”) has been a Kimball landmark since 1918, and was once touted as the “most glamorous hotel between Omaha and Denver”.  The hotel’s front and side are still impressive — with the name spelled out in brick.

The hotel closed in 1988.  Now, a sign calls out from one of the front windows, “Re-Build It, and They Will Come”.

There is a well-organized effort underway to save and restore the Wheat Growers Hotel. The current owners, Kent and Sue Worker, purchased the building in 2006, and are now selling ownership shares.  The idea: allow as many people as possible to “buy in” to the restoration effort.  Updates on the project appear on the hotel’s website.

The Wheat Grower’s Hotel played host to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1919.  During the Great Depression, a t-bone steak cost 65¢ and rooms were $1 per night.

At the north end of Kimball’s business district, the road dips underneath the railroad tracks, then continues towards Scottsbluff.  Just before you drive under the tracks, watch for a good view of the town’s grain elevator.  I took a few pictures here, then explored the rest of the town.  On my way out, I glanced at the building again, and found it beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun, during a brief moment when the sky cleared, in just the right spot.

Kimball is at the intersection of US 30 and Nebraska Route 71.  Take Route 71 north, headed for Scottsbluff.

Most of the drive from Kimball to Scottsbluff is flat and boring.  But, as you get closer to the outskirts of Scottsbluff, some small sandstone bluffs begin appearing near the highway.  They are small at first, but get bigger and more impressive, as you close in on Scotts Bluff National Monument (on the next page).

I stopped for the night at Scottsbluff’s Super 8 Motel, which offered a fantastic view of some sort of factory, and of course, some grain silos.  The motel was decent, but if you stay, be sure to request a room on the second floor.  The first floor is halfway underground, which makes you feel a bit like you’re staying in a basement.  It is, however, comforting to know you’re a bit safer, if a tornado blows through in the middle of the night.  (Tornado instructions are conveniently located on the back of your room’s door.  Welcome to the plains!)

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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