As soon as we pulled into the main entrance of the Stuhr Museum I could tell this was more than your average museum. We usually do a little research ahead of time to see what type of place we’ll be visiting, but some times it can be tough to know what you are really in for…websites can be deceiving! From the start of our Stuhr Museum experience, our expectations were exceeded.
It was a sprawling view, a lot of land had been set aside and laid out for this museum. A long straight drive extended before us, and we could see the clean lines of the two story museum building up ahead. The drive passes a small entry booth that at one time was used for purchasing tickets, etc which added to the already “official” feeling of the entry. As you get closer, the drive directs you to the right onto a single lane stone drive that curves around and borders a very large pond that completely surrounds the museum building – like a moat would be for a castle. As you go along, you can tell the drive and the pond are almost a perfect circle with the museum building being the centerpiece – the birds eye view must be stunning. Someone really had a vision when they laid this out.
As it turns out, the town of Grand Island, NE enlisted the services of world-renowned architect Edward Durell Stone and his son Edward D. Stone, Jr. (Landscape Architect) to design the building and the grounds. Other notable designs on Stone’s resume included Radio City Music Hall, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Ballroom, Rockefeller Center, and the Museum of Modern Art, all in NYC.
The museum’s design is very open on the interior with concrete columns scattered throughout in lieu of bearing walls that would obstruct your view. Perimeter support columns beyond the exterior wall help to support a concrete waffle slab roof structure that cantilevers beyond these perimeter columns. All of this combines to give the museum a very unique look. Construction of the building took five years to complete. This long duration gives you an idea as to the complexity of the construction. It was the job of Geer-Melkus Construction Co., Inc. of Grand Island to turn Stone’s vision on paper into a reality. As you can see in the photos, the finishes are very light with lots of white used. The water features on the first floor by the stair case are a wonderful added touch for both the eyes and ears. It turns out that our timing on this visit was ideal, as the museum had finished an 18-month renovation of the entire building just one week before our arrival. The renovation was mainly to bring the building up to current building codes for accessibility, life safety, energy conservation, etc. and to my understanding, didn’t change the look of the building, interior or exterior, in any significant way.
The initial investment, the response from the surrounding area upon its opening, and the continued care that Grand Island keeps putting back into the facility shows the sense of pride the community gets from this museum. In my opinion it lives up to its name of “Gem of the Prairie.”