John & Lenore Weiss recently stopped at the Covered Wagon in central Nebraska and talked with a contractor who is bringing the building, wagon, and oxen back to life. The once-busy attraction four miles west of Kearney was near the famous (and long gone) 1733 Ranch, where signs indicated the halfway point between Boston and San Francisco, 1733 miles each way. They sent two pictures that show the work underway.
“The contractor remembers all of it very well!” says Lenore. “The new owner does want a 2-story building, so he is doing a fine job and will be using log siding. The oxen and wagon will be completely restored, but the oxen will stay the same colors. Inside the wagon will be an office or two, and the top of the wagon will be new canvas as well.”
This is excellent news for anyone who has watched the site decline over the past 15 years, knowing the all-too-familiar fate of vintage roadside attractions. The attraction was built in 1932 by a pair of missionaries and later was run by Mr. & Mrs Boyd McClare and later Nicholas and Rose Ponticello. Kearney Planning Commission minutes from 2002 appear to approve the project that has just gotten underway.
Below are two views from its heyday, when postcards advertised that tourists could relax “and obtain worthwhile souvenirs at reasonable prices.” One of the unforgettable draws was a taxidermied two-headed calf. The two gas pumps look pretty sharp too.
John and Lenore Weiss are known to Route 66 and now LH fans for their research, tours, and publications, including one that will soon be reviewed here that covers both famed routes plus the Dixie Highway.
Thanks for this exciting news about the Covered Wagon! I was there about a year ago and was filled with profound sadness about the condition of this place. It is really a unique and important connection with the past.
Thanks Debra Jane, I know what you mean, it was sad to see yet another attraction in decline. Watch for a follow-up story very soon.
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OMG! that is unbelievable news. I am very very happy to see it’s going to be saved. I was almost certain that it would be dragged off to the “Great Platte River Road Arch”, which by the way is involved in getting bricks–bricks from existing sections of the Lincoln Highway to create a section of road. aaarrrghghg.
Leave the stuff where it is! context, context.
I decided to stop in at The Covered Wagon, May, 2009. To my disappointment it has not been restored and reopened. It’s presently in complete disrepair and I fear that with our present economy it will not be restored. As a child, I lived in Illinois, and each time we visited my Aunt & Uncle in Overton, it was a necessity to stop and buy trinkets. I have fond memories of that store, I wish I still had our souvenirs.
I have been looking for pictures of this covered wagon and oxen for a long time. I remember it fondly from childhood. My family would travel from Omaha to Cheyenne or Denver every summer. I seem to remember their was a man that would come by in a wagon with several animals. Does anyone remember that?
When I saw the first pictures I was afraid nobody cared anymore. I am happy to hear that there are others who have memories of good times and a more relaxed era. I look forward to visiting this when it reopens.