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.