a black and white archival photo of the frank house

The Frank Family Era

In 1890, capitalists George W. and Phoebe Frank, originally of New York, built a Richardsonian Romanesque mansion just outside of Kearney, Nebraska. They hoped to be part of the up-and-coming boom era brought on by westward expansion following the Civil War. The Franks spared no expense when selecting materials, style, and functionality. The exterior is sandstone imported from Colorado, the interior wood was hard-carved by premier woodworker John Peter Lindbeck, and the Frank family mansion is one of the first homes in the American West to be wired for electricity as it was being built.

The entire first floor of the museum replicates the Frank family era of the 1890s. You can literally step back in time and view the opulence of the Gilded Age first-hand. Many original Frank family artifacts are housed on the first floor, as well as many other period pieces original to the 1890s.

The White Plague Comes to Kearney: A History of the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis

Once the home of George and Phoebe Frank, the grand stone mansion later became the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis. For eight months in 1912, patients lived up on the third floor during construction of the main hospital building (now West Center on UNK’s campus). After the completion of the hospital and the staff housing Pavilion, the former Frank family mansion became administrative offices and apartments for some of the hospital doctors and superintendents and was nicknamed the “Stone House.”

The White Plague Comes to Kearney: A History of the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis is a permanent exhibit located on the second floor of the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture. The exhibit houses genuine hospital and patient artifacts, as well as an educational experience about the history of tuberculosis in Nebraska.

the white plague exhibit
a room in the frank house showing off the exhibit

Form & Function: European and American Decorative Arts

This exhibit is dedicated to showcasing fine decorative arts such as glassworks, ceramics, enamel pieces, and furniture that serve as both functional household object and beautiful, inspiring art representative of the Frank family’s era. Form & Function specifically showcases the collection owned by former Kearney residents Philip and Mildred Strain, who donated their significant collection of decorative art objects to the G.W. Frank Museum.

Over the course of a lifetime, Philip and Mildred Strain amassed one of the most substantial private collections of European and American decorative arts in the Great Plains. Born out of Philip’s love of art and history, the Strains filled their home with pieces of Meissen porcelain, Tiffany glass, and Louis XV-style furniture. Wary of attracting too much attention, they often received deliveries in the middle of the night. Despite this secrecy, the Strains recognized the significance of their collection and hoped that it would one day be housed at their alma mater, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Annual Holiday display

Each year, the Frank Museum gifts the Kearney community a decadent holiday display in the grand hall, including a section replicated to look like a traditional 1890s Christmas. The Frank family were practicing Presbyterians and Episcopalians, so this historic display is meant to pay homage to their heritage as well as show visitors where some of our current holiday traditions originated.

Free hot chocolate and hot apple cider are provided on Saturdays during the holiday season.

holiday decorations on a mantle in the frank house
images of the frank house gardens

Outdoor Spaces

One of our newest exhibits takes visitors just outside the museum. Take a leisurely stroll around the museum and learn all about the history of the grounds and how the environment surrounding the mansion has changed over time, and how we implement green practices today in partnership with UNK.

You can also visit our lush gardens any time of the year, including our new Persephone garden sculpture, pollinator garden, Lou Krueger’s herb garden, and a variety of local plants and flowers, all lovingly cared for by the Soil Sisters and Misters Garden Club.

Other Exhibits

UNK Student Exhibitions

Newer exhibits are continually being installed at the Frank Museum as part of our partnership with UNK’s mission of experience-based learning. Current UNK student exhibits include:

  • “Fashioning Grief: Women's Mourning Clothing and Customs in the Victorian Era”
  • “One Story, Two Sides: Ella Frank’s Wedding Day”
  • “Essential Yet Unseen: Servant Life in the 1890s”
  • “Building a New Era” - a historic look at the Frank family’s influences in greater Kearney during the 1890s.

Discovery Room

The Frank Museum has something for visitors of all ages! While we ask visitors not to touch any of the artifacts in our historically immersive spaces, children of all ages will enjoy our very-much-hands-on Discovery Room where they can dress up in replica historical clothing, do arts and crafts, experience an 1890s stereograph viewer, and more!