The “Museum Town” And All Of Its Hidden Treasures

TABLE ROCK – The Table Rock Historical Society is a non-profit organization that celebrates the history of their little village in Southeast Nebraska.  As of 2015, the Historical Society was 50 years young.

If you look at the green Table Rock sign on the edge of town, it says the population is currently 269 people, but at one point in time, Table Rock had a population of about 1000, not even including the people living on the surrounding farms.

For over 50 years now, Table Rock has been known as the “Museum Town” and if you’ve ever been to this quaint little village, you’ll understand why. The Table Rock Historical Society has a total of eight museums: Opera House (built in 1893), Argus Office (built in 1894), Stehlik Czech Museum, Maple Grove Schoolhouse (built in 1874), Turner Log Cabin (built in 1854), St. John’s Catholic Church (built in 1877), Veterans Museum, and Pioneer Museum (which includes the Quonset that is crammed with old farm machinery, including a one bottom plow that was used to cut virgin prairie).

The Historical Society’s museums are not the only historic buildings preserved in this town. The State Bank of Table Rock, which was founded in 1885, built a “new” building in 1892. The bank has preserved it over the years so that customers of today see pretty much what others saw so many years ago. Also, the Lincoln Hotel Block – a hotel, movie theater, and retail space – has also survived, although with some modifications. The old movie theater has had the ground level seats removed and the floor leveled, but the balcony remains with its old seats, and the projection room holds the machinery that was in use when it closed in the very early 1970s. On the floor of the projection room you can find old film that was used.

Old Table Rock Theatre 

The Wright Duo perform during the free Table Rock Fair in the Summer of 1941. Photo by Arvid Blecha.

Table Rock Theatre

1953 Movie Advertisement

.Table Rock Lincoln Hotel Block

Lincoln Hotel Block – February 7, 1920

Inside State Bank of Table RockOlder State Bank of Table Rock

The inside and outside of the State Bank of Table Rock. Both photos taken in 1892, when the bank was just one year old.

This year, the Historical Society is celebrating the 50th year of its first three museums, Opera House, Maple Grove Country Schoolhouse, and the Pioneer Museum, all started in 1966. It is the 40th Anniversary of the Argus Office Museum, which holds working newspaper equipment from the Table Rock Argus, a country weekly, which was operating until its last editor died in 1974.

The Opera House is on the National Register of Historic Places separately and as part of the Table Rock Public Square Historic District. The Argus Office is within the Public Square District, and an application for listing the St. John’s Catholic Church on the Historic Register is in process.

In an old article written by Bill Hinel titled “Table Rock – City of Museums” he states, “For the people of Table Rock in Northeast Pawnee County, especially those 100 members of the Historical Society, believe in preserving their heritage. So far, they have done a pretty good job and have set an example for historical groups elsewhere.”

Oral history is history that is passed on by word of mouth, and it is just as important.  History is not just names and dates and official records. The Table Rock Historical Society hopes to preserve as much oral history relating to our little village as we can.  If you have written down stories, please share them.  If you have home movies or video interviews, please share them.  If you have a family member who has interesting memories, please contact the Table Rock Historical Society on their Facebook group page. Help them gather those memories.

Visit the Table Rock Historical Society’s website here. Also, join their public group page on Facebook by simply typing in “Table Rock Historical Society”.

If you’re ever in Southeast Nebraska, take the time to stop by Table Rock and tour through the museums. It may be a small little village now, but it is very rich in history, that is definitely worth learning about.