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Red Cloud, Nebraska
Red Cloud is an Historic Treasure...and a Treat For The Eyes
Gracious homes, buildings and more remind visitors of Nebraska heritage
Red Cloud’s place is unique in American and Nebraska history. Celebrated author, Willa Cather’s best-known work, My Antonia, was inspired by the town, the land and the hardy pioneers in Webster County. Cather lived in rural Webster County and the town of Red Cloud until she left in 1890 to attend the University of Nebraska. Red Cloud’s strong literary heritage is juxtaposed with a hunting and farming culture, a theme woven into many of her stories.
Red Cloud, plotted on a railroad line bordering the Republican River was founded in 1871 and named in honor of Chief Red Cloud, a Lakota leader whose character and leadership were acclaimed during the late 1800s.
The Burlington and Missouri River Railway reached Red Cloud in 1879, accelerating immigration from the east and abroad. The railroad brought people with vision who built elaborate buildings and gracious homes reminiscent of dwellings in cities east of the frontier.
A feeling for the past
The architecture in Red Cloud neighborhoods evokes a sense of place. The National Register of Historic Places selected numerous sites in Webster County as historic districts, highlighting houses from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when most houses in the Red Cloud historic districts were built.
The preservation of the historic character of Red Cloud not only helps the town maintain a sense of its past, but also gives support to the long-term economic viability of the community. The three residential historic districts and the Main Street Historic District, along with 26 other individually-designated sites in and around town, comprise the Willa Cather Thematic District, which is the largest collection of designated historic sites related to any American literary figure. People come to Red Cloud to see these sites and to experience life in an ideal American small town.
Willa Cather Foundation keeps flame alive
The Willa Cather Foundation, founded by Mildred Bennett in 1955, started small with a mission to promote the life, times, sites and works of Willa Cather, daughter of a Virginia family who homesteaded in Webster County.
“Today the foundation maintains 13 historical sites that relate to Willa Cather and to her writings,” says Betty Kort, Executive Director of the Willa Cather Foundation. “The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, 160 acres of natural prairie owned by the Nature Conservancy, is the first landscape in America designated as a National Historic Literary site.”
The Willa Cather Foundation funds a spring festival and a bi-annual international seminar. “People come from all over the world to explore sites important to Cather as well as our collection of papers, letters, photos, and other items that relate to Willa Cather,” says Kort. “In a year upwards of 14,000 people visit Red Cloud to research the Cather heritage.”
The Red Cloud Opera House, built in 1880 and newly restored, brings speakers, artists, music and dance performances to the South Platte region of Nebraska. The foundation staff of 15 fulltime and part time people plus 68 volunteers manage the programs and lead the tours.
You can read more about the Willa Cather Foundation and see opera house programs at the website www.willacather.org or phone toll-free for additional information at 866-731 7304.
Red Cloud schools a source of pride
“Academically Red Cloud students do well in state assessments and are awarded exemplary commendations in grades 4th, 8th, and 11th testing,” says Joan Reznicek, Red Cloud School Principal and Superintendent. “The school district is growing because we offer an excellent education, and the student/teacher ratio is approximately eight students per instructor.”
Team sports include football, volley ball, girls and boy’s basketball, wrestling, golf and track teams. Leadership skills are conveyed in school clubs and other extra-curricular activities. Students participate in one-act plays, speech classes, band and chorus. Music is taught K-12.
“Red Cloud students achieve excellent ACT scores,” says Reznicek. “Our graduation rate is 100% and nearly all go on to further their education.”
For more information on Red Cloud schools, you can contact Reznicek at email@example.com.
Continual improvement is goal of community
A community fishing pond, an addition to the hospital, updated sewage system, fresh paint on storefronts, and an attractive new community center are among the recent improvements to the community. Red Cloud claims a progressive reputation, and leaders work together to continually improve the community and the economy.
“Our community leaders take a can-do approach and work hard to help businesses get started, ” says Merle Illian, community leader and long time resident of Red Cloud.
The Red Cloud Economic Development Committee sponsors a grant program to refurbish and brighten the storefronts on main street. “The foundation issued $1,000 to five different store front owners each year for the past two years and challenged them to kick in that amount to paint and refurbish their store fronts,” says Illian. “Since 2003, ten businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity.”
If you’d like to communicate with Merle Illian yo can do so at the Trailblazers RC&D, 402-746-3560 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Great healthcare not just in big cities
Webster County Community Hospital employs 38 health professionals serving the health care needs of Webster County citizens. The hospital provides sixteen acute-care beds, emergency medicine, physical therapy, and features a full lab, x-ray facilities and even a CT scanner.
“We offer health care services equal to much larger communities,” says Randall Hebing, Red Cloud community leader. “The physicians bring a wide range of specialties, including cardiology, urology, ENT and general surgery to the hospital and clinic.”
When voters in Nebraska approved a bond issue to improve rural health care services, the county added a $2.9 million addition to the hospital to provide outpatient services and same-day surgery among other things.
Says Hebing, “We feel especially proud to be the first rural hospital in the state to offer mental health practitioners in the clinic setting.”
Ambulance services are available in Red Cloud, and the nearby communities of Blue Hill Guide Rock and Bladen, and a handi-bus provides transportation for Red Cloud residents upon request. You can communicate with Randall Hebing, email@example.com or by phone at 402-746-9055.
Ammenities help town attract new residents
The Red Cloud Golf Course is considered among the top golf clubs in the state. Green rolling hills, scenic vistas of the Republican River Valley, a challenging course and courteous, hospitable club members attract golfers and draw them back. A round of golf including golf cart rental is less than $25, whichis one reason the affordable Red Cloud course hosts eight popular tournaments every summer.
The Red Cloud airport with 3,700 x 60 foot runways accommodates small planes all the way up to corporate jets. The airport provides everything a pilot looks for, including well maintained runways, good approach, T-hangars for 12 planes, a corporate jet hangar, fuel, tie downs and an aircraft mechanic nearby.
Great Plains Communication provides internet access to Red Cloud and the surrounding region via fiber optic fed telephone lines. Headquartered in nearby Blair, Great Plains provides telephone, cable television, Internet and long distance telephone service to rural Nebraska communities. The service is family-owned for four generations.
"A Life that matters"
To live a life that matters is central to Willa Cather’s novels. In today’s time, the Red Cloud community continues to provide residents ingredients with which to create fulfillment.
Norman A. Pierce, writer, artist and historian writes about living in Red Cloud, “We can encourage others to come here and make their homes. Our weather is ideal the year round with just enough change from time to time to stimulate the senses. Crime is non-existent, and everyone lives in peace with their neighbors. Our sun is warm, the air and water are pure, smog and foul air are almost unknown.”
Who to Contact
City of Red Cloud
540 N. Webster
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation
413 North Webster Street
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Red Cloud School District
121 W 7th Ave.
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Superintendent and Principal
Red Cloud Golf Club
http://www.redcloudnebraska.com/Red Cloud Golf Course lr.htm
Webster County Community Hospital
721 E. 6th
Red Cloud, NE 68970
Robert Sheckler, CEO