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Becoming Arbor Lodge


A major remodel in 1874 added an elaborate porch and three Gothic-style dormers to the front of house. Gothic Revival style was rare in Nebraska. In 1875, the Mortons began calling their home “Arbor Lodge.” A year later, they added indoor plumbing. History Nebraska, RG2993-414

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska

Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City features a small house that became a 52-room mansion. It belonged to Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton and later to his son, Joy, the founder of Morton Salt.

When was Arbor Lodge built? That’s complicated. It began as a two-room house in 1855. During the elder Morton’s lifetime, the house was remodeled seven times, evolving in style as it grew in size. After Morton’s death, a major addition by Joy more than doubled its size and further altered its appearance. The Morton family donated the mansion to the state in 1923; it is open for tours and filled with authentic furnishings and artifacts.

History Nebraska curator Gail DeBuse Potter told the story of Arbor Lodge’s evolution in the Summer 1992 issue of Nebraska History Magazine. This series of photos from History Nebraska’s collections tells that story in brief.  

To see a digital version of this 1992 story, visit