The Farrell Block, or Stone Block, designed by architect
C. C. Rittenhouse, was built in 1880 by Thomas Farrell, using sandstone
from his Colorado quarries. It is the oldest building in downtown Hastings
and the city's only surviving stone commercial building. The outstanding
architectural feature of this building is its metal cornice. The original
building was twice its present size; the east half, which contained the
Cornhusker Theater, was destroyed by fire in 1953.
The second story of the east half contained a large hall
that served as offices for Adams County government from 1880 until 1890
when the courthouse was completed. Also in the second story was the Adams
County jail. The March, 1883 robbery and murder of Hastings grocer, Cass
Millett, resulted in the county's only lynching. A mob stormed the jail,
and marched three prisoners, ropes around their necks, to the St. Joseph
and Grand Island Railroad bridge. There, attorney Charles Dietrich gave
an impassioned speech which saved the life of eighteen year old John Babcock.
The other two prisoners, Fred Ingraham and James Green, were hanged. This
incident brought fame to Dietrich and aided his political career. The
following morning, Judge William Gaslin viewed the scene and was heard
to remark, "Well there's one verdict the damned Supreme Court won't
This building also witnessed the only murder in an Adams County courtroom.
In March 1887, a Dr. Randall was being tried for the rape of a child in his
care. During his trial, a shot rang out and Dr. Randall fell dead with
a bullet between the eyes. A coroner's jury declared the death a "Visitation
of Providence" and Dr. Randall was buried in Potter's Field. No one
was ever prosecuted for the murder.
The Farrell Block, a visual reminder of Hastings' pioneer period, is
on the National Register of Historic Places.