Nowlan-Dietrich House

The Nowlan-Dietrich House is located at 1105 N. Kansas Avenue in the Central Hastings Historic District, located in northern Hastings .  This neighborhood of large, spacious lots was platted in 1884.

A. J. Nowlan, a Hastings grocer, built the two-story house in 1886-7 at a cost of $4000.  No photographs or sketches of the house from this period have been found; however a floorplan sketch indicates the house had a tower on the northeast corner and large bay windows in the center of the north and south sides.

The house derives its historical significance from its association with Charles H. Dietrich, who purchased the property from the Nowlans in 1909 and immediately undertook extensive alterations which eliminated almost all references of an 1880's house and created a period house of current fashion.  The exterior changes included the addition of a tile roof, brick front porch, Palladian windows, and columned balcony.  The corner tower and bay windows were removed; however there are square projections on the south and north sides topped by a pediment on the third floor.  Additions to the house were a two-story extension off the north bay and at the rear across the width of the structure.

The interior was also considerably changed.  Different first floor woodwork, fireplaces, and stairway were installed.  The previous fireplaces and chimneys were removed.  A new dining room was designed with a beamed ceiling and a fireplace mantle decorated with inlaid wood.  Leaded glass transoms highlight the large windows in the living room and library.  The original woodwork remains on the second floor.

The owners since the Dietrichs have enclosed part of the front porch and the former back porch on the northwest corner of the house and have added the second floor on that porch.  During the 1930's or 40's the rear half of the house was formed into a separate apartment.  The floorplan, however, appears to have remained the same since the Dietrich era. 

The original property associated with the house was Lots 5 and 8, one-quarter of Block 4, Hillside Addition.  Hastings residents recall the Dietrichs' formal gardens north of the house in the 1920's.  Mrs. Dietrich sold part of the garden land in 1925 and a house was erected shortly thereafter.  Today the property associated with the house remains in lot 8 and part of lot 5, the majority of the original land, and retains the prominent corner location.  The brick garage, built by the Dietrichs, is extant in the northwest corner of the property.

The historical significance of this house is derived from its association with Charles Henry Dietrich, Governor of Nebraska, U.S. Senator, and Hastings banker; and its association with his wife, Margretta Shaw Stewart Dietrich, prominent in the state suffragette movement and in a number of campaigns and organizations for women's and children's rights.  The house was their home throughout their marriage; he purchased and remodeled it for his bride in 1909 and they resided there until his death in 1924.  The residence's exterior retains with few exceptions the appearance and elements of the Dietrich period of occupation.

C.H. Dietrich (1853-1924) was born in Aurora , Illinois , to German immigrant parents who fled the country because of his father's socialist opinions.  In the adventurous spirit he was to continue all his life, Dietrich ran away from home a the age of ten, returning after a year to complete a final year of school before leaving again to support himself at various jobs in Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, San Antonio, St. Joseph, and the Black Hills.  In 1878 he married Elizabeth Slaker of Aurora , Illinois , and moved permanently to Hastings where he was a partner in a general merchandising store and then a hardware store before organizing the very successful loan and insurance office of Dietrich & Slaker in 1881.  He assisted in establishing the German National Bank in 1887 and served as its president until 1905.  Dietrich was active in the commercial and agricultural development of Hastings and Adams County as president of the Board of Trade and promoter for the Northwestern and Missouri Pacific railroads to built through the town.  He was one of the firs to experiment with the growing of timothy, clover, alfalfa and sugar beets in the county.

A personal tragedy occurred in 1887 with the death of his young wife and baby.  His daughter, Gertrude, was educated in European boarding schools and at Bryn Mawr College .  He consequently lived in hotels and lodgings and there in no known residence associated with him from the early period of his life.

Dietrich's political career, although brief and turbulent, was not without its effect on Nebraskans.  His first candidacy was the bitterly-contested governor's race of 1900, in which he defeated the incumbent by 861 votes.  In the shortest governorship in Nebraska history (Jan. 3 - May1, 1901), he resigned after being appointed by the Nebraska Senate to fill an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate.  His achievements there included support of the famous Kinkaid Act; the sponsorship of the Newland Reclamation Act for irrigation projects; and promotion of the American sugar beet industry.  A well-timed smear campaign cost him the nomination of his party for re-election and he returned to Hastings .

On October 27, 1909 , Dietrich married Margretta Shaw Stewart, a college friend of his daughter.  He purchased and remodeled this house to welcome her from her previous home in Philadelphia .

Mrs. Dietrich, well-educated and active in charity work in Philadelphia , became a suffragette and leader for the rights of women, children and the elderly in Hastings and across the state.  An early officer in the Adams County Suffragette Association, she was president of the Nebraska association at the time the 19th Amendment was ratified.  The association immediately changed its name to the League of Women Voters for which she was the first state president and a regional director.  Active in the campaign to establish the Sunnyside Home for the Aged and Dependent at Hastings , she later became a director of the home, an alternative to the County Poor Farm .  During World War I, when many suffragettes were active in the war effort, she spoke across the state on food conservation.  She was a prominent lobbyist for the unsuccessful passage of the Child Labor Amendment.  After Mr. Dietrich's death in 1924, she moved to Lincoln briefly to devote more time to her position as president of the Nebraska League of Women Voters.  In 1927 she sold the house and moved to New Mexico where she continued her many activities, including the presidency of the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs for 20 years.

The above was written by the Nebraska  State Historical Society in 1978 when the home was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

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