The iconic Chimney Rock, the most popular visualization of Westward expansion, was donated to the Nebraska State Historical Society more than 70 years ago. In the 1990s, the NSHS, in partnership with the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, raised private dollars to construct the Ethel S. and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center. The site operates year-round, drawing more than 25,000 visitors annually from across the nation and around the world who are eager to learn more about western trails and the impact of this unique geologic feature to travelers on Native American and the Oregon, Mormon and California routes.
The current facility’s capacity to host group gatherings – school classes, bus tours, community events, etc. – is limited to groups of 50 or fewer. A 2,800 sq. ft. expansion of the Abbott Visitor Center will:
• Accommodate more visits by school classes, bus tours, and other groups
• Increase the capacity for group gatherings to 150 people
• Create a community and regional gathering space
• Enhance year-round use (increased space for programs such as “Sundays at the Rock”)
• Provide emergency windstorm shelter for staff and visitors (not available in the current structure)
• Improve handicapped accessibility
• Allow for expansion of the NSHS Landmark Store, an important service for visitors and a source of earned income for the NSHS
The total cost for this expansion, scheduled for 2015-2017, is $770,000.