Alliance

Cowboys and Carhenge

 

Downtown Alliance
Photo by Christopher Amundson

 

Alliance has a long lineage of agriculture, business, industry and railroading. Rogues, rascals and visionaries have colored the town’s history since its very beginnings in 1888. Alliance has grown from a frontier town to a bustling community of 9,000 residents. Located at the intersection of highways 2 and 385, Alliance is the largest city for 50 miles.


Two-and-a-half miles north of Alliance on Highway 87, Carhenge is perhaps the strangest attraction in Nebraska. The full-scale replica of England’s famous Stonehenge is built entirely from old cars. Local resident Jim Reinders got the idea in 1982 when his family gathered after his father died. They decided to build a tribute and gathered five years later to begin the hard work of building what would become one of the most famous attractions in all of Nebraska. Carhenge is built from 39 cars, each painted gray. Some of the vehiclesare half-buried, others are welded together, and some jut from the ground at odd angles, just like the real Stonehenge.


More automobile sculptures have since been added. The fun and quirky pieces include “Spawning Salmon” (a car that looks like giant salmon bursting from the ground) and “The Ford Seasons” (representing the four stages of wheat grown in the Alliance area). There is no admission charge to view Carhenge, and there’s a small visitor center and gift shop where you can spend 50 cents to smash a penny for your own Carhenge souvenir.


Displays at the 19,000-square-foot Knight Museum and Sandhills Center span many aspects of western life, including an extensive display of Native American artifacts, railroad memorabilia, military history from the Indian Wars to Alliance’s World War II air base, homestead and ranch life, and the cultures who shaped the area.
The museum’s research center houses the largest collection of genealogy material in the region. Volunteers are available for one-on-one assistance in perusing the thousands of records. The museum is at 908 Yellowstone Ave. (308) 762-2384.


The Carnegie Arts Center features local and regional artists on two levels in the stately building. This center hosts renowned art shows such as installations of original Rembrandt and Albrecht Durer prints. The art center is housed in a historic 1911 building at 204 W. Fourth St. It is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. The center is closed on holidays. (308) 762-4571.


Dobby’s Frontier Town, 320 E. 25th St., is a historic village with buildings from the 1890s through Prohibition. Kenneth “Dobby” Lee lamented the decay of early frontier buildings, so he began hauling them to his Alliance home to save them. His passion for preserving the past fueled his work. The buildings include a general store and meat market, a mortuary, a log cabin built by the area’s first black homesteader, an early gas station, a replica 1880s post office, a saloon, an 1889 one-room school and a cobbler’s shop. Dobby’s 26 buildings bring the American frontier to life for visitors from around the world. (308) 762-4321.


With 140 acres of public space, Alliance is proud of its park system. Central Park is the city’s oldest, and its Central Park Fountain is on the National Register of Historic Places. Other Alliance parks include Laing Lake and Bower Park, and there are several mini-parks in town. The Central Park Fountain operates Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 1. After dark, it features a lights-and-water display. Nearby, at 11th and Niobrara, Sallows Conservatory and Arboretum features tropical and sub-tropical plants. Paths wind throughout the Sunken Gardens. Laing Lake Park has good fishing from shoreline or pier. Railroad buffs can stop at the corner of Laing Lake Park and visit Locomotive 719 and a vintage coal car. The park, bordered by 18th Street, Box Butte Avenue, Burnham Drive and Emerson Avenue, also has two miles of walking trails. The Wiggly Field Dog Park is especially for man’s best friend. This fenced and grassy 2.5 acres leaves four-legged companions panting with delight. Benches and a gazebo make this park comfy for humans, too. There is a dog watering station, and even a fire hydrant. 1603 Box Butte Ave.

During World War II, Alliance was home to the Alliance Air Base, a site chosen for its proximity to the Sandhills, which were considered excellent for parachute and ammunition training. The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained here before landing in Normandy hours before the D-Day invasion. As a result, a large number of D-Day casualties were known personally to the people of Alliance. Today, the former air base is the Alliance Municipal Airport.


In 2010, in tribute to those gallant heroes, Nebraska Veterans Cemetery was opened at the former Alliance Army Air Field on 20 acres once used as a troop training field. These 20 acres rest near the airport, which is east of Alliance, south of Highway 2. (877) 402-7990.


The Sallows Military Museum, 1100 Niobrara St., features artifacts from the air base and Box Butte County history from all military branches. It is open 1-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and by appointment. (308) 762-2385 or (308) 762-2384.


Alliance’s downtown brick-lined main street, Box Butte Avenue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an associated Historic Main Street organization. There are numerous shops, restaurants and other businesses in the downtown district.


For more information please contact the Alliance Visitors’ Bureau at (877) 269-8776 or the Alliance Chamber of Commerce at (800) 738-0648. www.VisitAlliance.com.

Carhenge in Alliance is America's version of Stonehenge.

ears, more automobile sculptures have been added. Just a short walk from Carhenge, fun and quirky pieces include “Spawning Salmon” (a car that looks like giant salmon bursting from the ground) and “The Ford Seasons” (representing the four stages of wheat grown in the area). There is no admission charge, and there’s a small visitor center and gift shop where you can smash a penny for your own Carhenge souvenir. 

Displays at the 19,000-square-foot Knight Museum and Sandhills Center span many aspects of western life, including an extensive display of Native American artifacts, railroad memorabilia, military history from the Indian Wars to Alliance’s World War II air base, homestead and ranch life, and the various cultures who shaped the area.

The museum’s research center houses the largest collection of genealogy material in the region. Volunteers are available for one-on-one assistance in perusing the thousands of records. To get there, turn north on Yellowstone Avenue from highways 385 and 2. The museum is at 908 Yellowstone. (308) 762-2384.

The Carnegie Arts Center is a gallery featuring local and regional artists. This center hosts renowned art shows such as installations of original Rembrandt and Albrecht Durer prints. It is housed in a historic 1911 building at 204 W. Fourth St. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Closed holidays. (308) 762-4571.

Dobby’s Frontier Town, 320 E. 25th St., is a historic village with buildings from the 1890s through Prohibition. Buildings include a general store and meat market, a mortuary (complete with a glass-topped coffin), a log cabin built by the area’s first black homesteader, an early gas station, a replica 1880s post office, a Chinese laundry, a saloon, a bootlegger’s cabin and a bordello. Call ahead for hours. (308) 762-4321.

Dobby's Frontier Town

With 140 acres of public space, Alliance is proud of its extensive park system. Central Park is the city’s oldest, and its Central Park Fountain is on the National Register of Historic Places. Other Alliance parks include Laing Lake and Bower Park, and there are several mini-parks throughout the city. The Central Park Fountain operates Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 1. After dark, it features a lights-and-water display. Nearby, at 11th and Niobrara, Sallows Conservatory and Arboretum features tropical and sub-tropical plants. Paths wind throughout the Sunken Gardens. Laing Lake Park has ducks, geese and good fishing from shoreline or pier. Railroad buffs can stop at the corner of Laing Lake Park and visit Locomotive 719 and a vintage coal car. The park, bordered by 18th Street, Box Butte Avenue, Burnham Drive and Emerson Avenue, also has two miles of walking trails.

During World War II, Alliance was home to the Alliance Air Base, a site chosen for its proximity to the Sandhills, which were considered excellent for parachute and ammunition training. The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained here before landing in Normandy hours before the D-Day invasion. As a result, a large number of D-Day casualties were known personally to the people of Alliance. Today, the former air base is the Alliance Municipal Airport. 

In 2010, in tribute to those gallant heroes, Nebraska Veterans Cemetery was opened at the former Alliance Army Air Field on 20 acres once used as a troop training field. These 20 acres rest near the airport, which is east of Alliance, south of Highway 2. (877) 402-7990.

The Sallows Military Museum, 1100 Niobrara St., features artifacts from the air base and Box Butte County history from all military branches. It is open 1-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and by appointment. (308) 762-2385 or (308) 762-2384.

Alliance’s downtown brick-lined main street, Box Butte Avenue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an associated Historic Main Street organization. There are numerous shops, restaurants and other businesses in the downtown district.

For more information please contact the Alliance Visitors’ Bureau at (308) 762-3876 or the Alliance Chamber of Commerce at (800) 738-0648.