The Treasury Pillars History


The Treasury Pillars standing in Pioneers
Park, Lincoln Nebraska look like they could be from an ancient Roman temple. Standing 36 feet tall and weighing over 30
tons, these 4 columns come from the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington D.C., but how is it
they arrived in the middle of the United States? Their history begins all the way back in 1800,
67 years before Nebraska was even a state. The U.S. Government was moving to Washington D.C. from
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and new government buildings were being erected along Pennsylvania
Avenue. The first to be completed was the Department
of the Treasury containing 31 rooms. On January 20, 1801 a fire broke out in an
upper room significantly damaging the entire building. During the War of 1812, the British came through
town and sought out the building hoping to find it full of money. However, in 1814, finding only old records,
they burned it for the 2nd time. Once those pesky British were forced out,
a 2nd Treasury Building was built, completed in 1817. Jumping ahead 6 years and on March 30,1833,
a certain Richard H. White supposedly set fire to the building in an attempt to destroy
some incriminating pension records stored inside, though he was later acquitted of the
charges. This fire nearly destroyed the whole building
again. 3 years later, on July 4, 1836, on a site
selected by President Andrew Jackson and having learned their lessons from the previous 3
fires, Congress authorized the construction of a fireproof building large enough for present
and future accommodations. Robert Mills, the architect of other national
buildings such as the Washington Monument and the Patent Office Building designed the
3rd and current Treasury Building. The design included 30 columns on the east
wing. They were erected between 1839 and 1842 out
of a type of sandstone called Acquia Creek freestone. This early 3rd iteration of the treasury building
contained 150 rooms. In April 1861, 2 days after the Fall of Fort
Sumter to the Confederacy and the start of the civil war, President Abraham Lincoln ordered
75,000 militia troops into Washington, D.C.. There wasn’t enough housing to accommodate
this influx of troops and so the soldiers were encamped in and around the Capitol, Patent
Office and the U.S. Treasury building. The Treasury Building was also fortified into
a makeshift bunker for the President and his cabinet to shelter in, should the need arise. President Lincoln, who often visited the building,
would stand between these Pillars surveying the troops drilling and camped in the yard. Fast forward about 40 more years and by the
early 1900s, the east wing columns were now coated in soot and grime from coal burning
fireplaces and furnaces leading to pockmarked deterioration of the soft sandstone surface. In the summer of 1908, the sandstone columns
were carefully detached from the portico and replaced with solid granite pillars. The sandstone columns were set aside and left
to sink into a vacant lot until a use for them could be decided upon. 8 years later, in 1916 Commissioner of the
District Excise Board, Cotter T. Bride, bought and shipped four columns to Lincoln Nebraska
to honor his friend and Nebraska politician, William Jennings Bryan, who had just finished
his run as the United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson. The other 26 columns left behind were blown
up 2 years later to clear the lot for the current National Academy of Sciences building. The Portico Pillars were first placed at the
northern entrance of Antelope Park. A plaque commemorating this event was cast
from metal recovered from the USS Maine which sank in 1898 in Havana Harbor. In 1975, the 4 Pillars and Plaque were moved
to their current home in the middle of Pioneers Park with a dedication ceremony taking place
on May 22, 1976 as part of a bicentennial celebration between the City Parks Department
and the Junior League of Lincoln. Now the Treasury Pillars serve as a monument
to the past, an oddity to be wondered about and a setting to get married. These pillars have stood right in the heart
of our country’s history and now they will rest in the heartland of America. There are countless Threads of History like
this to discover. Let me know in the comments what your favorite
historical thread is. If you want to know more about the U.S. Treasury
Building’s History, I’ll leave a link to a free ebook that I found really interesting
while researching this video. Feel free to share this with your history
friends and subscribe so you don’t miss any future History Thread videos. Until next time, thanks for watching.

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