Cathedral architect named to Nebraska Hall of Fame

Thomas Rogers Kimball, architect and designer of St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, became the 26th member of the Nebraska Hall of Fame June 25 in a ceremony at the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln.

The Nebraska Hall of Fame, administered by History Nebraska, was established by the Legislature in 1961 to recognize outstanding Nebraskans who have made significant contributions to Nebraska and the nation. Previous inductees include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather and Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton.  

Kimball, who died in 1934, was a nationally recognized architect who also designed St. Frances Cabrini Church in Omaha and played significant roles in the design and construction of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha as well as the Nebraska State Capitol. He served as the Capitol Commission’s professional advisor for 14 years. 

When construction of St. Cecilia Cathedral was completed in 1907, it was the 10th-largest cathedral in the United States and it broke new ground for the revival of Spanish Renaissance architecture in the Midwest, said Brother William Woeger, director of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Divine Worship Office.

The cathedral “is firmly situated in a historical context that is far beyond that of Omaha and the region,” Brother William explains on the cathedral’s website. “In its form, the cathedral is linked to the Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance, Philip II of Spain, and colonial New Spain. It serves as a visual reference to the earliest explorations of these lands by the Spanish. As a metaphor, it calls to mind the faith that served to inspire the deeds of countless generations.” 

“I think the cathedral is greatly loved by the people of the archdiocese, and we certainly hold it up as a symbol of our unity. It basically embodies the idea of the bishop’s church with all of the people of the archdiocese gathered around it,” he told the Catholic Voice. 

The induction ceremony, hosted by the Nebraska chapter of the American Institute of Architects, included presentations by Capitol administrator Bob Ripley, John Thomas Kimball, the architect’s nephew, and History Nebraska Director and CEO Trevor Jones. The Kimball family, along with artist John Lajba, also unveiled a sculpted bust of Kimball, which will be permanently displayed at the Capitol. 

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