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The Fascinating History Of Joslyn Castle

Known as Omaha’s castle, Joslyn Castle was originally named Lynhurst by George and Sarah Joslyn when they had the Scottish Baronial Revival mansion constructed on the western outskirts of 1903 Omaha. The Joslyns relocated to Omaha from Vermont, when George took a job with a Des Moines printing company to manage a branch office in Omaha in 1880.

The mansion’s architect, John McDonald, embraced the Sottish revival concept. Joslyn Castle was built in less than a year for about $275,000, using Kansas limestone.

Joslyn Castle’s grounds make for an outstanding location for selfies and other photography. The flower gardens are amazing, with several types of flowers raised. A botanical garden in front of the mansion add to its charm.

Here are a few things to know as you plan your visit to Joslyn Castle.

A bench and window inside Joslyn Castle in Omaha, Nebraska.

Joslyn Castle tour

Joslyn Castle hosts tours throughout the year. Public tours are offered each Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Tours last about an hour and include three floors of the 35-room mansion.

Plan a visit in November or December to see the castle decorated for Christmas.

The castle occasionally hosts an “Unlocked” tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the mansion, including a tour of all four floors. You’ll only be able to see the basement during the “Unlocked” tour.

You can find the monthly schedule here.

Joslyn Castle is also available for weddings and other events.

A dining room in Joslyn Castle featuring a fireplace and chandelier.

Joslyn Castle’s design

The 35-room mansion included a reception hall, music room, ballroom, and a library. The Joslyns also had a bowling alley in the basement.

Each room was uniquely designed, prominently featuring the thistle, Scotland’s national flower, in woodwork and light fixtures. Scottish gods were also carved into light fixtures around the mansion.

The library’s built-in bookshelves showcase the outstanding craftsmanship of the era. The staircase is immaculate, with a dark finish and hand-crafted artwork.

Intricate woodwork and windows inside the castle.

Unique history

The Joslyns planted 100 mature trees, along with a greenhouse to showcase a variety of flowers. The 1913 Easter tornado destroyed the greenhouse and much of the grounds, while sparing the castle.

While George Joslyn died in 1916, Sarah continued to live in the mansion until 1940, when she died. Joslyn Castle was then donated to the Omaha Public Schools district, which operated its administrative offices there from the mid-1940s through 1989.

The state of Nebraska took it over in ’89 and worked to transform it back to its original state.

Joslyn Castle grounds

Surrounded by a stone and wrought iron fence, flower beds, perennial plants, and bushes are located around the ample Joslyn Castle grounds. Care for the castle’s grounds are an ongoing project, maintaining the exquisite trees, while also planting new ones.

The gardens and grounds are open to the public during the day.

The backside of Joslyn Castle in the fall.

Christmas at Joslyn Castle

Decorated for the holiday season, a tour of Joslyn Castle adds to your holiday cheer. Each year brings a new design to the mansion. From Christmas trees to wreathes and poinsettias, the house is immaculately designed for the holiday season.

You can tour Joslyn Castle, as well as other historic homes in the neighborhood during the annual Historic Home Tour and Boutique, hosted over a two-day weekend each November.

Visit Joslyn Art Museum

Following your tour of Joslyn Castle, you may want to make a trip to Joslyn Art Museum. Donated to the city in memory of her late husband, Sarah Joslyn wanted a concert hall, with art galleries bordering it.

The museum has grown to include classical and pop culture artwork, as well as sculptures, and special exhibits.

Exterior of Joslyn Art Museum in downtown Omaha.

Related post: 20+ Omaha Museums You Should Visit

View the Eugene Kingman Mural

Commissioned in 1946 to be displayed at the New York Times’ headquarters, Eugene Kingman created a mural showing a view of the world from space. Kingman was about to assume duties as the executive director of the Joslyn Museum.

He created the mural at Joslyn Art Museum, before it was transported to be displayed in New York. It was showcased in the Times’ lobby until the 1980s, when it was removed during renovation.

Today, you can view the Kingman mural at the Omaha Public Library’s downtown Dale Clark branch.

George and Sarah Joslyn came to Omaha in the mid-1890s to run a business. They ended up leaving a lasting legacy, first with Omaha’s “castle,” followed by Joslyn Art Museum. Along with the Joslyns’ influence, you’ll appreciate their love of architecture with Joslyn Castle.

If you go

Joslyn Castle

Where: 3902 Davenport St., Omaha, Neb.

The administrative office is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The castle is open only during tours.

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Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

The Castle was not "donated" to OPS - they leased it for $10 a year and eventually purchased the estate and buildings. And, it took 19 months to build the castle at a cost of $250,000, not $275,000.

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