Every grand event needs grand buildings. When it was held in North Omaha, the Administration Arch of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 had a featured grand building. This is a history of the structure.
Design and Construction
The Administration Arch was the first building designed and constructed for the Expo.
Measuring 50′ by 50′ at its base, the Administration Arch rose 150′ or 14 stories into the sky. Designed by Omaha’s premier architect Thomas Rogers Kimball, the Administration Arch straddled Florence Boulevard at Pratt Street and it was the first building designed and built. It was also heavily lit by electrical lighting. This made the building a rarity at the time since electricity was not widely used yet.
Meant to serve as a northern entrance to the Grand Court with its Neo-Classical architecture and spectacular scale, the Arch brought people into the court from the north on the Street of All Nations, also called the West Midway.
The Administration Arch was located directly across from the Arch of the States, which was also located on Florence Boulevard to bring in visitors from the south. The arches was intentionally placed opposite of each other, and the two were considered a pair. One report from the Expo said the arches, “…are the symbols of the factors which have made the exposition possible—local executive force, with the co-operation of the Trans-Mississippi states.”
Located north of the lagoon, the building was between the Manufacturing Building on the east and the Agricultural Building on the west. The Arch had a commanding view of the entire Expo, with 360 degree views in every direction.
Purpose and Use
The Arch served as executive offices for the staff of the Expo, including the supervisor of the entire event, Gurdon Wattles. There was also a large conference room used to host organizing meetings, special receptions and other smaller events.
Because of its central location the Arch was used as a meeting place for a lot of people during the Expo.
Demolition and Legacy
The last building demolished in 1899, the Administration Arch was used the entire time from its opening to the ending. Today, there is no sign it was ever located at Florence Boulevard and Pratt Streets. There are historical markers in its place that talk about the Expo, but nothing for the Arch specifically.