The Capitol Courtyards Gardens fundraiser was a success! It resulted in the restoration of Landscape Architect Ernst H. Herminghaus’ original planting plan for the Nebraska State Capitol’s Courtyards. The courtyard landscape project is summarized and donors are listed in the Capitol Courtyard Project Donors book.

A successful fundraising campaign by the Garden Committee of the Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators has resulted in the restoration of Landscape Architect Ernst H. Herminghaus’ original planting plan for the Nebraska State Capitol’s Courtyards. The courtyard landscape project is summarized and donors are listed in the Capitol Courtyard Project Donors book.

“The Courtyard Gardens are the missing pieces of the original Capitol design. Now that the fountains are completed, restoring the gardens will complete our site. It’s a unique opportunity all Nebraskans have to help put the finishing touches on our beautiful National Landmark State Capitol.”

— Robert C. Ripley, Nebraska Capitol Administrator

Courtyards unfinished without fountains in 1934

Our Purpose

When construction of the Nebraska State Capitol concluded in 1932, a lack of resources stemming from the Great Depression put completion of the building’s four courtyards on hold. Nearly 86 years later in 2017, Nebraskans celebrated the long-awaited installation of the fountains – just in time for the state’s sesquicentennial. The $3.1 million investment brought the Capitol one step closer to completion. Today, the only piece that remains is restoration of the courtyard landscape.

The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators is leading a campaign to raise $1.4 million to finish this decades old project. The funds will provide for the installation of an irrigation and drainage system, plantings, and the creation of an endowment for ongoing care and maintenance. Once complete, Capitol Architect Bertram Goodhue’s vision for our State Capitol will finally be realized and future generations of Nebraskans can enjoy these beautiful retreats for years to come.

Courtyards with fountains added in 2017

Components of the Capitol Courtyard Gardens Project

· Sub-soil irrigation systems
· Bed preparation
· Soil amendments
· Equipment rental
· Annuals
· Bulbs
· Shrubs
· Trees
· Endowment

A National Historic Landmark

The Herminghaus-designed Capitol landscape, which includes the courtyards and the exterior landscape, is a part of our official designation as a National Historic Landmark. Of the buildings nationally designated as National Historic Landmarks, it is rare to find both the building and its landscape so designated.


The office of Capitol Architect Bertram Goodhue selected Nebraska native Ernst H. Herminghaus to create a landscape plan for the four courtyards. His education and training in landscape architecture, and his understanding of Nebraska’s geography, climate and plant material qualified him to fulfill Goodhue’s vision of a landscape to enhance and complement the monumental building.

The courtyards were landscaped following the Herminghaus plan in 1934 but lack of resources resulted in abandonment of the plan in the 1960s. A few turf areas remain to remind us of the original plan.

The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators obtained permission from NET to provide this link to a “Nebraska Stories” television segment on the architectural history of the State Capitol. NET is not part of this campaign.


Ernst H. Herminghaus created the landscape design for the Capitol courtyards to reflect the variety of color and pattern of the building’s interior. Herminghaus’ actual drawings for each of the four courtyards were analyzed by Big Muddy Workshop and Campbell’s Nurseries and plant selections were modified only slightly to account for current climate and improved species.

Although similar in overall plant layout and border design, the flower beds in each courtyard are distinctly different in color palette, with a series of taller shrubs and small trees against the building, and low-growing hedges along the interior sidewalks. Each courtyard will have its own unique mix of colorful plants.

“Finishing the Capitol courtyard gardens will complete the vision for the Capitol. The inner courtyards will be an explosion of color and will provide a setting for quiet contemplation, weddings and other social events, as well as a capstone for tours of the Capitol. Architects Goodhue and Herminghaus would be pleased, as would those Depression-era legislators who had the foresight and dedication to fund such an outstanding Capitol.”

–DiAnna Schimek, Former Nebraska State Senator

Campaign Leadership

Campaign Committee

The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators

DiAnna Schimek, Chair
Tom Carlson
Jim Jensen

Joel Johnson
Vickie McDonald
Scott Moore

John Nelson
Sandy Scofield
Bob Wickersham

Finishing the Capitol Courtyard Gardens Leadership Team members are (from left) former State Senators Jim Jensen, Sandy Scofield, John Nelson, Bob Wickersham, Tom Carlson, DiAnna Schimek and Joel Johnson. Not pictured are former Sens. Vickie McDonald and Scott Moore. (Courtesy photo by Zach Tuttle for L Magazine)

Project Advisors

John Royster, Big Muddy Workshop of Omaha
Dick Campbell, Campbell’s Nurseries of Lincoln
Robert Ripley, Capitol Administrator

Recognition Levels

All donors will be recognized on this website, the Nebraska Capitol website (Capitol.Nebraska.gov), and the Capitol Courtyard Gardens Donor Book at the Information Desk located on the first floor of the State Capitol. We appreciate any donation of any size.

Courtyard Champion: $500,000
Courtyard: $200,000
Sower: $100,000 and more
Rotunda: $75,000-$99,999
Supreme Court: $50,000-$74,999
Governor’s Hall: $30,000-$49,999
West Chamber Society: $15,000-$29,999
Friends of the Capitol Courtyards: $1,000-$14,999
Meadowlark Society: Under $1,000

Senator’s Club
All State Senators, current and former, donating $1,000 or more

Our Donors

Courtyard Champion
The Acklie Charitable Foundation

Glenn H. Korff Foundation
Lancaster County Visitors Improvement Fund

The Dillon Foundation

Campbell’s Nursery
Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation
Friends of the NE150 Foundation

West Chamber Society
Rhonda Seacrest
Union Pacific Foundation

Friends of the Capitol Courtyards
Mike and Pam Boyle
Bruning State Bank
Conerstone Bank and the Holthus Family
Cornhusker Bank
Alice Dittman
Willa Herminghaus Dyche
Secretary of State John Gale
James Goeke and Karen Amen
John F. and Valeria Herminghaus
J.C. & Jessie Seacrest Family Foundaiton Trust
Virginia G. and Kile Johnson
Lincoln Community Foundation
Judge Jean Lovell
Martin and Ruth Massengale
Nebraska Broadcasters Association Foundation
Nebraska Impact
NebraskaLand Foundation
Patrick J. O’Donnell (In honor of Gina C. Dunning)
Pinnacle Bancorp
Jon Sampson
Edward Tricker

Senator’s Club
In Memory of Fred Abboud by Former State Senator Chris Abboud
Former State Senator Greg and Julie Adams
Former State Senator Brad Ashford
Former State Senator Tom Baker
Former State Senator Doug and Louise Bereuter
Former State Senator Chris and Judy Beutler
Former State Senator Curt and Vicki Bromm
State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks
Former State Senator Dennis and Janet Byars
Former State Senator Kathy Campbell
Former State Senator Helen and Floyd Campbell
Former State Senator Tom and Margo Carlson
State Senator Robert Clements
State Senator Sue Crawford
Former State Senator Al and Dottie Davis (In honor of Jean V. Davis & Dorothy C. Glenn)
State Senator Myron and Julie Dorn
In Memory of Former State Senator Donald Dworak From Judy Dworak
Former State Senator Richard Fellman
In Memory of Former State Senator E.H. Gerhart From The Gerhart Family of Newman Grove
In Memory of Former State Senator H.L. “Buzz” Gerhart From The Gerhart Family of Newman Grove
Former State Senator Mike Gloor
Former State Senator Galen and Marilyn Hadley
Former State Senator Tim Hall
Former State Senator Gary and Mary Lou Hannibal
In Memory of Former State Senator Bill Harris from MarySue Harris
Former State Senator Joyce Hillman-Kortum
State Senator Robert Hilkemann
State Senator Dan Hughes
State Senator Megan Hunt
Former State Senator James and Joan Jensen
Former State Senator Stephanie Johanns
Former State Senator Gerald Johnson
Former State Senator Dr. Joel and Jill Johnson
State Senator Dr. Rick Kolowski
State Senator Mark Kolterman
Former State Senator John Lindsay
Former State Senator Gerald and Lee-Ellen Matzke
State Senator John McCollister
Former State Senator Vickie McDonald
State Senator Mike McDonnell
Former State Senator Jack and Norma Mills
Former State Senator Scott and Danene Moore
State Senator Adam Morfeld
Former State Senator John and Judy Nelson
In Memory Of Former State Senator David R. Newell From Arlene, Sarah & John Newell
Former State Senator Donald Pederson
Former State Senator Marian Price
In Memory of Former State Senator Ronald E. Raikes from Helen Raikes
In Memory of Former State Senator Ross H. Rasmussen From His Daughters
Former State Senator Pam Redfield
In Memory of Former State Senator Jennie Robak From Lt. Governor Kim Robak and William Mueller
Former State Senator Kent Rogert
State Senator Jim and Kris Scheer
Former State Senator DiAnna and Herb Schimek
Former State Senator Sandy Scofield
State Senator John Stinner
Former State Senator Larry and Janice Stoney
Former State Senator Elaine and Boyd Stuhr
Former State Senator Arnie Stuthman
Former State Senator Kate Sullivan
Former State Senator Deborah and Mayor James Suttle
In Memory of Dennis Utter From Kathy Utter
Former State Senator Donald Wagner
Former State Senator Norman Wallman
Former State Senator Roger Wehrbein
Former State Senator Bob Wickersham
In Memory of Former State Senator John Wightman From Janet Wightman and Family
State Senator Matt Williams
State Senator Dan Quick

Meadowlark Society
Robert and Kathleen Achterberg
John Arch
In Memory of Former State Senator Ardyce Linn Bohlke From Sharon
Catalyst Public Affairs
Marvin Igel
Larry and Nancy Bare
State Senator Kate Bolz
Joanne Brown
Linda Brown
Former State Senator Jon Bruning
Jeff Buettner
Former State Senator Carroll Burling
Supreme Court Judge William B. and Audrey Cassel
State Senator Ernie Chambers
In Memory of Carl & Julia Cheloha From John A. Cheloha
Former State Senator Danielle and Tom Conrad
Former State Senator Gerald Conway
Former State Senator Jim Cudaback
Nancy Davis
State Senator Wendy DeBoer
Former State Senator Annette Dubas
Former State Senator L. Patrick and Dee Engel
Judge Mary Gilbride
Janice Gradwohl
Former State Senator Thomas and Linda Hansen
State Senator Matthew Hansen
Deborah Hoback
State Senator Sara Howard
Stacy C. James
Michael and Wilhelmina Jensen
Former State Senator Jim Jones
In Honor of Tom Kaspar
Bonnie Gerrard Kolowski
Former State Senator Frank Korshoj
In Memory of Former State Senator Bob Kremer From Beverly Kremer
In Memory Of Former State Senator Lowen Kruse From Ruth Kruse, Douglas Kruse & Jo Stockwell
Susan Larson Rodenburg
Ron and Nancy Kvols
Judge Patricia Lamberty
Former State Senator Dave Maurstad
Former State Senator David and Melodee Landis
Former State Senator Carol McBride Pirsch
Former State Senator Janis McKenzie
Former State Senator Jerry and Cheryl Miller
Dr. Kevin Miller
Former State Senator Mick and Katie Mines
Former State Senator PJ Morgan
State Senator David and Kathy Murman
Mark Nelson
Scott and Barbara Oliver
Jim and Mary Owens
Former State Senator David and Lori Pankonin
Former State Senator Shirley Parks
Natalie Peetz
Walter Radcliffe
Reiser Family Fund – Omaha Community Foundation
Former State Senator Lee and Kay Rupp
Phyllis Salyards
Leslie and Tom Sams
David and Teresa Schmidt
Former State Senator Edward and Judith Schrock
Sue Schuerman
Former State Senator Lester and Joann Seiler
In Memory of Ardis Shallberg From Senator Lynne Walz
Leonard Sloup and Susan Quambusch
Former State Senator Adrian Smith
Former State Senator Nancy Thompson
Former State Senator Don Wesely
Michael and Medelice Wirtz
Arthur Zygielbaum

Aerial photos by Ryan Lindbeck, Altitude Motion Media
Courtyard photos provided by the Office of the Nebraska Capitol Commission

For More Information

The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators
Vickie McDonald, Executive Director

Campaign Organizer
Susan Larson Rodenburg, SLR Communications

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