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Bryan Frost, who graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in May with a major in interior design, has created plans to refurbish a bedroom in the historic Frank House on the campus.
Frost, who is from Lexington, developed the plans as part of an internship at the mansion.
The Frank House, which was the first house west of the Missouri River to be wired for electricity, was built for G.W. and Phoebe Frank in the late 1800s. Frank established the George W. Frank Improvement Co. that ran the power plant and the electric street car system in Kearney. The depression and financial panic of 1893, followed by the drought in 1894, bankrupted the Franks, and they lost the house.
After the Franks lost the mansion, a husband and wife medical team, the Doctors Grothan, purchased it, and used it as a private clinic and sanitarium. In 1907, the Grothans sold the buildings and grounds to the state for the Nebraska State Hospital for the Tuberculous. The house was then used as the living quarters for hospital staff and members of the director’s family until the hospital closed in 1971.
When the hospital closed, the buildings and grounds were transferred to Kearney State College/UNK, and restoration of the Frank House began. The Frank House was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
“I was fortunate to be able to work with the Frank House for my spring internship with hopes to incorporate my knowledge of history into the beautiful house,” Frost said. “I choose the Frank House because of my interest in history. I had worked on the Franks’ master bedchamber the year before, selecting materials and textiles, and hoped to preserve the home’s history again!”
Frost researched, then created the design for, the bedroom that had been Eliza Galloway’s. Galloway was the Frank’s head of staff, and her bedroom is located on the second floor at the top of the staff staircase. A former slave who had been freed from a plantation in Maryland, Galloway is said to have been cared for by the Franks as if she were a family member. She, too, became a prominent figure in the early history of Kearney.
“Eliza’s story is an important part of the story of the Frank House and of Kearney,” said KrisAnn Sullivan, Frank House director. “Bryan’s thorough research and planning exemplifies the quality of education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Through Bryan’s vision and design, visitors and supporters connect with Eliza’s story in the very room where she lived in the 1890s. His vision will be a part of Kearney’s historic home on the campus for generations to come.”
Although developing the design for Galloway’s room may sound difficult, Frost said, “I am not afraid to try new design styles and am always up for a challenge. Working with the Frank House has given me an excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge of historic renovation. It is this excitement for design I hope to translate into my future designs.”
Frost’s design is on display, so Frank House visitors can imagine how the room could look once it is refurbished. Coincidentally, Frost’s great-grandmother was a cook at the hospital in the 1960s.
Among the challenges Frost noted were the small space in the room to arrange the several furniture pieces Galloway may have had; finding the period hinges, knobs and doors; and not having any historic photos of the room to go by. Despite these challenges, Frost had several key elements that guided him, including historic clues of the Frank House’s past, an understanding that Galloway was treated very well, the historical floor plan and some of Galloway’s own possessions to incorporate in the design.
“For Eliza’s room, I decided to use natural colors inspired by a rug that will go in the room, and I interpreted the detailed stenciling based on the findings on third floor where the other staff would have lived,” Frost said.
Frost has also placed a three-piece Eastlake antique furniture set and a wicker-seated chair in Galloway’s room. These pieces and the rug had been in storage at the Frank House. Future plans include painting the room, reinstalling the closets and putting lace curtains on the windows.
“My favorite part of designing Galloway’s room was definitely finding all the hidden secrets,” Frost said, “like the room’s pink color was chosen by the Frank’s in the original design of the home.
“I enjoy design, because I can use my artistic abilities and organizational skills to create a design that conveys a solution to the problem, has function and encompasses pleasing aesthetics,” Frost said. “I see it as putting pieces of a puzzle together to make something that is pleasing to the eye, provides the viewer with visual information and allows individuals to grasp the project’s overall concept. Every design is a new venture and has different inspiration, something I have to figure out and arrange properly.”
After working for the Franks, Galloway started a catering business in which she used some of the china and silverware the Franks had given her. A 1930s newspaper article noted that she had “changed the panties of many of the town’s finest, if not also catered their weddings.” At one time, she was the only African American resident of Kearney. She passed away in the 1930s. The house the Franks gave to Galloway’s husband as a wedding gift still stands today at 518 West 28th St.
Frost and his mother Shari recently visited the Frank House. Shari said, “I’m excited my son did an interior design internship at the Frank House. The last time I was in the house was while I was at Kearney State College in the early 1980s. I was in Choraleers, and we sang at Christmas time on the stairwell. We couldn’t go to the second floor, and I was very disappointed!” The second floor is now open to the public, and three rooms are undergoing renovation.
Coincidentally, Frost had another connection to the mansion. His great-grandmother was a cook at the hospital in the 1960s.
Frost is now employed by Sunderland and Brothers Co. in Omaha. “I work in the showroom assisting designers, contractors and homeowners with their selection of tiles, cabinets and other interior materials,” Frost said.
“My internship was a load of fun,” he said. “I met some incredible people on the job and have been able to learn new skills regarding historical renovation. I never realized how many secrets a home could hold!”
Frost said that if he could redesign another space in the Frank House, it would be the entire third floor, because of the current condition and unique disposition.
“Researching the old materials and design features used within the third floor, such as the placement of the hall fireplace, would help illustrate the home’s final chapter to complete the Frank’s story,” he concluded.
Individuals can learn more about Eliza Galloway and the history of the Frank House by touring the mansion. Visit the Frank House website, www.frankhouse.org, for more information.