Lincoln was founded as the village of Lancaster on the salt flats of what was to become Lancaster County. A short time later, Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and became Nebraska's capital. Sometimes referred to as the "Star City", many of Lincoln's primary employers fall within the services industries. The city is the home of the University of Nebraska, has an unemployment rate of 2.4% (December 2014, preliminary) and has the second tallest capitol building in the United States.
Lincoln was founded in 1856 as the village of Lancaster, and became the county seat of the newly created Lancaster County in 1859. The capital of Nebraska Territory had been Omaha since the creation of the territory in 1854; however, most of the territory's population lived south of the Platte River. After much of the territory south of the Platte considered annexation to Kansas, the legislature voted to move the capital south of the river and as far west as possible. The village of Lancaster was chosen, in part due to the salt flats and marshes.
Omaha interests attempted to derail the move by having Lancaster renamed after the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Many of the people south of the river had been sympathetic to the Confederate cause in the recently concluded Civil War, and it was assumed that the legislature would not pass the measure if the future capital were named after Abraham Lincoln. The choice to name the capital city "Lincoln" caused quite a stir among the constituents, whose sentiments were mixed regarding who should have won the Civil War.
Lincoln is one of the few large cities of Nebraska not located along either the Platte River or the Missouri River. The city was originally laid out near Salt Creek and among the nearly flat salinewetlands of northern Lancaster County. The city's growth over the years has led to development of the surrounding land, much of which is composed of gently rolling hills. In recent years, Lincoln's northward growth has encroached on the habitat of the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle.
The Lincoln metropolitan area consists of Lancaster County and Seward County, which was added to the metropolitan area in 2003. Lincoln has very little development outside its city limits and has no contiguous suburbs (the largest town that can be considered a suburb of Lincoln is Waverly). This is due primarily to the fact that most land that would otherwise be developed as a suburban town has already been annexed by the city of Lincoln itself.
Lincoln's neighborhoods, like in other cities, include both old and new development. Some neighborhoods in Lincoln were formerly small towns that Lincoln later annexed, including University Place, Belmont, Bethany, College View, Havelock, and Hartley. A number of Historic Districts are located near Downtown Lincoln while newer neighborhoods have appeared primarily in the south and east. As of December 2013, Lincoln had 45 registered neighborhood associations within the city limits.
Located on the Great Plains far from the moderating influence of mountains or large bodies of water, Lincoln possesses a highly variable four-season humid continental climate (KöppenDfa): winters are cold but relatively dry, summers are hot and occasionally humid. With little precipitation falling during winter, precipitation is concentrated in the warmer months, when thunderstorms frequently roll in, often producing tornadoes. Snow averages 25.9 inches (66 cm) per season but seasonal accumulation has ranged from 7.2 in (18 cm) in 1967–68 to 54.3 in (138 cm) in 1959–60. Snow tends to fall in light amounts, though blizzards are possible. Snow cover is usually not reliable due to both the low precipitation and the frequent thaws during winter; there is an average of 39 days with a snow depth of 1 in (2.5 cm) or more. The average window for freezing temperatures is October 5 thru April 25, allowing a growing season of 162 days.
The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 24.6 °F (−4.1 °C) in January to 77.6 °F (25.3 °C) in July. However, the city is subject both to episodes of bitter cold in winter and heat waves during summer, with 11.4 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows, 41 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs, and 4.6 days of 100 °F (38 °C)+ highs. The city straddles the boundary of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5b and 6a. Temperature extremes have ranged from −33 °F (−36 °C) on January 12, 1974 up to 115 °F (46 °C) on July 25, 1936. Readings as high as 105 °F (41 °C) or as low as −20 °F (−29 °C) occur somewhat rarely; the last occurrence of each was July 22, 2012 and February 3, 1996.
Based on 30-year averages obtained from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center for the months of December, January and February, Weather Channel ranked Lincoln the 7th coldest major U.S. city as of 2014 -- colder in winter on average than many cities geographically north of it.
The U.S. Government designated Lincoln in the 1970s as a refugee-friendly city due to its stable economy, educational institutions, and size. Since then, refugees from Vietnam settled in Lincoln, and further waves came from other countries. More recently, Lincoln was named one of the "Top Ten most Welcoming Cities in America" by Welcoming America.
There were 103,546 households of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 41.8% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.01.
View of Downtown Lincoln and surrounding neighborhoods in 2005.
The median age in the city was 31.8 years. 22.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 15.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.9% were from 25 to 44; 22.9% were from 45 to 64; and 10.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.0% male and 50.0% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 225,581 people, 90,485 households, and 53,567 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,022.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,166.9/km²). There were 95,199 housing units at an average density of 1,275.4 per square mile (492.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.25% White, 3.12% Asian, 3.09% African American, 0.68% Native American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.81% from other races, and 1.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.61% of the population.
There were 90,485 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.3% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.8% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.99.
The median age in the city was 31 years. 23.0% of residents below the age of 18; 16.4% were between the ages of 18 to 24; 30.7% were from 25 to 44; 19.5% were from 45 to 64; and 10.4% were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males; for every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.0 males.
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $40,605, and the median income for a family was $52,558. Men had a median income of $33,899 versus $25,402 for women. The per capita income for the city was $20,984. About 5.8% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.
Amigos Restaurant on N 48th & Leighton in Lincoln, NE
Lincoln's economy is fairly typical of a mid-sized American city; most economic activity is derived from service industries. Government and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are both large contributors to the local economy. Other prominent industries in Lincoln include finance, insurance, publishing, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, railroads, medical, information technology, education and truck transport. For December 2014, Lincoln's preliminary unemployment rate was 2.4% (not seasonally adjusted).
One of the largest employers is Bryan Health, which consists of two major hospitals and several large outpatient facilities located across the city. Healthcare and medical jobs account for a substantial portion of Lincoln's employment: as of 2009, full-time healthcare employees in the city included 9,010 healthcare practitioners in technical occupations, 4,610 workers in healthcare support positions, 780 licensed and vocational nurses, and 150 medical and clinical laboratory technicians.
The Omaha-Lincoln areas make up a part of what it referred to as the Midwest Silicon Prairie. In 2013, Lincoln ranked No. 4 on Forbes' list of the Best Places for Business and Careers and No. 1 on "NerdWallet"'s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2015.
According to the City's 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
A Fort Western Store near S 56th & Nebraska Hwy 2 in Lincoln, NE
The Nebraska Air & Army National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters are located in Lincoln along with other major units of the Nebraska National Guard.
Arts, entertainment, and culture
Lincoln's primary venues for live music include: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Bourbon Theatre, Duffy's Tavern, Knickerbockers, Duggan's Pub (local and regional acts; smaller venues), and the Zoo Bar (blues). The Pla-Mor Ballroom is a staple of Lincoln's music and dance scene, featuring its house band, the award-winning Sandy Creek Band.
Downtown Lincoln at night (14th and O Streets)
The Lied Center is a venue for national tours of Broadway productions, concert music, and guest lectures. Lincoln has several performing arts venues. Plays are staged by UNL students in the Temple Building; community theater productions are held at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, the Loft at The Mill, and the Haymarket Theater.
For movie viewing, Marcus Theatres owns 32 screens at four locations, and the University of Nebraska's Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center shows independent and foreign films. Standalone cinemas in Lincoln include the Joyo Theater and Rococo Theater. The Rococo Theater also hosts benefits and other engagements. The downtown section of O Street is Lincoln's primary bar and nightclub district.
Nebraska State Capitol: designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and constructed between 1922 and 1932. The capitol building is a skyscraper topped by a golden dome. The tower is crowned by a 6-meter (20 ft) statue of a farmer sowing grain on a pedestal of wheat and corn (sculptor: Lee Lawrie), to represent the state's agricultural heritage. City zoning rules prevent any other building from rivaling it in height, making it a landmark not only within the city but for the surrounding area. Inside, there are many paintings and iridescent murals depicting the Native American heritage and the history and culture of the early pioneers who settled Nebraska. It is the second tallest U.S. State Capitol building behind the Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge.
Lincoln has an extensive park system, with over 125 individual parks. The parks are connected by a 131 mi (211 km) system of recreational trails. The MoPac Trail extends through Lincoln. Regional parks include:
Antelope Park: From S. 23rd & "N" Streets to S. 33rd Street & Sheridan Boulevard
Community parks include Ballard Park, Bethany Park, Bowling Lake Park, Densmore Park, Erwin Peterson Park, Fleming Fields, Irvingdale Park, Mahoney Park, Max E. Roper Park, Oak Lake Park, Peter Pan Park, Pine Lake Park, Sawyer Snell Park, Seacrest Park, Tierra Briarhurst, University Place Park and Woods Park.
Smaller neighborhood parks are scattered throughout the city. Additionally, there are five public recreation centers, nine outdoor public pools and five public golf courses (all not including private facilities) in Lincoln.
Law and government
East side of Old City Hall in Lincoln, 1942
Lincoln has a mayor-council government. The mayor and a seven-member city council are selected in nonpartisan elections. Four members are elected from city council districts; the remaining three members are elected at-large. Lincoln's health, personnel, and planning departments are joint city/county agencies; most city and Lancaster County offices are located in the County/City Building.
The city's public library system is Lincoln City Libraries, which has seven branches. Lincoln City Libraries circulates more than three million items per year to the residents of Lincoln and Lancaster County. Lincoln City Libraries is also home to Polley Music Library and the Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska authors.
There are several private parochial elementary and middle schools located throughout the community. These schools, like Lincoln Public Schools, are broken into districts, but most will allow attendance outside of boundary lines.
Lincoln is one of the few cities without its own NBC affiliate; Omaha's WOWT served as the city's default NBC affiliate until recently when Hastings' KHAS-TV moved to KSNB-TV, making both available on cable. Omaha's other television stations can also be picked up in Lincoln with an antenna, and all full-power stations are available on cable.
Lincoln also has an analog TV translator for 3ABN on channel 27, low power digital on channel 26; TBN low power digital on channel 29.
A public bus transit system, StarTran, operates in Lincoln. StarTran's fleet consists of 62 full-sized buses and 13 Handi-Vans. Lincoln is also served by Black Hills Stage Lines for regional bus service between Omaha and Denver.
During the early years of the cold war, the Lincoln Airport was the Lincoln Air Force Base; currently, the Nebraska Air National Guard, along with the Nebraska Army National Guard, have joint-use facilities with the Lincoln Airport. The Lincoln Airport was also among the emergency landing sites for the NASASpace Shuttle.
^Official records for Lincoln kept at University of Nebraska–Lincoln (Weather Bureau) from January 1887 to December 1947, Lincoln Municipal Airport from January 1948 to June 1954, Lincoln University (campus) from July 1954 to August 1955, the Weather Bureau in downtown from September 1955 to August 1972, and at Lincoln Municipal Airport since September 1972.
^Only 20 to 22 years of data were used to calculate relative humidity normals.