J. A. Ware was defeated as the Democrat candidate for the office of State Treasurer by Nebraska City’s James Sweet in 1868 but was elected a trustee of Nebraska College & Divinity School the same year.
In 1869 Ware built a new home on the 70-acre site he had obtained in 1857. The exact quote varies but supposedly his wife did not like the country location and said she “could not live in such a wild wood” which ultimately was adopted as Wildwood as the house’s name. The 10-room, four-bedroom, 1 ½ story, brick, Gothic Revival mansion had interior walls of load-bearing masonry. The floors were partially parqueted, the wallpaper English Victorian, wainscoting was of solid walnut and featured a unique upper floor with lighting partially furnished by small windows on the second floor in place of the usual dormers.
Unfortunately, a recession in 1870-71 hit the real estate market in Nebraska particularly hard, forcing the closure of Ware’s Nebraska City bank. In order to aid his creditors, Ware put the bulk of his personal assets, about $188,000, in their hands which, though it did not totally compensate them, helped to a considerable extent. Ware retired to Wildwood and though he was made the treasurer of the Nebraska City Board of Education, his outside interests largely ended.
On November 21, 1900 J. A. Ware died at Wildwood. After his widow’s death a number of locals joined together to purchase the house and grounds transferring them to the city’s ownership. In 1968 the mansion was restored, three years later opened as a museum and in 1973 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today Wildwood Center is one of 12 Nebraska City museums. With a population of about 7,350 that means there is one museum for every 613 citizens. Lincoln, with a population nearing 300,000 would need to have 490 museums to be in the same class as Nebraska City.
Historian Jim McKee, who still writes with a fountain pen, invites comments or questions. Write to him in care of the Journal Star or at firstname.lastname@example.org