The W.C. Shinn Lofts – An Electrifying History
On October 6, 1908, the City of Lincoln issued a building permit to W.C. Shinn for construction of a 50 x 100 foot brick factory just north O Street. The estimated cost of the finished building was $10,000.
The building served as a warehouse and manufacturing center for the W.C. Shinn Lightning Rod Company. The Shinn lightning protection system — called the Shinn Flat —featured a flat mesh of copper wires that safely conducted electricity attracted by a lightning rod to the ground. Lighting rods were popular in rural areas where farm houses, barns and silos standing alone on the prairie were frequently hit by lightning.
From the mid-1800s until the depression, salesmen traveled throughout the Midwest demonstrating the dangers of lighting and the effectiveness of lighting protection systems. They often used “thunder machines” to make their point. These effective machines generated a small electric charge that struck a miniature house or farm.
Lightning protection systems are still used today, but the ornate rods with weather vanes and glass balls are now mostly collector’s items. You can see a display of these items, many imprinted with the W.C. Shinn logo, on display in the lobby of the W. C. Shinn Lofts.
Historical photographs courtesy of Ed Zimmer, Historical Preservation Planner, City of Lincoln.