Founded in 1872, the city was named for Colonel D. T. Hastings who was instrumental in building the St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad railroad through Adams County.
During the decade of the 1880s Hastings [†] grew from a raw prairie town into a city. The Kerr Opera House was built in 1884, the Bostwick Hotel opened in 1885, Parkview Cemetery and the city water works were established in 1886. Large brick blocks, including the 1886 Masonic Temple block, were constructed downtown. Hastings, like much of Nebraska, owed its existence to railroads and railroad fever was raging. By 1887 five railroads served Hastings and there were rumors of several more to come.
In 1887 Hastings experienced a huge real estate boom fueled by speculation of railroad construction. From January to March, transfers of land ranged from $50,000 to$ 100,000 a day. Lots that sold in February for $300 to $500 increased to $1,200 to $1,800 each in June. Hastings was filled with speculators from the East. In July the boom ended. Prices declined by as much as 75 percent; and a number of Hastings businessmen left town to try to recover their fortunes elsewhere.
During the mid 1890s Hastings along with much of the country suffered a depression. A number of businesses and industries closed,and the farm population as well as that of Hastings declined. Mortgages on many of the large homes constructed during the boom of the 1880s were foreclosed and some houses stood empty. Several vacant houses were moved outside the city.
† Elizabeth Spilinek, Adams County Historical Society, nomination document, 2003, Central Hasings Historic District, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.