Here are five interesting facts about Fort Omaha.
|A snow-covered Fort Omaha sits quiet in wintertime, circa 1880s.|
Fact One: Fort Omaha Was Built To Make Money.
Omaha had an early banking mogul named Augustus Kountze. He and his brother Herman were determined to make their riches in their adopted boom town, and set out by doing it through loaning money and providing a place for savings to be held.
Their banking eventually allowed them to buy land, which they did across Omaha. Their holdings focused on North Omaha, including the areas that eventually held the posh Kountze Place suburb and Fort Omaha.
As soon as the fort was built out in the 1870s, Kountze’s holdings around the military reservation started to sell. His pockets got swollen and those of his friends were filled, too. Good investment!
When Fort Omaha became the Headquarters for the Department of the Platte in 1878, it covered land from the Missouri River into Montana and from Canada to Texas. More of Omaha’s land became valuable, and Kountze’s other holdings beyond North Omaha developed, too.
|Before balloons, Fort Omaha was home to the US Army Dirigible Unit in the early 1900s.|
Fact Two: Fort Omaha Has A Vital Place In American History.
Fort Omaha was the first place in the United States of America that Native Americans were recognized as human beings by the law.
|Here are US Army Military Police from Fort Omaha circa 1900, courtesy of the Douglas County Historical Society.|
Fact Three: Fort Omaha Was An Experimentation Site For Technology That Didn’t Last.
In 1916, became home to the United States Army’s American Expeditionary Section’s brand new balloon unit. The Fort Omaha Balloon School had two hangers on the south end of the military reservation, along with a launching and landing ground called Florence Field.
|Here’s a dashing group of US Army motorcyclists circa WWI.|
Fact Four: Fort Omaha Was A Prison Camp.
|The US Army Balloon Corps School was held at Fort Omaha.|
Fact Five: Barely Anybody Actually Cared About The Fort.
In 1947, command of the Fort was given to the Navy. Soon after, the Fort was named a Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center. In 1951 Fort Omaha was designated the U.S. Naval Personnel Center, a role it continues to play today.
The rest of the Fort was given to Metro Community College in the 1970s, and as they say, the rest is history!
|US Army Signal Corps soldiers practice at Fort Omaha circa WWI.|
Fact Six: Miller Park Racists Hated US Army Troops
According to the Omaha World-Herald, a regiment of Black soldiers was stationed at Fort Omaha. White people in the surrounding neighborhood protested a lot, writing letters to the newspaper and their elected officials. African American community leaders and politicians took it upon themselves to sound out loudly on behalf of the troops. Nebraska State Legislator John Singleton worked with Gene Thomas, a past commander of the Legion Post of Spanish War Veterans, and others to promote the inclusion of the troops there. The neighborhood eventually shut up.
Today, Fort Omaha is in the middle of a massive construction boom and expansion, due to investment from MCC. Its exciting to see what the future holds, but important to remember what was truly interesting from its history.