North Omaha has been home to several large mansions and estates, especially in its early years. Built in the grand tradition of the United States’ wealthy families, they were intended to broadcast success, ensure comfort and secure lusciousness right after the pioneer era of young Omaha.
Built throughout the area north of Omaha, these fine homes belonged to real estate moguls, nouveau riche businessmen, and old Eastern inheritors that moved west. Some were elegant and restrained, while others simply oozed money. None of these mansions were built to be accessible, either; instead, they all sat on regal country estates that were determined to be inaccessible to the everyman workers living in the city.
There were even rows of mansions in North Omaha. For instance, on Wirt Street between 18th and 22nd, there were more than a dozen very large houses with many rooms. The Major Wilcox mansion at 2100 Wirt was next to the Weller mansion at 2102 Wirt, which was down the street from the Alfred Jones mansion at 2018 Wirt.
This article is a history of early mansions and country estates in North Omaha.
1. The Redick Mansion
- Built: 1885
- Address: 3612 North 24th Street
- Architecture: Eastlake Style
- Demolished: 1916
- Article: John I. Redick Mansion
The most famous mansion built in North Omaha is probably the Mayne Mansion, also known as the Redick Mansion. The house had 20 rooms total. In 1909, John Redick’s son sold the mansion and a city block’s worth of land to the University of Omaha. They renamed it Redick Hall and used it as their primary building for the five years. In 1916 the University sold the mansion to a resort on Keeley Island on Lake Shetek near Currie, Minnesota. Renamed the Valhalla Pavilion, it burnt down in a fire in 1928.
2. Poppleton Estate
- Built: 1885
- Address: 2232 N. 16th Street
- Architecture: Victorian Gothic Style
- Demolished: est. 1945
- Article: Poppleton Estate
Poppleton was an early lawyer, politician and real estate speculator in Omaha. Serving as a Nebraska Territorial legislator, he was also the second mayor of Omaha. He built his large brick mansion with 15 rooms overlooking the Missouri River valley.
3. The J. J. Brown Mansion
- Built: 1870s
- Address: 2225 Sherman Avenue
- Architecture: Italianate Style
- Demolished: 1911
- Article: J. J. Brown Mansion
A businessman and investor, J. J. Brown ran a wholesaling company in Omaha. With his 12 room mansion on the bluffs along sixteenth, he meant to should the world his wealth. It featured a large porch and 11 foot high ceilings in almost all of the rooms. There was a large drawing room where he hosted his daughter’s high society wedding in 1896. Brown died in 1901. In 1903, the home became the second location for the Wise Memorial Hospital. After they moved in 1908, the mansion was destroyed.
4. McCreary Mansion
- Built: 1876
- Address: 3706 North 24th Street
- Architecture: Italianate
- Demolished: 1926
- Article: The McCreary Mansion
The year after his mansion was finished, McCreary retired to his estate and focused on improving his land. Located immediately north of John Redick’s estate, McCreary had ten acres of land. McCreary started with a two story Italianate style home that had a dozen rooms, just outside the city limits. Popular Omaha builder Francis Dellone and his brother designed and built the home for McCreary. In the 1890s, McCreary added another floor to the house for a total of 15 rooms. In 1905, McCreary sold his home and it became the Swedish Mission Hospital. It was integrated into an expansion of the hospital in 1926, and demolished entirely in 1967.
5. Bailey House
- Built: 1875 estimated
- Address: 1504 North 19th Street
- Architecture: Eastlake Style
- Demolished: 1900 estimated
- Article: The Bailey Residence
Built by an Englishman named Frank Bailey, this home is a fine example of the Eastlake style. Its beautiful features highlight the spectacular beauty of the Eastlake style, which valued ways to manipulate wood into looking beautiful. Its ironic, too: Bailey was one of Omaha’s premier brickmakers, operating a large plant that produced thousands of bricks daily.
6. Mercer Mansion
- Built: 1885
- Address: 3920 Cuming Street
- Architecture: Queen Anne Revival Style
As the chief surgeon of the Union Pacific Railroad, Dr. Samuel Mercer traveled the U.S. and saw many places. When he retired from the railroad, he founded Omaha’s first hospital and got into real estate by developing North Omaha’s exclusive Walnut Hill neighborhood. The jewel of the area was his home, a grand 23-room red brick mansion built in the Queen Anne style. Costing more than $60,000 to build, it features a four story tower and exquisite woodwork throughout the home. In the 1920s, the Victorian trim was removed and the house was subdivided into apartments. However, today the home is still owned by Mercer’s descendents, who are essential to the entire city’s history.
7. Smyth House
- Built: 1906
- Address: 710 North 38th Street
- Architecture: Neo-Classical Revival
The Smyth House was built in 1906 in Omaha’s new Gold Coast District. Still standing today, it includes beautiful gardens under a canopy of 100 year old oak trees, and is the private residence of the Herchenbach family, who purchased the property in August 2013.
8. Governor’s Mansion
- Built: 1876 estimate
- Address: North 16th and Grace Streets
- Architecture: Second Italianate Renaissance
- Demolished: 1972 estimate
- Article: Saunders Mansion
Built by Territorial Governor Alvin Saunders, this fine mansion was built by the last governor as a celebration of his wealth after losing his money during the financial panic of 1873. That year he was forced to sell his downtown home, built during his governorship. He built this one better, using brick and the finest architecture of the period. It may have stood for almost a century afterwards.
9. Nash Mansion
- Built: 1886
- Address: 3806 Burt Street
- Architecture: Queen Anne / Eastlake Style
- Demolished: 1933
This home featured a lot of exquisite woodwork that was typical of the Eastlake style. It had a soaring tower, stately chimneys and beautiful first floor wraparound porch are that was accentuated by second story porches, as well as a grand entry stairway and other beautiful features. The Queen Anne tower came down in a fire in about 1909. The house had been unoccupied since 1928 when Mrs. Nash died.
10. The Dexter Thomas House
- Built: est. 1875
- Address: 958 North 27th Street
- Architecture: Stick Style
- Demolished: 1953
- Article: Thomas Mansion
The Dexter Thomas House was a Queen Anne style mansion built in the 1870s. Highlighting the beauty of wood, the photo above shows the house had beautiful corner posts, lintels, and window frames. Even when the Thomas House sprawls toward the rear, the tall windows and steep roofs keep us looking skyward. There are also carved brackets and spandrels, clipped gable roofs, a detailed sash, and knee-braces on the porch posts. Oh, and the four story tower, there’s that too. The mansion had a long history before its demolition.
11. Stroud Mansion
- Built: 1909
- Address: 5100 Florence Boulevard
- Architecture: Neo-Classical
- Demolished: 1969
- Article: Stroud Mansion
Just after the turn-of-the-century, a wagon maker named T. F. Stroud built a fine Southern-style estate in North Omaha. With more than 1,800 acres, his home was situated off Florence Boulevard north of the old town of Saratoga on Browne Street. The Stroud Mansion was built with at least nine rooms, including six bedrooms. Over the next 50 years, the home switched hands several times and was eventually demolished to make room for the Omaha Housing Authority’s senior home called the Florence Tower.
12. Zabriskie Mansion
- Address: 3524 Hawthorne Avenue
- Architecture: Stick / Eastlake / Queen Anne
One of the first homes in Bemis Park, the Zabriskie Mansion is one of the finest Queen Anne style structures ever in Omaha. Its original owner was a ship officer, American Civil War veteran, Union Pacific general agent and accountant. Multiple wall surfaces, high multiple rooftops, a round turret, straight and round-arched windows and prominent gables and chimneys have been preserved excellently, and today is in excellent condition.
13. Anna Wilson’s House
- Built: 1889
- Address: 2018 Wirt Street
- Architecture: Eastlake / Queen Anne
- Demolished: 1970
- Article: Anna Wilson’s Home
Built by Omaha settler Alfred Jones toward the end of his life, the home at 2018 Wirt Street sat on a 10 acre lot that was covered by fruit trees. Notorious madame Anna Wilson bought it after the turn of the century, filling it with her huge library and fine art, as well as covering the grounds with beautiful flowers and other fineries. When she died in 1911, it was bequeathed to the Omaha Old Folks’ Home, which sold it. The house was then sold several other times before it was demolished.
14. Parker Mansion
- Built: 1854
- Address: 3012 Vane Street
- Architecture: Unknown
- Demolished: 1956
- Article: Parker Estate
Started being built by Florence banker James M. Parker, the Parker Mansion was finished by his son Fred. However, Fred wasn’t satisfied with any part of his father’s estate, including the hundreds of acres he inherited spread throughout North Omaha. He sold most of it off, keeping a 10-acre estate and building a grant museum on the boundary between Florence and Omaha. Sprawling across his compound, there were mystery tunnels, beautiful art and ghost stories surrounding the Parker Estate. It was all dismantled and demolished by 1956 though, and today there’s no trace left.
Mansion 15: The Lantry-Thompson Mansion
- Built: 1891
- Address: 3524 State Street
- Architecture: Queen Anne
- Article: A History of the Lantry – Thompson Mansion
Built by a land speculator named Victor Lantry, the historic Lantry – Thompson Mansion was built in 1891 at 3524 State Street. The 4,000 sf house has 6 bedrooms and sits on 4 acres on land that were originally platted in 1871. Located across the street from Notre Dame at N. 36th and State, it originally sat on a plot of land that had more than 200 acres. Today, it has 4 acres, but retains much of its original beauty.
Mansion 16. The Old Rectory
- Built: 1916
- Address: 6141 Florence Boulevard
- Architecture: Second Spanish Colonial Revival
The Old Rectory is at 6141 Florence Boulevard in the Miller Park neighborhood. Built in 1916 estate along Omaha’s Prettiest Mile, it was a private home for several years. Its most notorious resident was Tom Dennison, Omaha’s boss for several years. For more than 20 years, it was a rectory for Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, ending that job in 1962. In 1981, the Brenners renovated the home and named it The Old Rectory.
Mansion 17. John P. Bay Mansion
Built: 1887 Address: 2024 Binney Street Architecture: Queen Anne
The John P. Bay Mansion was built for an early ice tycoon in Omaha. The 1887 Queen Anne style beauty was designed by architect George L. Fisher, and built in the heart of the fashionable Kountze Place neighborhood. In 1981, it was designated an Omaha Landmark by the City of Omaha Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission.
Mansion 18. The McLain Mansion
Address: 2214 Wirt Street
Article: A History of the McLain Mansion
The McLain Mansion was built for a wealthy Ohio businessman who was a pioneer in Omaha City. J.J. and Mary McLain were Methodist activists who started hospitals and care societies. Their home became the Old Peoples’ Home in the 1890s, and served in that role for 20 years. After becoming the Woodbine Apartments, the building fell into disrepair and was demolished after a fire in 1969.
Mansion 19. Riverview aka Hillcrest
Built: circa 1900
Address: 2811 Caldwell Street
Demolished: circa 1965
Originally called Riverview, this mansion was built around 1900 and was said to be “one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city.” It sat on four lots covered with fruit trees, large shade trees and a fine lawn. The original 10-bedroom house was covered in brick and wood, and there was a new barn, and was near the southwest corner of North 28th and Hamilton Streets.
In 1917, the mansion was renamed Hillcrest and had huge two-story, columned home built in style of a Southern plantation mansion, and originally sat on a 160-acres. By that time, the home had 14 rooms and a dance hall with two indoor bathrooms on a half-acre. There was also a double garage, servants quarters, as well as a large chicken house.
By 1920, the mansion was the home and business of Alfred Jones and his wife, Elnora Brooks Jones. Alfred Jones was a successful African American businessman with “a varied and colorful career” who ran barber shops, cafes, and entertainment businesses as well as real estate and insurance agencies. Elnora Brooks Jones was the first African American graduate of Omaha High School. Starting around 1923, the Jones operated his catering business and a popular cafe at the house. Renting out the mansion as an event space, the residence was the site of parties, concerts, church and social activities through 1936, when Alfred Jones died. From 1940 to 1945, it was a “convalescence home.” By the 1950s the mansion was made into apartments, and stayed that way for a decade.
By 1967, the mansion was gone and the lot was selected to become one of GOCA’s temporary “recreation areas” for poverty-ridden areas.
There have been many, many other mansions and estates in North Omaha that I am only beginning to uncover. The include…
Weller Mansion, 2102 Wirt Street—17 rooms that became the Kountze Place Hospital. In 1919, it sold for $25,000.
Major Wilcox Mansion, 2100 Wirt Street
- An Early History of North Omaha
- Brandeis Summer Country Home
- The Oldest Houses in North Omaha
- The Lost Towns in North Omaha
Special thanks to Micah Evans for his contributions to this article!