Architectural Styles in North Omaha

An architectural drawing of North Omaha's Monmouth Park School at N. 33rd and Ames.

Despite its reputation, North Omaha has always been a place for extravagance, embellishment and architectural celebration. Dozens of homes are remarkable today for their illustration of various housing designs that aren’t present throughout the rest of the city, and they deserve to be highlighted. Following is some information about the history of architecture in North Omaha, and some descriptions of popular architectural styles in North Omaha.

North Omaha’s Architectural History

Before reading this, please understand that I am just a fan of architecture, and not an architectural historian or an architect. I have a deep appreciation for North Omaha’s architectural gems, which represent a lot of different designs and usages. I’m also fascinated by conversations about the oldest places in the community, especially the oldest house.

North Omaha has a lot of great history in it’s built environment outside of those places though. Since 1854 (and earlier) there have been notable mansions and estatesspectacular and mundane apartment buildings, significant churchesmassive public housing projects, and lots of commercial buildings, including hotels and more. Its the everyday houses that really interest me though.

A lot of people have greatly impacted the community’s architecture. They include Nebraska’s first African American architect, ‘Cap’ Clarence Wigington. One of the most prolific designers in North Omaha was Everett S. Dodds, who worked with fine architectural craftsman Jacob Maag to fill homes with beauty. George F. Shepard and John F. Bloom were both stoneworkers in the community.

If you’re actually interested in North Omaha’s architecture, you should learn about redlining in Omaha, and about the historic neighborhoods that fill the community. No understanding of the community’s housing is truly complete without understanding the histories of streetsstreetcars and industry though.

Following is are some details about the architectural styles throughout North Omaha.

Style 1. Eastlake – Stick

This isEdgar Zabriskie House 3524 Hawthorne Avenue Bemis Park Landmark Heritage District North Omaha Nebraska.
This is a 2011 picture of the Edgar Zabriskie House at 3524 Hawthorne Avenue in the Bemis Park Landmark Heritage District.

The Eastlake-Stick style was popular during the High Victorian era from 1860 to 1890. Making craftsmanship obvious and celebrating details, the Eastlake-Stick style of architecture layered homes with fancy woodwork on the outside and inside of the home. Dense hardwoods were used for clapboard and lattice, doorways and windows, as well as fish scale siding, twisted railings, extravagant cornices and much more.

Most of the examples of this style have been destroyed across North Omaha. However, one of the best remaining examples is the Edgar Zabriskie House in the Bemis Park Landmark Heritage District. It was built in 1889. Other elegant Eastlake-Stick style homes were once found throughout the Near North Side, along Florence Boulevard, Bemis Park, Orchard Park, Bedford Place, Kountze Place, Florence and many other neighborhoods.

Style 2. American Foursquare

The American Foursquare style is obvious throughout North Omaha. This is Spencer Street between North 27th and North 26th Streets.
The American Foursquare style is obvious throughout North Omaha. This is Spencer Street between North 27th and North 26th Streets.

North Omaha’s predominant historical housing structure style may be the American Foursquare. Popular from the 1890s through the 1930s, the American Foursquare style homes were simple, large homes for lower middle class families. Basically square, they were two and 1/2 stories tall with a very boxy design. Every American Foursquare house has a pyramidal roof. They featured a dormer in the center of the roof and often had a large front porch with wide stairs. Usually with arched entries between common rooms inside, they also had built-in cabinetry and Craftsman-style woodwork.

Many of the American Foursquare homes in North Omaha were built as Sears houses, with complete kits shipped straight through the community on the Belt Line Railway, and then trucked into the neighborhoods. These homes can be found in several neighborhoods, including the Minne Lusa, Miller Park, Saratoga, Kountze Park, Near North Side, Long School, Highlander, Prospect Hill, Walnut Hill, Orchard Hill, Fontenelle, and Belevedre, among others.

Style 3. Arts & Crafts and Craftsman

Charles Storz House, 1901 Wirt Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
North Omaha’s Charles Storz House at 1901 Wirt Street is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The Arts and Crafts style highlighted handmade elements within and outside houses that featured various woods and emphasized sturdiness and permanency. Simple, fine hand-crafter woodwork and other craftsmanship was everywhere in these homes, including the design as well as the fixtures, fabrics, furnishings and more. There are exposed beams the interiors of the homes, along with exposed rafter ends and eave brackets outside, holding up roofs with wide overhangs. Charles Storz’s North Omaha home was built in the Arts and Crafts style. Its located near North 23rd and Wirt Streets.

The entire North Omaha community was infilled with the popular, mass manufactured Craftsman style homes between 1910 and 1940, with one such example at 2448 Crown Point Ave. These homes, smaller than their Arts and Crafts cousins, were generally single-story, with many of the same features as the larger versions. However, they were mass-produced by the Sears and Roebucks Corporation, and have many repeating features. Other companies mass produced this style of home and those were built throughout North Omaha, too.

Style 4. Colonial Revival

Charles Martin House, 4811 Florence Boulevard, North Omaha, Nebraska
This magnificent North Omaha Colonial Revival style home is at 4811 Florence Boulevard.

As you drive along Florence Boulevard, many historic styles pop out. One of the most distinguished is called Colonial Revival. This style of house was most popular nationally during the 1940s. However, several in North Omaha predate that decade. Most of them have rectangular shapes and symmetrical appearances. They look like Colonial-era houses, bringing together columned entries, columns and more. Sometimes they will have full-width porches with slender classical columns, an front door that shines through and six or eight pane windows. This North Omaha example is on Florence Boulevard north of Ames Avenue.

Style 5. Commercial Vernacular

Woerner Wire Works, 3008 Evans Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
The Commercial Vernacular style of the old West is obvious at North Omaha’s Woerner Wire Works at 3008 Evans Street.

One of my favorite styles of buildings in North Omaha is called Commercial Vernacular. Old commercial style buildings in North Omaha were built between 1860 and 1910, with flat roofs, flat fronts and few details or ornamentation. This example is located at N. 30th and Evans Street.

Style 6. Italianate

General Crook House North Omaha Nebraska 68111
Located at the intersection of West Road and Middle Road in Fort Omaha, the General Crook house was built in 1879 in the Italianate style.

From the 1870s through the 1890s, the Italianate style was all the rage in Omaha for houses and commercial buildings. In homes, they were either square, rectangular, or L-shaped. They had two-stories with low-pitched roofs and wide eaves and tall narrow windows. There were usually small front porches, and sometimes a cupola on the roof. Few of these homes remain in all of Omaha. One of the hotbeds is Fort Omaha, where the officers quarters were in this style. The example here is North Omaha’s General Crook’s house.

Style 7. Late Gothic Revival

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 2218 Binney Street North Omaha, Nebraska
Late Gothic Revival is finely shown at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 2218 Binney Street in North Omaha.

Built like the European churches and castles of the Middle Ages, the Late Gothic Revival style brought major English and French work to the United States. Heavy buildings, these schools, houses and churches, often used heavy bricks and other masonry. They can look like mini-castles, and often have towers or other battlements. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is a perfect example of what this looked like in North Omaha at N. 22nd and Binney Streets.

Style 8. Neo-Classical

The Sherman apartments, 2501 N. 16th St., North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a recent picture of The Sherman, located at 2501 North 16th Street. It reflects the Chicago World Fair’s commitment to Neo-Classical design, live in North Omaha right now!

Built in 1897, The Sherman apartments were one of Omaha’s first apartment buildings. Built just a few years after the monumental Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, they were designed in the Neo-Classical Revival style. Made to echo the ancient Greek and Roman architectural orders, there are pedimented porticos, large-scale columns, and frequent arches throughout. The Sherman is symmetrical, as are more Neo-Classical Revival styled buildings. Buildings are usually symmetrically arranged and are often of large proportion. Other buildings in the area in this style include the former Calvin Presbyterian Church building along N. 24th Street, and the John E. Reagan house in the Kountze Place neighborhood.

Style 9. Prairie School

St John AME Church 2402 N 22nd St North Omaha Nebraska 68111
Designed in 1921 by Frederick S. Stott at 2402 North 22nd Street, St. John AME Church is a rare example of post-1915 Prairie Style architecture.

North Omaha’s St. John’s AME Church is a stellar example of Prairie Style architecture. With low, horizontal proportions and sheltering overhangs, the church has a stone belt course that highlights the horizontality of the building’s design. The Bethlehem Baptist Church at N. 21st and Browne reflects this style, too.

Style 10. Queen Anne

John P. Bay House, 2024 Binney Street, Kountze Place, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the John P. Bay House at 2024 Binney Street in the Kountze Place neighborhood. Built in the Queen Anne style, it is in the heart of North Omaha.

The Queen Anne style sought to exude opulence and success. With turrets, dormers, a number of chimneys and wide, wraparound porches, they were obvious and immodest. One of the most lavishly designed homes in North Omaha, the John P. Bay House, is a prime model of the Queen Anne style. Its asymmetrical, picturesque and uninhibited. Popular in the late 1800s, Queen Annes showed the world how successful families were becoming.

Style 11. Romanesque Revival

Holy Family Catholic Church, 1715 Izard Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
North Omaha’s Romanesque style Holy Family Catholic Church is at N. 18th and Izard.

With semi-arched windows and doors, the Romanesque style was popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. With a massive, solid feel, the use of turrets added to the strength of this style. The Holy Family Catholic Church is pictured here. I also like the houses on Izard at N. 18th Streets. Beautifully designed, they are late 1890s and proud of it.

Style 12. Spanish Renaissance Revival

Spanish Influenced Architecture in North Omaha, Nebraska
Spanish-influence architecture in North Omaha includes the St. Cecilia Cathedral and several other structures.

Tucked away in North Omaha’s Florence neighborhood is a fine residential example of the Spanish Renaissance Revival Style that was all the rage across the U.S. in the 1920s. The style includes curvy gables, small niches around the buildings, tile roofs, and decorative carvings and moldings. Houses are generally stucco-walled with tile roofs. The Fred M. Crane House at 6141 Florence Boulevard has a Spanish Colonial design that is distinct in the community. There are other fine examples scattered across North Omaha, including the Minne Lusa neighborhood and others.

Style 13. Art Deco & Art Moderne

These are examples of Art Deco style structures in North Omaha that are “hidden in plain sight.”

Art Deco takes its name from a French expo in 1925 where architects started using its stylized approaches in residential, commercial and public uses immediately. In North Omaha, one linear of this style is located at N. 25th and Ames Ave. on a former commercial addition. The geometric lines, rounded corners and subtle details. The former fire station at 2202 Ames Ave. was designed in the Art Deco style, too.

Style 14. Mid-Century Modern

1815 John A. Creighton Boulevard, North Omaha, Nebraska
This exceptional Mid-Century Modern style ranch home is located at 1815 John A. Creighton Boulevard.

Popular in Omaha from the 1940s through the 1970s, the Mid-Century Modern style was futuristic and functional. Every part of the home was affected by this style, including the interior design, furniture and decoration, and the actual mechanics of the home, including central vacuums and air conditioning. While many west Omaha developments encapsulated Mid-Century Modern in every home, this style was relatively rare in North Omaha, and the remaining structures in this design are few and far between. The Mid-Century Modern style is obvious in North Omaha’s St. Richard’s Catholic School and Rectory and in an exceptional ranch style home located at 1815 John A. Creighton Boulevard.

Style 15. Period Revival Styles

Margaret Apartments, 2103 N. 16th Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the Margaret Apartments at 2103 N. 16th Street. Built in 1916, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

North Omaha is also packed with Period Revival style structures. Built between the turn of the century and World War Two, they were built to look like buildings from across the U.S. and around the world, both in modern times and older ones, too. These houses, and others, include unusual and picturesque appearances, with different shapes and materials projecting different effects as the builder thought was important. Styles throughout the community include some of the following:

  • The Buford House at 1804 N. 30th Street was built in an adapted Tudor style, along with the Miller Park pavilion further north on N. 30th St. A smaller version of the Tudor style is called the Minimal Traditional, with a prime example located at 5337 North 25th St.
  • The Margaret Apartments along N. 16th are a simplified example of Jacobean style.
  • Dutch Colonial Revival house is located at 5024 Florence Boulevard, with several others in the neighborhood surrounding it.

There are a few neighborhoods that offer a mix of all of these, or several. Perhaps the jewel for mixing them is the Minne Lusa Historic District, which includes more than 400 homes built before WWII. It has a tremendous wealth of beauty and utility, and is affordable for many modern families. For a more historical example of how these home styles mixed, check out my Wirt Street Home Tour. This summary of North Omaha’s architectural styles can offer students of history, architecture and sociology an interesting study. With affordability, a premier location and spectacular construction, there is hope for all these buildings and many more  than weren’t included. I hope you’ll take initiative and discover more of North Omaha beyond this entry – then write to me and share what you’ve found!

Please leave any comments, including ideas and criticisms, below! Thanks.

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Bonus Pics!

Here are some of the catalogue pages for Sears Catalogue houses that can be found across North Omaha. They reflect many of the styles mentioned above. These homes arrived in the community between 1908 and 1940, they were ordered through the mail and sent to Omaha via railroad. Coming as completely cut, ready to build packages, they would travel along the Belt Line Rail Road, and then be trucked to the neighborhoods.

The Avalon by Honor Bilt was one of the many Sears house designs popular in North Omaha. With six bedrooms and a bathroom, it was available for $2,598 and arrived ready to build.
The Avalon by Honor Bilt was one of the many Sears house designs popular in North Omaha. With six bedrooms and a bathroom, it was available for $2,598 and arrived ready to build.
This is the Crescent, an Honor Bilt design from the 1920s.
This is the Crescent, an Honor Bilt design from the 1920s.
The Dover was a Sears Honor Bilt house, with similar versions apparent throughout North Omaha.
The Dover was a Sears Honor Bilt house, with similar versions apparent throughout North Omaha.
Sears catalogue house in North Omaha
The Shelbourne is similar to many of the homes in the Saratoga neighborhood in North Omaha, between Florence Blvd and the highway, north of Ames.
Sears catalogue page - The Fullerton design
The Fullerton was either very popular or very influential in North Omaha, as homes identical to it can be seen throughout the community.
North Omaha History Normal House History Series
Click here to learn more about the North Omaha History Normal House History Series »
Omaha Fire Department station #4, N. 22nd and Ames Avenue, North Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha Fire Department station #4 is shown here in this circa 1920s pic. This is a ladder truck emerging from the building onto Ames Avenue.


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