A History of North Omaha’s Immanuel Hospital

Immanuel Hospital, N. 34th and Meredith Ave., North Omaha, Nebraska

For more than 80 years, a massive Lutheran healthcare center operated in North Omaha. Started in 1887 by Rev. Erik A. Foglestrom, the original location eventually included a large hospital, nursing school, a retirement home and more. When the campus closed in 1974, there were 17 buildings associated with the institute. This is a history of North Omaha’s Immanuel Deaconess Institute, including Immanuel Hospital and much more.

This is a drawing of the Immanuel Hospital as it appeared in 1889. Special thanks to Ryan Roenfeld for finding this image.

1887: Immanuel Launches

Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the Immanuel Hospital shortly after its completion in 1891.

In 1879, the Rev. Erik Alfred (E.A.) Fogelstrom came to Nebraska to serve the Swedish population in Omaha as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. After touring Europe and visiting Christian hospitals there, Fogelstrom thought consecrated deacons and deaconesses would be useful in new American Lutheranism. His belief was pioneering in the United States, and Omaha was the focus of his action.

His vision included building a medical institution to serve the growing population of North Omaha. On October 8, 1887, Pastor Fogelstrom and others organized the Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Association for Works for Charity. Originally buying twelve lots in the Monmouth Park neighborhood, the institution expanded greatly over the next 80+ years.

Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is an original drawing for what Immanuel Hospital was intended to become, a massive 3-wing behemoth. Two of the 3-wings were built, but this vision was never fully realized.

Pastor Fogelstrom created Immanuel Hospital and Deaconess Motherhouse in Omaha in 1890. After sending women to Philadelphia and Sweden for training as deaconesses, Fogelstrom was determined the engage his Omaha congregation in this work. The Institute served this purpose for more than 75 years.

Immanuel Deaconess Institute postcard North Omaha Nebraska circa 1910
Immanuel Hospital expanded quickly, as shown by this circa 1910 postcard for the Immanuel Deaconess Institute in North Omaha. It shows (from left) the Orphan’s Home, Hospital, Parsonage, Deaconess Home and Nazareth House.

The first step was for the Lutheran Church to serve the old and infirm of the community. Concerned primarily with the Scandinavian and German immigrants in the area, the church located land at N. 34th and Fowler Streets. The Immanuel Deaconess Home for the aged and infirm was opened by 1890 in North Omaha.

By 1891, the hospital was completed and the first four deaconesses began their work at the hospital. There was also a Immanuel Children’s Home built in 1901.

A History of Immanuel Hospital in North Omaha
The orphan houses; the old peoples’ hospital; the new hospital; the old institute building.

1910: First Major Expansion

Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the northwest corner of the Immanuel Hospital in 1910. The car is at the entrance to the hospital.

The community‘s needs outpaced the first hospital, located at 36th and Meredith, and a new hospital was opened in 1910 in the same area. The original building became the Nazareth Home, which served people who were elderly and those who had severe disabilities.

Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the entrance to Immanuel Hospital circa 1915.

The Immanuel Children’s Home was built in 1901 housed 21 girls and 16 boys. It was also called the Home for Children and Child Placement. A second house was built in the 1920s for older children and was called the Bethlehem Children’s Home.

The long, narrow building here is the greenhouse for the Immanuel Deaconess Institute around 1922.

By 1922, the Immanuel institution operated several individual facilities:

  • Immanuel Deaconess Institute
  • Immanuel Hospital
  • Bethlehem / Immanuel Children’s Home
  • Nazareth Home for the Aged Invalid

Each of these has their own history, as well as the collective history of the entire institution.

Immanuel Lutheran Chapel, N. 34th and Fowler, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the Immanuel Lutheran Chapel at N. 34th and Fowler, which operated from 1914 through 1972.

During this era, the Immanuel Chapel was also built. A Lutheran church, it was ministered by Pastor Fogelstrom, and stayed open through the life of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute.

1922 Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
An aerial shot of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute in 1922. There are several major buildings shown here, including the hospital, the teaching school, the greenhouse and the chapel.

1922: Second Major Expansion

The need for hospital beds continued to grow and a third hospital was opened on the 36th and Meredith site in 1926. The first two buildings were remodeled and services for the elderly and those with disabilities were expanded.

 Immanuel Deaconess Institute School of Nursing, North Omaha, Nebraska
The new home of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute School of Nursing was built around 1922. It was located at N. 34th and Meredith, and operated from 1891 to 1974.

Throughout all these years, the Immanuel Deaconess Institute and Hospital maintained its identity as a Swedish institution. In 1927, the Duke of Södermanland, Prince Wilhelm of Sweden. Traveling with dignitaries and others, he toured, ate and reviewed the entire campus in May of that year.

1927 visit of Prince Wilhelm of Sweden at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
Prince Wilhelm, the Duke of Södermanland, of Sweden, stands on the bottom step at the left in this photo from the front of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute during an official state visit in 1927.

The Immanuel Deaconess campus kept expanding this entire time. By 1935, they operated:

  • Immanuel Deaconess Institute, opened in 1890.
  • Immanuel Hospital, opened in 1891.
  • Immanuel Children’s Home, opened in 1901.
  • Bethlehem Children’s Home, opened in 1920.
  • Nazareth Home for the Aged Invalid
  • Immanuel School of Nursing
1932 graduating class of the School of Nursing, Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1932 pic of fifteen graduates of the School of Nursing at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute. They wore white nursing uniforms with white pointed caps, which signified they were nurses with RN degrees. Two graduates on opposite ends of the group wear white nursing uniforms with domed caps fastened around their chins by a strap and bow, which signifies they are both nurses with RN degrees and deaconesses. Shown in the background is the school itself.

The Immanuel Nursing School was a part of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute from the beginning. In 1954, the last major addition to North Omaha’s Immanuel campus was a new building for the school, which was located at North 36th & Larimore.


1937: Third Major Expansion

1944 Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is an aerial photo of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute in 1944. Upper left is the third hospital; the buildings with the spires are the first and second hospitals. The large smokestack towards the bottom belongs to the laundry facility for the institute. Other buildings shown here include the Children’s Home, the Old People’s Home, and the Institute offices. Also pictured in the upper right corner is the original section of the Immanuel School of Nursing, built in 1944 and still standing today.

Toward the end of the Great Depression, the hospital expanded again. North Omaha began an influx of new construction and development that expanded the population greatly into the 1950s, especially in the region west of the hospital’s location. This portended the end of the campus, but that took 30 years more to come.

This linen postcard clipping shows the Immanuel Deaconess Institute Nursing School and the Immanuel Chapel around 1937.

Since the Institute’s opening, the neighborhoods immediately surrounding had filled in completely. These included Monmouth Park, Collier Place and Central Park. Ames Avenue benefited from a streetcar shooting to 42nd and Grand Avenue, and commercial development lined that major street up to the hospital campus and beyond. Omaha North High School was built across Ames from the hospital, and Fontenelle Park became a popular recreation space for baseballers, golfers and strollers, among others.

Immanuel Deaconess Institute greenhouse, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the greenhouse at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute around 1937.

Also during the 1930s, the hospital built a more permanent greenhouse. It was part of the hospital’s longstanding goal of achieving patient health through holistic approaches to the body, which also included Swedish massage and mental health activities. The produce from the greenhouse was used to supplement the hospital’s menu throughout the year, with excess offered to the nurses and hospital staff.

Immanuel Home for the Aged at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a tree-covered view of the Immanuel Home for the Aged located at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute. Originally opened in the 1890s, it was rebuilt around 1937.

Originally called the Nazareth Home for the Aged Invalid when it was opened in 1891, by 1937 the facility was called the Immanuel Home for the Aged. Offering state-of-the-art care for the elderly, it was both a recuperation center and an end-of-life facility.

The Immanuel School of Nursing had a new building constructed in 1944. A smaller building designed in the modern style, it is a brick building with sharp lines and minimal decoration that looked distinctly different from every other building on the campus. Featuring long, narrow hallways the building had mid- and large-sized classrooms ideal for nursing classes.


1950s: Forth Major Expansion

1955 Immanuel School of Nursing and Dormitory, Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North OMaha, Nebraska
This is a 1955 image of the Immanuel School of Nursing and Dormitory at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute just after its expansion was completed.

During the 1950s there was a period of growth and reconstruction, and a six-story hospital wing doubled the size of the hospital. Several other updates were made to the facility, including the addition of new technology developed during and after World War II, including machinery in the operating room and treatment facilities, as well as in the senior living facility.

In 1954, the Immanuel Deaconess Institute added onto the Nursing School with dormitories. There were three floors on the new section, more than doubling the overall capacity of the building. New nurses flurried across the campus and beyond, successfully staffing a new generation of healthcare facilities throughout Nebraska and beyond.

Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is an aerial photo of Immanuel in 1971.

However, the growth came to an end soon afterwards.


1974: Immanuel Transforms

1961 Demolition of the Administration Building of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the 1961 demolition of the administration building at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, which was the original hospital building from 1891.

Originally portrayed as the initial steps of redeveloping the campus, the original hospital at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute was demolished in 1961. It had served as the administration building before that.

However, it soon became clear that planning for the current Immanuel Medical Center began in the early 1960s. In the face of healthcare reform happening in that decade, hospital leaders believed it was apparent that, in order to meet its commitments, the institution would have to expand. Wind-down plans for the facilities at 34th and Meredith were made in the early 1960s, and the present 166-acre site at 72nd and Sorensen Parkway was purchased in 1966.

When it closed permanently in 1974, the campus included 60 lots on five blocks with more than 17 buildings. The buildings located on the campus when it was closed were:

  • Immanuel Deaconess Home
  • Immanuel Deaconess Institute
  • Immanuel Hospital
  • Immanuel Chapel
  • Immanuel Home for the Aged
  • Alfred Bloom Hall
  • Immanuel School of Nursing and Nurses Home

The laundry building, heating plant, original children’s home and the original home for the aged and invalid, as well as several dormitory-style apartment buildings were located nearby, too, as well as a few homes built for institution leaders.


What’s Left

Immanuel School for Nursing, 3483 Larimore Avenue, North Omaha, Nebraska
Originally built in 1944, the Immanuel School for Nursing at North 34th and Larimore was added onto in 1955. It was added to National Register of Historic Places in 2017.

The new Immanuel Medical Center near North 72nd and Sorenson Parkeway opened on June 29, 1974. Recognizing the benefits of alliances in healthcare, Bergan Mercy Health System and Immanuel Medical Center came together to form Alegent Health in June 1996. In 2012, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI Health) assumed control of the Immanuel Medical Center to form an institution that controls 15 acute care hospitals, four behavioral health facilities, two specialty hospitals, over 120 clinics, and multiple health services across the Nebraska and Iowa region.

New Listing on the National Register

In 2017, the last surviving major building of North Omaha’s Immanuel Deaconess Institute was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It served as an alcohol and drug treatment center for more than 40 years called the NOVA (New Options Values and Achievements) Therapeutic Community Partial Care. Located at 3482 Larimore Avenue, the building was abandoned in 2009. Recent plans have included restoring it for use as a senior living center, but nothing has come to fruition yet.

Much of this legacy began in North Omaha. The hyperlocal healthcare provided by this institution is long gone now, with all of the land redeveloped and gone. Immanuel lives on in North Omaha history though, and this has been a little of its history.


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BONUS PICS!

A Google Earth shot of the former Immanuel campus in North Omaha, circa 2015. There are three buildings left from the original site of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, including the School of Nursing, the Orphan’s Home and the Home for the Invalid.
1927 Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
Here’s Prince Wilhelm of Sweden with his entourage while dining at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute during an official state visit in 1927.
Immanuel Deaconess Institute greenhouse, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a picture of the interior of the greenhouse at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute in 1925.
Immanuel Invalid Home, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1926 pic of patients at the Immanuel Invalid Home. Several are sitting in whicker wheelchairs while others stand. There are staff in the pic too.
Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the third Immanuel Hospital around 1940. This building sat in the middle of the campus and featured enlarged ambulance access. Its 1950s expansion included a six-story wing built to the left of this image, nearly doubling the building’s capacity.
1964 Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1964 insurance map of the Immanuel campus, showing the full slate it had become. Some of the marked buildings include: Immanuel School of Nursing; Nurses Home; Deaconess Home; Immanuel Deaconess Institute Administration Building; Hospital; Chapel; Immanuel Home for the Aged; Alfred Bloom Hall. Special thanks to Micah Evans for locating this for me!
1948 Capping Ceremony, Immanuel Deaconess Institute Nursing School, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1948 picture of Immanuel Deaconess Institute’s Nursing School capping ceremony, held on campus in the Bloom Hall auditorium. The nursing students are wearing their full uniforms, including caps and capes, and holding candles.
Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska
This turn-of-the-century postcard shows a dark and broody sky over the three buildings at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute at that time. Pictured are the children’s home, the home for the aged and invalid, and the hospital. Children are walking in from of the orphan home.
Immanuel Hospital, N. 34th and Meredith Ave., North Omaha, Nebraska
This is must of the Immanuel Deaconess Institute including deaconess living quarters, the Bethlehem Children’s Home, and the first hospital.
Immanuel Hospital, N. 34th and Meredith Ave, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1958 aerial pic of the Immanuel Hospital at N. 34th and Meredith Avenue.
Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
This circa 1915 view looks southeast from the Deaconess Home at 34th and Fowler Streets. The large brick building on the right is the second hospital, and the large central smokestack is Institute’s laundry. The orphanage playground is in the lower left-hand corner.
Immanuel Hospital, North Omaha, Nebraska
An insurance map from 1901 showing the blank slate that became a massive institution. Note there are only two buildings here; the others were all built after this point. Special thanks to Micah Evans for locating this!

Published by Adam

I am a speaker, writer and consultant focused on youth engagement. I also share the history of North Omaha, Nebraska.

15 thoughts on “A History of North Omaha’s Immanuel Hospital

  1. In the early 1970's, some of the houses along Larimore had been subdivided into apartments. I was at a party in one of them one night when folks started asking if anyone knew this group of 3 young women. When I asked who they knew there, they admitted no one, they were nursing students who would walk down Larimore looking for a party with lots of guests so go on in. Around that same time, my mom's visiting nurse asked her and I to come and speak to her students about our experiences with my mom's rheumatoid arthritis, which we did, speaking in the building on Larimore behind the hospital. And even earlier than that, my younger brother had to be hospitalized for a wee bit, and my older brother and I would only visit with him by waving at him thru the window of his ground floor hospital room. Before the hospital was bulldozed, there was a catering business operating out of the old cafeteria and a health clinic being operated out of a patient floor. I know there were other areas being used but cannot recall any more detail offhand.

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  2. Thank you so much for this story. I was born there, my mother worked there as a teenager and my grandmother volunteered there. So much family history there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was interesting. I was raised on 33rd Ames Ave and went to sunday school & church there and remember stopping by the childrens ward outside at ground level & waving at them & also my Grandma’s sister was in the old folks home. Lots of memories. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In helping look for my Swedish cousin’s missing aunt Alma Matilda, who family only knew as having left Sweden for “Omhah” in 1889, then was never heard from afterwards, I traced her here.
    My cousin’s will be coming to visit her grave this summer, and would have enjoyed walking the old buildings of Deaconess Home, etc had they still been there. Alma was there throughout all the growth years.
    She’s buried in Forest Lawn as Sister Alma Olofson 1874-1962.

    She was born Alma Mathilda Olofsdotter in Hälla, Risinge, Östergötland. Later, several of Alma’s younger siblings also immigrated to NYC along with my grandmother, their cousin.

    I’m sure my cousin’s will be pleased to see what a lovely place Alma lived in, through the photos in this article. Thanks so much!
    Sincerely,
    Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for letting me know that Kate! I hope that you keep looking for more of Alma’s history. You might check with the Durham Museum in Omaha for more information about the Deaconess Home, too. Best wishes!

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      1. In helping look for my Swedish cousin’s missing aunt Alma Matilda, who family only knew as having left Sweden for “Omhah” in 1889, then was never heard from afterwards, I traced her here.
        My cousin’s will be coming to visit her grave this summer, and would have enjoyed walking the old buildings of Deaconess Home, etc had they still been there. Alma was there throughout all the growth years.
        She’s buried in Forest Lawn as Sister Alma Olofson 1874-1962.

        She was born Alma Mathilda Olofsdotter in Hälla, Risinge, Östergötland. Later, several of Alma’s younger siblings also immigrated to NYC along with my grandmother, their cousin.

        I’m sure my cousin’s will be pleased to see what a lovely place Alma lived in, through the photos in this article. Thanks so much!
        Sincerely,
        Kate

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  5. Sorry about that repeat post above.
    I’m looking to find a guide through the above mentioned cemetery, Deaconess or anyone who may have known Alma.
    Would you suggest anyone I could connect with?
    Thanks!

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  6. In 1950 I was placed with the Immanuel Deaconess Institute for adoption. Sister Helen Eriiksson worked with my new parents, Gus & Frances Anderson of Wahoo, and became a treasured friend. Thank God for the work these wonderful women did for their Lord. Rogene Anderson Gilliland

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    1. Reply to Rogene Gillihand post July 18
      My first cousin once removed Helen Eriksson formerly a deaconess with the Immanuel Deaconess Institute passed away Oct 26th/2017 in Edmonton, Alberta. She was 6 months short of her 100th birthday.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I worked at Immanuel for 7 months in 1956 in the dining room and kitchen of what we then called the “Invalid” home. That is where I learned how special the developmentally disabled can be. Sister Maurine Lindahl was my boss and Sister Astrid Erling was a good friend. I came from a small town in Iowa but at Immanuel I learned to respect the less fortunate. There was an African American young Creighton University student who worked nights and I learned that skin color is just that and there are wonderful people everywhere. I am now 81 years old and have been grateful to Immanuel, the deaconesses, the wonderful patients and the chapel for some necessary life lessons. When I was in Omaha just a few years ago and saw a housing development there now, I couldn’t believe that all those marvelous old red brick buildings were completely gone!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i remember immanuel lutheranchurch and the hospital.we lived at 3034 merridith ave.i remember one year ladies from the church came to our house and brought us kids presents.i remember they dressed like nuns do.do you greet them as sister?i was baptised at the immanuel lutheran church.now the church is in benson.as a kid it was overwhelming looking at the buildings. very fond memories,

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