A History of the Viking Ship in North Omaha

Enlargement of Miller Park pond photograph shows bridge near Prettiest Mile Clubhouse by Bostwick and Frohardt in 1917 at North Omaha, Nebraska

Suburbs need social clubs, and social clubs need swingin’ good fun! North Omaha’s Viking Ship was that place for more than 50 years before turning into a quasi-community center. Here’s the history of the Viking Ship, aka Birchwood Club aka The Prettiest Mile Club.


2582 Redick Avenue through the years: 1916 Prettiest Mile Club; 1946 Birchwood Club; 2014 Viking Ship.

As Omaha grew, it grew suburbs. The first master planned development in the city in North Omaha. It was called Minne Lusa after Spanish fur trader Manuel Lisa.

Owned and built by Omaha investor Charles Martin, the community was designed by architect Everett S. Dodds, he also designed the majority of houses in it. Martin wanted a social hall for his neighborhood, and Dodds conceived of a Spanish Colonial Revival style building at the intersection of Redick and Minne Lusa Boulevard.

Opened as the Prettiest Mile Club in 1916, for almost the last 100 years the building has been host to all sorts of activities, including a dinner club, social clubs, Scouts, card clubs, fraternities, sororities, conferences, football teams, cheerleading clubs, and conventions, weddings, reunions, parties, and much, much more.

When I was a youth, there were a lot of things I got involved in at the Viking Ship. There was a time when my dad was a janitor for the building, spending his energy cleaning the messes from parties and laboring over the decrepit old shell.  I tried boxing for a little while when I was 12, following my brother there several nights a week for a few hours. Old Gus held the punching bag and barked orders while my brother laughed at my sorry attempts to become Rocky. I remember my sisters taking gymnastics there for a while, and more than one organized dance being held in the main part of the building for youth. I remember seeing behind panels at hidden old parts of the building and wondering what was there, all the way back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This is my homage to the curious mind I had back then. Please share your memories, thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

The Prettiest Mile Club

Prettiest Mile Club, North Omaha, Nebraska
A women’s social club at the Prettiest Mile Club around 1918. Courtesy of the Minne Lusa House.

Located at 2680 Redick Avenue, the three-story building is 48 wide by 80 feet long. It originally included a gym, bowling lanes and a card room; a dining room, general parlor, and two small rooms for women’s parties, and a full kitchen. The third floor was an enormous wood floor ballroom with two chimneys, and there was a gorgeous oak spiral staircase winding upwards. Clubs and fraternities, sororities and associations from across Omaha would meet there to enjoy the atmosphere, the view of Miller Park lake and the exclusivity of their suburban dreamland known as The Prettiest Mile Club.

The Birchwood Club

The Birchwood Club 2582 Redick Avenue North Omaha Nebraska
Pictured here area group picture at the Birchwood Club entrance in the 1960s; the ballroom on the second floor in the 1940s; the restaurant at the Birchwood Club in the 1950s; and the pool in the early 1960s.

In 1930, the Prettiest Mile Club was purchased by a fraternal organization that ran it for a number of years. It was renamed the Birchwood Club, and operated under that name through the 1960s. A swimming pool and outdoor lounge area was also added during this time. At this point, the Birchwood Club started acting like a recreation center for families.

The swimming pool had remodeled locker rooms that were connected to the pool area. The pool had a large deck area, umbrellas, landscaping and a decorative fence.

On the basement floor, four bowling alleys and another lounge were added. They were are available to members for open bowling and for league play. A new bar and tables were also added.

During this era, the dinner club at Birchwood Club was managed for a time by Dave Hayden. Hayden also ran restaurants at the Omaha Airport and Union Station, both called Hayden House, and Hayden himself was highly respected.

In 1957, The Omaha Press Club held its first dinner show at the Birchwood Club. This was a typical event in those years.

The Viking Ship

This is the Viking Ship in North Omaha circa 1956.

After the building was largely abandoned for a period of time, June Blair and her family purchased it in the 1970s. After remodeling it they renamed the building The Viking Ship. The ballroom became a gymnasium for gymnastics; the main floor is rented out as a party hall. The basement was remodeled once as a workout gym and a boxing club. Cheerleading and community meetings happened for a long time there, too.


Viking Ship, Minne Lusa Blvd and Redick Avenue, North Omaha, Nebraska
The Viking Ship as it appeared in 2015.

Today the Viking Ship struggles to survive. June Blair, who has owned the building with her husband since the late 1970s, was on a television news interview recently to declare the building is in dire straits. The same interview shared the story of the boxing gym moving out, and showed the building in an abysmal state.

Searching the internet, I found a past fundraising effort that apparently secured $650 out of $40,000 needed to reroof the building. It had pictures of the building falling apart on the interior and exterior.

So this post is to help the world see what the Viking Ship has been, and hopefully to inspire people to consider what it could become. What do you think?

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online

Bonus Pics!

This is the Prettiest Mile Club in North Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1920.
This is the Prettiest Mile Club in North Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1920.
Birchwood Club, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the interior of the Birchwood Club in the 1950s, courtesy of the Minne Lusa House.
Birchwood Club Pool, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is an architect’s drawing of the pool at the Birchwood Club circa 1950.
Birchwood Club Bowling, North Omaha, Nebraska
A photo of the Birchwood Club bowling lanes circa 1940, courtesy of the Minne Lusa Messenger
Birchwood Club, North Omaha, Nebraska
A 1934 article announcing the beginning of the Birchwood Club’s winter season with a Thanksgiving dance. It was “one of the largest social events of the season in North Omaha.”


  1. Love this elegant structure. .As a young girl we would go and enjoy the pool and years later..joined the pool each summer..Was so great to have for our family and son's friends…worked at ConAgra and could get home after work change and got hit that refreshing water…
    Jerry Luedtke was running the place and a couple of his daughters were lifeguards..a very special place…love to see her fixed back up….now how much $$$..Is needed to achieve this goal…


  2. The inside is in better shape than the outside. We have remodeled the mens bathroom but to get all floors remodeled & outside painted & fixed it would take at least $50,000.00. I have people that work for a low wage & do good work. The pool area will most likely be turned into a garden. The cost of pool maintenance is too great for membership. When it was opened, the neighbors were not joining in enough numbers. When they fixed the lagoon, the tamping broke the pipes. The recent FB fundraiser gave us about $11,000.00. It will all be used for repairs! This is the 40th Anniversary year of the VS opening. We need to raise $40,000.00!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi June, and thanks for your note. Let me know if there are any additions, corrections or other information I need to add to this history? I want to make sure I’m doing right by you and your family’s hard work over the last 40 years!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s