A History of North Omaha’s Binney Street

North Omaha’s Kountze Place neighborhood is a wealth of beautiful homes, churches, and historic sites. Omaha banker and investor Augustus Kountze bought these 160 acres of prairie land in the 1870s. With early buyers taking large plots around his, Kountze started laying out lots in the area in the 1880s.

Soon naming it Kountze Place, Augustus made sure Omaha’s early trolleys came right to his new suburb. In short order, he also installed gas street lamps and sidewalks on the main streets, and encouraged all sorts of businesses and institutions to move in. Opening in 1890, he Presbyterian Hospital was an early neighbor. It was only a few years earlier that Omaha’s grand Prettiest Mile Boulevard, later called Florence Boulevard, was laid out right through Kountze’s land, and that didn’t hurt development either.

In the 1890s, Kountze became urgent about growing his neighborhood, and in 1898 he hosted the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in the area. In the next several years, the rest of his neighborhood filled in. In the decade after the Expo, the University of Omaha opened in the neighborhood, along with the Swedish Mission Hospital across the street. Kountze Park was also developed, and the area flourished.


Binney Street’s Roots

Sacred Heart Catholic Church located at 2204 Binney Street in North Omaha’s Kountze Place neighborhood.

Binney Street was one of the early streets in Kountze Place to fill up with beautiful homes. There were reasons for that.

In 1897, Kountze donated land to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church to relocate their church to the site. Moving quickly, their old building stood on the site for only a few years. In 1902, popular Omaha architects Fischer and Lawrie designed the grand gothic, traditionally-laid out building that stands today. Recognized for its significance in 1983, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places then. The church also hosts a school across the street, and a rectory next door.

I mention Sacred Heart first because its beauty reputedly caused the rest of Binney Street to build up quickly after it was done. Many people wanted to live near its regality, and knew that its construction would bring up the value of the neighborhood. It did that precise thing, and through the 1940s the neighborhood’s homes held their value.

Other churches on Binney Street included Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, which built a new building there in the 1890s and left the neighborhood in the 1940s. Established as Omaha’s Black Episcopal church, St. Philip the Deacon built a new structure on Binney Street in 1949. In 1986, they joined another north Omaha church to integrate congregations and launched the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. Immanuel Baptist Church was located at N. 24th and Binney Streets.


Easter Day Tornado of 1913

 

In 1913, the biggest tornado ever to strike Omaha ripped along Binney Street in this area. Many homes along the block were obliterated by the F5 monstrosity, including both grand, whimsical wealthy peoples’ houses, and tiny workers homes. More than other streets in Kountze Place, Binney seemed to be a target.

The picture at the top of this article was taken in 1896. I estimate that of the rooftops shown, more than a dozen were obliterated.

 


Redlining and White Flight

However, Omaha’s racist redlining practices began in earnest in the 1940s, largely bordered by Binney Street. Strict informal and formal guidelines from Sacred Heart’s parish members focused on maintaining their neighborhood’s white chokehold prevented African Americans from moving northward from the Near North Side neighborhood. A neighborhood covenant was imposed, and African Americans were kept out by discrimination from the bankers, real estate agents, insurers and homeowners that controlled the neighborhood’s real estate transactions.
Despite their feelings of supremacy and dominance though, eventually housing discrimination was banned in Omaha and African Americans moved into Kountze Place. Today, the neighborhood is still home to many fine homes, and Sacred Heart Church continues to exist.

 


Fine Homes on Binney Street

The following homes are examples of some of the opulent and more normal houses that were built throughout the neighborhood. They were designed in a number of interesting styles, with a few on the National Register of Historic Places and designated Omaha Landmarks.

Here are some of the homes I think are beautiful. What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts, ideas and opinions in the comments section below!

1512 Binney Street is a grand old lady. Built in 1905, she has four bedrooms and two baths covering 1,600 square feet!

 

Built in 1907, 1612 Binney Street reflects Kountze Place’s fixation with Neo-Classical design. Its not hard to imagine this 1,900 square foot house as a Greek temple!

 

1617 Binney was built in 1915. This beautiful dame has almost 2,000 square feet, including four bedrooms and two bathrooms.

 

Built at 1627 Binney Street in 1916, this Neo-Classical home features stout columns, stonework, and a beautiful, large lawn. It has a grand deck on the rear, and a sweet gazebo in the yard.

 

This Neo-Classical style home at 1624 Binney Street in Kountze Place was built in 1904. Reflecting influences from the Trans-Mississippi Exposition five years earlier, it clearly needs love! But at 2,000 square feet in four bedrooms and with two and a half baths, the possibilities seem endless!

 

1813 Binney Street in has over 2,200 square feet, and was built in 1906.
Built in 1900, this once-grand dame has 2,000 square feet, four bedrooms, two bathrooms.
1819 Binney Street was built in 1888, BEFORE Kountze Place was popular. Stripped of its Eastlake-style details outside, clues from the Douglas County Assessor make me think the inside might be a treasure.

 

Built in 1907, this grand mansion at 1910 Binney Street was probably converted to apartments in the 1920s. Many in North Omaha were. See that four-story tower sticking out?

 

The George H. Kelly House at 1924 Binney Street was built in Kountze Place by architect George Kelly. Its strong Neo-Classical design was named an Omaha Landmark in 1983, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

 

Located at Binney Street and Florence Boulevard, this 3,000 square foot house is STILL high style! Built in 1909, its eclectic style mixes Neo-Classical, Arts and Crafts, and Tudor Renaissance for a beautiful result!

 

2004 Binney Street is a stately brick home built in 1904 in popular Neo-Classical style.

 

Built at 2024 Binney Street, the John P. Bay House was named an Omaha landmark in 1981. Built in 1887, its a jewel in the Kountze Place neighborhood. Built for a wealthy businessman and organizer of Ak-Sar-Ben, its been apartments, an old folks home, and more.

 

2102 Binney Street was designed by popular North Omaha architect Everett S. Dodds and built in 1921. It features a low Prairie-style roofline, a foursquare intention on the exterior and some Italianate flourishes.

 

This home was typical of the Kountze Place neighborhood when it was built in 1892. Built in the Eastlake style, today its a stout, well-maintained home.

 

Once typical in North Omaha, most of this style of duplex has been demolished and now they’re rare in Omaha. Built in 1905 at 2407 Binney Street, this strong lady shows a vernacular design that’s also becoming lost to time.

 

Built in 1895 at 2512 Binney Street, this Eastlake style home has more than 2,000 square feet.
This cross-gable Craftsman house was built in 1900 at 2607 Binney Street. With 1,500 square feet, its not the biggest, but is a GREAT example of this model of home!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour! Feel free to share it with your friends, and leave a comment below. Thanks!

 


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Bonus Pictures!

This is Trinity Methodist Church on Binney Street after the Easter Tornado of 1913.

 

Located at 2031 Binney, the spire on Trinity Methodist Church was demolished by the Easter Tornado of 1913.

 

Students were made to enter through the back door of the Sacred Heart School on Binney Street in the 1940s when this photo was taken.

 

This is the Sunday School at Immanuel Baptist Church, once located at N. 24th and Binney Streets.

 

 

This home at 1805 Binney Street featured 8-rooms, “a good frame” and more. Houses on this section of Binney Street were elaborate, large and often stately.

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