Much the same as today, Omaha was culturally segregated in the early 20th century. Jim Crow was a specter in the city in many ways, including its hospitals, schools, eating establishments and hotels. This article is a history of Black hotels in Omaha.
Jim Crow in Omaha Hotels
The grandiose histories written about Omaha highlight early hotels, but don’t often mention that they discriminated against African Americans. However, places like the Grand Central Hotel, the Cozzens Hotel, the Herndon House were all segregated. Black people were simply not allowed to stay at them.
Later hotels in Omaha like the Fontenelle, the Blackstone, and the Flatiron Hotel were all segregated, too. Only very famous Black people were allowed to stay at them. Other Black travelers couldn’t stay in downtown Omaha, including sports stars and entertainers, as well as the average African American traveler for business or personal reasons. People had to have places to sleep.
Black-Owned or Operated Hotels in Omaha
In a segregated city like Omaha, the only option for Black people was to own their own hotels for Black travelers and others to stay at. Black entrepreneurs opened their homes or bought facilities just to make money off travelers who needed their places to stay.
According to a 1938 interview with Henry W. Black from the U.S. Congress, the first hotel for African Americans in Omaha was opened and run in 1890. It was called the Lewis Hotel, and was located at North 10th and Capitol Streets. Mr. Lewis ran the hotel, and was active in the music scene.
From 1936 to 1966, Omaha had several hotels friendly to African Americans listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book. They were presumably Black-owned, too. Black musicians, actors, and performers stayed at these hotels, as well as Black businesspeople and other travelers.
According to an interview conducted by the University of Nebraska History Harvest, after the Civil Rights movement some musicians reminisced about the jam sessions that happen at these hotels, and the “sense of ‘togetherness’ they felt when they stayed there.”
The Broadview, located at 2060 Fontenelle Blvd., was listed as “Omaha’s finest” in tourist books for African Americans. The Patton Hotel was a popular institution that was located downtown for 35 years, then moved to North 24th and Erskine. Its operator, Minnie Patton, was a community socialite who lived until she was 99-years-old.
In addition to the Broadview and Patton, there were two other Black-friendly hotels listed in the Green Book. The Walker Hotel, shown above, was a repurposing of the original Jewish Old Folks Home and was located at 2504 Charles Street.
Over the years before and after the Civil Rights Movement, there were several Black hotels in Omaha. The following list is according to when the hotels opened.
- Lewis Hotel (1890-1896), 1048 Capital Avenue
- Hotel Cuming (1915-1928), 1916 Cuming Street (also called Hotel Cummings)
- Broomfield Hotel (1915-1917), 116-118 South 9th Street
- Patton’s Hotel, originally at 1014, 1016, 1018 South 11th Street (1915-1947), then at 2425-2427 Erskine Street (1947-1961)
- Warden Hotel (1917-1920), 817 North 16th Street
- Booker T. Washington Hotel (1917-1922), 1719 Cuming Street and 523 North 15th Street
- Lee Von Hotel (1918-1929), 2212 Seward Street
- Dee Gee Apartments (1919-1923), 2020-24 Burt Street
- Broadview Hotel (1932-1935), 2060 North 19th Street
- Calhoun Hotel (1946-1962), 2423 Lake Street
- Walker Hotel (1946-1962), 2405 Charles Street
- Willis Hotel (1946-1961), 2423 North 22nd Street
- Central House Hotel, Saratoga (North 24th and Grand Avenue)
- John Bell Hotel, 1310 Howard Street
- New Lamar Hotel (1924-1927), 1803 North 24th Street
According to Love’s Jazz and Art Center, musicians such as Cab Calloway stayed at Myrtle Washington’s boarding house at North 22nd and Willis while others stayed at Charlie Trimble’s at 22nd and Seward.
Black-Owned Tourist Homes in Omaha
Over the twenty years the Green Book was published, there were other options for African American travelers besides hotels. Throughout the years were called boarding rooms, Tourist Homes and rental rooms. Some of the ones listed in Omaha included:
- 2220 Willis Ave., operated by Mrs. Louis Strawther
- 2211 Ohio St., operated by Mrs. M. Smith
- 2207 N. 25th St., operated by Miss Willa Mae Anderson
- 2228 Willis Ave., operated by G. H. Ashby
- 2324 N. 22nd St., operated by Myrtle Washington
- 2619 Caldwell St., operated by Dave Brown
- 2010 Lake St., Mrs. Mary Overall
- 2530 Maple St., Mrs. C.H. Hicks
- 2817 Florence Blvd, The Johnson House
- 2020 Burt St., Dee Gee Apartment
Having radios and televisions were big innovations for these homes, and the proprietors strove to meet their customers’ needs. Today, there are no historical markers, memorials or other emphases placed on Omaha’s history of Black-owned hotels.
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My Articles About Black Hotels in Omaha: The Calhoun Hotel | The Willis Hotel | The Broadview Hotel | The Warden Hotel | New Lamar Hotel
MY ARTICLES ABOUT SEGREGATION IN OMAHA:
Omaha Black-Owned Businesses | Segregated Schools | Segregated Hospitals | Segregated Hotels | Segregated Churches | Segregated Newspapers | Segregated Baseball
MY ARTICLES ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS IN OMAHA
General: History of Racism | Timeline of Racism
Events: Juneteenth | Malcolm X Day | George Smith Lynching | Will Brown Lynching | North Omaha Riots | Vivian Strong Murder | Jack Johnson Riot
Issues: African American Firsts in Omaha | Police Brutality | North Omaha African American Legislators | North Omaha Community Leaders | Segregated Schools | Segregated Hospitals | Segregated Hotels | Segregated Sports | Segregated Businesses | Segregated Churches | Redlining | African American Police | African American Firefighters
People: Rev. Dr. John Albert Williams | Edwin Overall | Harrison J. Pinkett | Vic Walker | Joseph Carr | Rev. Russel Taylor | Dr. Craig Morris | Mildred Brown | Dr. John Singleton | Ernie Chambers | Malcolm X
Organizations: Omaha Colored Commercial Club | Omaha NAACP | Omaha Urban League | 4CL (Citizens Coordinating Committee for Civil Rights) | DePorres Club | Omaha Black Panthers | City Interracial Committee | Providence Hospital | American Legion | Elks Club | Prince Hall Masons | BANTU
Related: Black History | African American Firsts | A Time for Burning
MY ARTICLES ON THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE IN NORTH OMAHA
GENERAL: Architectural Gems | The Oldest House | The Oldest Places
PLACES: Mansions and Estates | Apartments | Churches | Public Housing | Houses | Commercial Buildings | Hotels
PEOPLE: ‘Cap’ Clarence Wigington | Everett S. Dodds | Jacob Maag | George F. Shepard | John F. Bloom
HISTORIC HOUSES: Mergen House | Hoyer House | Campion House | North Omaha’s Sod House | James Comey Mitchell House | Charles Storz House | George F. Shepard House | 2902 N. 25th St. | 6327 Florence Blvd.
PUBLIC HOUSING: Logan Fontenelle | Spencer Street | Hilltop | Pleasantview | Myott Park aka Wintergreen
NORMAL HOUSES: 3155 Meredith Ave. | 5815 Florence Blvd. | 2936 N. 24th St. | 6711 N. 31st Ave. | 3210 N. 21st St. | 4517 Browne St. | 5833 Florence Blvd. | 1922 Wirt St. | 3467 N. 42nd St. | 5504 Kansas Ave. | Lost Blue Windows House
HISTORIC APARTMENTS: Historic Apartments | Ernie Chambers Court, aka Strehlow Terrace | The Sherman Apartments | Logan Fontenelle Housing Projects | Spencer Street Projects | Hilltop Projects | Pleasantview Projects | Memmen Apartments | The Sherman | The Climmie | University Apartments
MANSIONS & ESTATES: Hillcrest Mansion | Burkenroad House aka Broadview Hotel aka Trimble Castle | McCreary Mansion | Parker Estate | J. J. Brown Mansion | Poppleton Estate | Rome Miller Mansion | Redick Mansion | Thomas Mansion | John E. Reagan House | Brandeis Country Home | Bailey Residence | Lantry – Thompson Mansion | McLain Mansion | Stroud Mansion | Anna Wilson’s Mansion | Zabriskie Mansion | The Governor’s Estate | Count Creighton House | John P. Bay House
COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS: 4426 Florence Blvd. | 2410 Lake St. | 26th and Lake Streetcar Shop | 1324 N. 24th St. | 2936 N. 24th St. | 5901 N. 30th St. | 4402 Florence Blvd. | 4225 Florence Blvd. | 3702 N. 16th St.
RELATED: Redlining | Neighborhoods | Streets | Streetcars | Churches | Schools
- The Negro Motorist Green Books, 1936 to 1966
White male here. Non-angry variety. Self educating on a little black history. I just bought an new/old copy of the Green Book. Boy, the stuff I take for granted. I would have never even thought about that. Cool site. I will visit again