“Memorials – Designed by Artists – Built By Craftsmen”
Omaha has always been a good place to die.
Starting in the 1840s when the first trails were cut through the area, people were laid to rest all across the city. With cemeteries scattered across North Omaha, it made sense for a stonecutter to make his work in the community.
Starting in Red Oak
In 1879, a Swedish immigrant did just that. Working from his workshop in Red Oak, Iowa, the young Swede named John Frederick Bloom commuted back and forth to the city. Growing slowly but steadily, in 1897, Bloom moved his business to Council Bluffs.
His business kept growing, a huge showroom and office was built on the northwest corner of North 17th & Cuming Streets. Designed by highly regarded Omaha architect John Latenser, the building was completed in 1910. Latenser also designed the current Central High School, the current Douglas County Courthouse and other popular places within the city. The building was designed in a commercial vernacular style, with polite lines and easily-identifiable elements, including large windows, clear lines and popular materials, including local red brick and stone accents.A design department was added in 1912.
Bloom’s sons joined the business around the same time, and in 1918 when he John Bloom died, they took over.
Growing in Saratoga
Just two years later, the J. F. Bloom and Company built a large factory in the Saratoga neighborhood at the intersection of Florence Boulevard and Ames Avenue. A railroad spur from the MoPac Belt Line Railway were built to the plant, and a 20-ton traveling crane made Bloom the largest manufacturer of memorials in the region around Omaha. In 1941, the headquarters for the business were moved next door to the plant, and they’ve stayed there since.
Today, the company is run by the third generation of the family. It continues specializing in monuments and markers, memorials, vases and benches, and more.
In 2018, J. F. Bloom and Co. announced their move out of North Omaha. Their brick building is for sale, and the new headquarters is located out of town.
A restaurant is now located in part of the historic building at North 17th and Cuming Streets, and there is discussion about including this building in a soon-to-be-announced historic district in the surrounding area.
You Might Like…
- A History of North Omaha’s Florence Boulevard
- A History of the Saratoga Neighborhood in North Omaha
- A History of Cemeteries in North Omaha
- A History of Scandinavians in North Omaha
- J. F. Bloom & Co. official website
- Gonzalez, C. (May 29, 2015) “Starting over at 105 years old,” Omaha World-Herald – The story of the rehabilitation of the J. F. Bloom Building at N 17th and Cuming Streets.
- Dawes, M. (2016) “Forest Lawn: Wasserburger Monmument,” Graveyards of Omaha – The story of a remarkable monument by J. F. Bloom.
Special thanks to Roger Brandt and J. F. Bloom and Company for their contributions to this article!