- Built: 1909
- Address: 5100 Florence Boulevard
- Architecture: Neo-Classical
- Demolished: 1969
In 1895, Thomas F. Stroud started his wagon making business in North Omaha. He was going to make his fortune selling wagons to western farmers in the city considered to be the Gateway to the West. In order to truly appreciate his wealth, he had to construct a magnificent home. He chose a two-acre lot less than a mile from his factory in the the Saratoga neighborhood as the best setting. Covered with oak trees and situated along Florence Boulevard, Stroud’s mansion made a mark for over 50 years.
The Life and Death of Stroud Mansion
In 1908, Mills Real Estate was responsible for Josephine H. Weidenfeiler selling two lots and Edwin L. Patrick selling one lot, all in Saratoga, to Tom Stroud for $3,500. The next year, Stroud got a building permit for a dwelling at 5100 Florence Boulevard. It was to cost $5,000.
When it was finished, the Stroud Mansion had nine rooms fills with “walls, woodwork and floors to match” what was expected from mansions then. The house was two and a half stories, with a brick and stucco exterior, and sat on a two acre lot with more than 200 oak trees.
The home was renowned for its Southern-like appearance, and for sitting deep within an oak forest.
The Man Behind the Mansion
Thomas Frank Stroud was was born in Atlanta, Illinois in 1854. Coming from a family whose geneology included a general in the War of 1812, Stroud was one of seven siblings.
Stroud came to Nebraska from Illinois when he was young, and was an ambitious man. Designing unique machinery, he successfully advanced the technology used to lay rails and roads around the world. As a young man, Stroud was a road-maker. When he died in 1939, his obituary proclaimed that Stroud, “laid out and constructed two hundred miles of county roads in several midwestern states.”
It was that experience that led him to launch Stroud and Company. According to newspaper articles from the time period, Stroud said he was “president, general manager and board of directors” of his company.
Around 1905, Stroud found the tipping point for his success. Within a few years and in short order, he married Norad Doherty, a 34-year-old maiden from Omaha; absorbed two companies into his own; and took a big step towards establishing himself as a leading industrialist in Omaha.
He was a successful businessman who decided to have a mansion built in North Omaha along the “most beautiful mile in the world.” Stroud, who moved to Omaha to open a factory that made what they called “the little red wagon,” a road-making machine, and other industrial machines. A newspaper article from 1909 described him as, “at once inventor, hard-headed business manager, optimist, joker and philosopher.
Inventor, Business Manager… And More
Apparently, Tom Stroud was a lively character.
He had stories to tell, and they were repeated. In 1907, a local newspaper told how he’d defeated a group of conmen in Iowa called the Maybray Gang by out-swindling them during a card game. Arriving with only $7,500, the paper said he walked away with $30,000 after he tricked the gang trying to take his money. Two years later, Stroud reportedly traded a man a farm for a car. Walking down a street in Chicago, he witnessed a car crash where the driver offered to sell the car to anyone with $50. Stroud took him up on the offer, and overheard another man later claiming he’d trade his Kansas farm for a car. Stroud traded him, and suddenly owned a farm site unseen.
He was remarkably charitable on occasion, too. In 1909, a bookkeeper at his company named J. B. Wallace broke into his office after hours. Stealing a few paychecks, Wallace went to a local saloon and bought drinks for his friends by cashing checks at the bar. Stroud found out almost immediately, and the police arrested Wallace. However, instead of sending him to prison Stroud went to the judge and argued for the release of Wallace. He promised the Stroud Company would hire him back, and got Wallace off.
Stroud was both honest and charitable. In the 1910s, he pled guilty to speeding. Standing in court, he asked the judge to fine him $1000 and split the fine between the Flanigan home and House of Hope. However, the judge only fined him the regulation amount of $5 and costs.
Adding to his myth, in 1919 robbers stormed Stroud’s mansion, and robber’s held him up with his own gun. Apparently, they were never caught.
Later that year, Stroud retired from the company and decided to go into politics. Running for Douglas County Commissioner, he won and served one term. Then he ran for Omaha City Commissioner twice, but lost both times. He acted as a delegate to the Douglas County Democratic Party convention twice, as well.
Stroud moved his family to Glendale, California in 1924, and died there in 1939. He was buried in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, and there is a simple marker for him there now.
Stroud left Omaha in 1924, and sold his mansion to A.S. Sorenson for $22,200 in 1927.
The home was sold again in 1946 to Milton A Lund. Lund died in the mid-1960s, and his children put the mansion up for sale in 1966.
It was advertised as a pretty grand residence. Given the scourge of white flight and divestment in North Omaha during that era, it should come as no surprise that the mansion didn’t sell. In 1968 the address is mentioned with plans for Florence Tower, and the next year it was demolished. The Florence Tower was completed in 1971, and has stood on the site of the Stroud Mansion since.
Today, there is no evidence of Stroud’s existence in Omaha. No memorials, ceremonies, commemorations or celebrations differentiate him from the millions of other people in the city’s history. His mansion is long gone, and his business eventually vanished after he sold it.
This was the life of Thomas Stroud and the Stroud Mansion.