A History of North Omaha’s Burkenroad House aka Broadview Hotel aka Trimble Castle

Nestled along Florence Boulevard in the Near North Side neighborhood is a stone mansion that captures the imaginations of almost everyone who sees it. The home at 2060 Florence Boulevard has a reputation as a mansion for the social elite; an apartment house; a brothel, a hotel and as apartments again. After studying it for three years, I’ve learned it’s history has as many facets as the house itself. Following is a history of North Omaha’s Broadview Hotel.

 

2060 Florence Blvd. North Omaha, Nebraska
2060 Florence Boulevard in 2015. Picture from the Douglas County Assessor’s office.

 


High Society

Max and Flora (Schuhl) Burkenroad were married in 1886. They had two sons, Sylvan and Leslie.

After several of his business ventures began paying out, businessman Burkenroad built a grand new home at North 19th (aka Florence Boulevard) and Burdette Street in 1910. They hired Joseph P. Guth, a prolific Omaha architect, to design their home.

Featuring three stories made of masonry blocks, the house resembles a Scottish barronial castle by mixing Gothic and Queen Anne styles. It has almost 9,000 square feet with six bedrooms. There’s a wide wraparound porch and ornate entryway, along with several other interesting exterior features. Architect Guth also designed North Omaha’s Druid Hall and the Elks Hall, and many other churches, apartments and stores throughout the city, as well as businesses including the Prague Hotel in South Omaha.

Max owned several businesses around the city, including the Bee Hive Grocery Store at 2421 North 24th Street. He also owned the Garett Laundry Company at 1154 Sherman Avenue (North 16th Street). Burkenroad also owned a pool hall at 216 North 16th,

The Burkenroads were deeply involved in Omaha’s high society. Their social activities and travels were regularly documented in the Society sections of both the Omaha World-Herald and the Omaha Bee. From their first “porch party” at their new house through their last soiree there a decade later, the public followed the way the Burkenroads lived. This included clubs they attended, activities they hosted and trips across the country.

 

 

An opera singer, Sylio (Sylvan) Burkenroad was featured in this article from the June 21, 1914 edition of the Omaha Bee.
An opera singer, Sylio (Sylvan) Burkenroad was featured in this article from the June 21, 1914 edition of the Omaha Bee.

The Sons

In 1915, Sylvan Burkenroad married Lucille Adler of New York City at her home there. The next year, his brother Leslie was awarded Athlete of the Year at Omaha High School. He left for Europe to serve in the Army that year. In 1919 Leslie became an Army lieutenant and returned to the house after serving in WWI. Later marrying Sylvia, Leslie and his wife had two sons. They both lived in Omaha until their deaths.

White Flight

After only a decade, the Burkenroads wanted to move.

A phenomenon called white flight struck Omaha drastically in a few different waves starting in 1919. In September of that year, the US Army drew a line around the Near North Side and said they’d protect Blacks who were there after marauding hordes of white terrorists attacked Black people randomly the day after the lynching of Will Brown. Almost all of the wealthy white people in the Near North Side neighborhood immediately sold their homes and moved to west Omaha.

The Burkenroads were part of the first wave of white flight in Omaha. White flight made the Burkenroads “motviated sellers,” but they didn’t let swindlers get past them.

Late that year, the Omaha World-Herald reported the Burkenroads suffered an attempting grifting by a 17-year-old from Baltimore named Howard Brock. Racing towards Omaha with his 19-year-old bride after stealing money from his parents, he presented the Burkenroads with a $5,000 check to buy their house. He failed when their lawyer recognized his name from being arrested earlier for forgery.

The house was sold in 1920. By then, the Burkenroads moved to then-west Omaha at 113 South 50th Avenue.


A Trunk House?

By 1921, the house belonged to Harry Rothkup. Rothkup was a trunk manufacturer with a factory nearby. He also owned the Omaha Luggage Shop on Douglas Street, and a candy manufacturer. In December 1931, his house was robbed by a burglar.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-7-38-09-am
The exterior details of 2060 Florence Boulevard, including all three stories. Image from the Douglas County Assessor’s office.

 


Trimble Castle, aka the Broadview Hotel

Omaha was a segregated city. Even though it wasn’t smothered in laws enforcing it, there was a de facto understanding that Blacks weren’t welcome in many of the same restaurants, stores or hotels as white people. That led to a number of Black-owned hotels being established in North Omaha and other places in the city.

By the 1940s, Charles and Rosalee Trimble ran 2060 North 19th Street as The Broadview Hotel. According to a 2001 interview with Von, Charles started as a chef on the Union Pacific and then owned clubs, including the Panama Garden and Little Egypt. Charles also owned several apartment houses in North Omaha, and he was the leader of a Prince Hall Masons temple and a trustee of Clair Methodist Church. His son was an Eagle Scout.

In 1944, the Omaha Police Department arrested Charles and his wife for being “alleged keepers of a common ill governed house.” The department’s “morals squad” leader said he raided the house after a dozen complaints that Army soldiers were contracting venereal disease there. The police arrested 14 people at the house. Charges were dismissed when the sergeant in command said he didn’t have a warrant to conduct the raid.

Since Omaha was segregated, African American luminaries needed places to stay. Stars including including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Joe Lewis stayed there.

 

1948 wedding of Von and Pinky Trimble.
A 1948 photo of the wedding party for Von Trimble, Sr. and his wife Pinky, standing center. To Pinky’s right is Charles Trimble; on Von’s left is his mother.

 

Von Trimble, Sr. grew up there, and remembered the hotel’s famous clientele. He and his wife Pinky lived in the house for a short time in the 1950s. They moved to their home in Kountze Place in 1957.

Charles Trimble had a heart attack and died at the Broadview Hotel in 1959. He was 70-years-old. Charles’ mother Amanda died there a year later when she was 90-years-old.

Von moved to the Kountze Place neighborhood in the 1950s. In 1957, Von graduated from UNO, and eventually retired from the Social Secutiry Administration, where he’d worked for more than two decades.

Trumped Up Charges

As a note, in my research I found one mention of the address as a brothel in the Omaha World-Herald. However, I’ve found dozens of mentions of it as a hotel. The Negro Motorist Green Book was a travel book that listed it for 25 years, too. I personally knew Von Trimble, Sr., and he was a good good man, a musician and a leader among Boy Scouts throughout his entire life. All of that leaves me wondering whether the brothel charges were cooked up – they simply don’t ring true to evidence, and the Omaha Police Department was known to enforce laws that didn’t exist in North Omaha.

He passed away in 2015 at the age of 84. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough for Von to mentor me as I earned my Eagle Scout award. Meeting with him at his home in near North 21st and Lothrop, I regularly soaked up the lessons he taught me, as well as the things that filled his home.

His son, Von Jr. owned the former Broadview Hotel for a long time. Today, it is owner-occupied.

 

The Broadview Hotel, 2060 Florence Boulevard, was included in several editions of The Negro Motorist Green Book, including this one from 1949.
The Broadview Hotel at 2060 N. 19th St. (aka Florence Blvd.) was included in several editions of The Negro Motorist Green Book, including this one from 1949.

 


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