A 144-year-old home in Omaha that’s hasn’t been designated as an Omaha Landmark and isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its been a country home, turned into a plush estate, cut up with a suburban club, and carved into a housing development. But the Mergen House stands strong, and its history needs to be told.
The Douglas County Assessor’s Office gets old dates wrong all the time. For instance, the home I’m about to describe is listed as being built in 1890. However, a 1926 Omaha World-Herald interview with the son of the original owner states it was built in 1873. Since the Assessor’s office files were largely destroyed by a riot in 1919, I’m going with the newspaper.
The Mergen House at 4922 Ames Avenue was built in 1873, and added onto in 1890. Built in 1873 by Omaha settler Nicholas Mergen, a fruit farmer who raised “the best known vineyards and vegetables in the county.” Situated on top of a hill, in 1890, the brick home had eight rooms and was surrounded by English gardens.
The 40-acre estate along Ames Avenue was sold by the family in the early 1900s. In the 1920, the house belonged to Robert Siegmann. The Omaha World-Herald referred to Robert Siegmann as a beauty expert, since he was the president of the Nebraska Association of Cosmetologists in the 1920s.
Dr. Thomas E. Grier and his family, including a son in the Navy who was killed during WWII, lived there.
In 1931, a parcel of the estate along Ames was sold for the launch of The Beautiful Villa, an upscale restaurant and nightclub. Their motto was, “Where the campus meets the town – and dances.”
In the 1970s, the Community Bank of Nebraska, a Black-owned financial institution, was going to build a new bank at the location but choose a place further up Ames.
In 2005, the property was listed for sale as the Serenity Hill Mansion. Operating as a bed and breakfast, advertisements from then bragged about a 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom mansion that was updated with lots of space and fine grounds. It talked about 3.5 acres of land, including a small plat to the north.
The house continues standing today, without any historical designations or acknowledgments. It currently has almost 3,000 square feet and sits on just over 2.5 acres of land.