A nearly 150 year old home in Omaha hasn’t been designated as an Omaha Landmark and isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been a farmhouse, a country home, a plush estate, part of a suburban club, and carved into a housing development. But the Mergen House stands strong, and its history needs to be told.
Starting the Concord Fruit Farm
Omaha settler Nicholas Mergen (1834-1908) was a pioneer in the city who fought in Nebraska’s regiment in the Civil War against the insurrectionist southern states. After the war, he came back to the city, and in 1868 Mergen bought 40 acres of land north of Ames Avenue for $30 per acre.
The Mergen House at 4922 Ames Avenue was built in 1873, and added onto in 1890. Mergen was regarded as having “the best known vineyards and vegetables in the county.” The original farm at the home include 10 acres of grapevines, two acres of rhubarb, two acres of asparagus, and eight acres of apple trees. Situated on top of a hill, in 1890 the brick house had eight rooms and was surrounded by English gardens.
In addition to his successful farm, Mergen was involved in real estate speculation and development around Omaha. He sold an important section of North Omaha near Miller Park for development in the late 1880s, and built a grand home at 3920 North 24th Street in 1896. That house later became the Thomas Funeral Home. Mergen was also involved in local politics, and served as a political representative from the Saratoga precinct in party activities.
Nicholas Mergen died in 1908, and his funeral was held at the Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. He was buried in the Saint Mary Magdalene Cemetery, where many fellow Germans were buried.
The 40-acre estate along Ames Avenue was sold by Michael Mergen, Nicholas’ son, in 1917. In the 1920, the house belonged to Robert Siegmann. The Omaha World-Herald referred to 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.