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.
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MY ARTICLES RELATED TO THE HISTORY OF AMES AVENUE
NEIGHBORHOODS: Saratoga | Collier Place | Monmouth Park
INTERSECTIONS: 30th and Ames | 40th and Ames | 24th Street | North Freeway | Fontenelle Boulevard
BUSINESSES: LaRue’s | Max I. Walker | North Star Theater aka Ames Theater | King Solomon’s Mines aka Shaver’s | Beacon Theater | Parkside Cafe | Ames Plaza | Battiato’s Super Market | Mergen House
PUBLIC PLACES: Ames Avenue Bridge | Saratoga School | Charles Washington Branch Library | Monmouth Park School | North High School | Fontenelle Park
OTHER: Druid Hall | St. Vincent’s Retirement Home | Ames Avenue United Methodist Church | Mergen House
MY ARTICLES ON THE HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE IN NORTH OMAHA
GENERAL: Architectural Gems | The Oldest House | The Oldest Places
PLACES: Mansions and Estates | Apartments | Churches | Public Housing | Houses | Commercial Buildings | Hotels
PEOPLE: ‘Cap’ Clarence Wigington | Everett S. Dodds | Jacob Maag | George F. Shepard | John F. Bloom
HISTORIC HOUSES: Mergen House | Hoyer House | Campion House | North Omaha’s Sod House | James Comey Mitchell House | Charles Storz House | George F. Shepard House | 2902 N. 25th St. | 6327 Florence Blvd.
PUBLIC HOUSING: Logan Fontenelle | Spencer Street | Hilltop | Pleasantview | Myott Park aka Wintergreen
NORMAL HOUSES: 3155 Meredith Ave. | 5815 Florence Blvd. | 2936 N. 24th St. | 6711 N. 31st Ave. | 3210 N. 21st St. | 4517 Browne St. | 5833 Florence Blvd. | 1922 Wirt St. | 3467 N. 42nd St. | 5504 Kansas Ave. | Lost Blue Windows House
HISTORIC APARTMENTS: Historic Apartments | Ernie Chambers Court, aka Strehlow Terrace | The Sherman Apartments | Logan Fontenelle Housing Projects | Spencer Street Projects | Hilltop Projects | Pleasantview Projects | Memmen Apartments | The Sherman | The Climmie | University Apartments
MANSIONS & ESTATES: Hillcrest Mansion | Burkenroad House aka Broadview Hotel aka Trimble Castle | McCreary Mansion | Parker Estate | J. J. Brown Mansion | Poppleton Estate | Rome Miller Mansion | Redick Mansion | Thomas Mansion | John E. Reagan House | Brandeis Country Home | Bailey Residence | Lantry – Thompson Mansion | McLain Mansion | Stroud Mansion | Anna Wilson’s Mansion | Zabriskie Mansion | The Governor’s Estate | Count Creighton House | John P. Bay House
COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS: 4426 Florence Blvd. | 2410 Lake St. | 26th and Lake Streetcar Shop | 1324 N. 24th St. | 2936 N. 24th St. | 5901 N. 30th St. | 4402 Florence Blvd. | 4225 Florence Blvd. | 3702 N. 16th St.
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Great follow up Adam Fletcher Sasse.
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The information about one of the owners is incorrect. My grandfather owned the merged house. His name was Maurice E. Grier. He was a prominent physician practicing at the medical arts Building and St . Joseph’s hospital. He and his wife Olive had 3sons. Maurice Robert served in the Navy during WWII and son Thomas served during the Korean War. Neither died. Maurice met his wife in New York and came back to Omaha and raised their family here in Omaha. I’m the middle daughter of three. We have so many fond memories of 4922 Ames. My grandparents were generous hosts to Sunday dinners and every holiday of my childhood. There was a third son Joseph who worked for Mutual of Omaha and raised his family here in Omaha.
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Thanks for sharing that! I’ll make changes to the article soon.