For more than a century, every successful neighborhood in Omaha had its own pharmacy that sold ice cream, comics and candy. For three neighborhoods in North Omaha, those stores were opened by Harry Lane, who ran drug stores at North 16th and Locust; North 24th and Ames, and; North 30th and Fort. This is a history of Lane Drug Stores.
A Biography of Harry C. Lane
Harry C. Lane was born in 1880. At the age of 18, in 1898, he opened his first drug store in North Omaha. Eight years later he married Fay Smith of a longstanding family in Florence. The young couple lived at 2508 Ames Avenue after they were married, and by this point Harry had been operating his drug store for almost a decade.
One of Fay and Harry’s daughters, Betty, was an aspiring teacher who graduated from a private college in Tennessee. She eventually married Fred Lyman and both of them had roles in the family business. Another daughter, Faye, went to Omaha University, which was just down the street from her family’s home. She married another student from OU named John Gale. At some point, the elder Lanes moved to 2242 Fowler Avenue, a block away from their 24th and Ames Avenue location, while their house title was transferred to their daughter Faye. Harry and Fay had a son named Harry Bert Lane who lived in Arlington, Virginia, who graduated from the West Point Academy in 1939. They also had a daughter named Julie Alice Lane who married James Lane in Ogalalla, Nebraska.
The Lanes were involved in Omaha’s high society, with their daughter’s wedding engagements and other family events regularly announced in the Omaha World-Herald. In February 1953, the newspaper included a note that mother Faye became the first-ever president of the Saratoga School PTA in 1921, while her daughter Faye became president in ’53, making them the first mother-daughter pair to lead a PTA in Omaha.
Harry was involved in the Omaha Retail Druggists’ Association, serving on several committees and as the vice-president. Newspaper articles associated him with St. John’s Episcopal Church throughout his life, which was located at North 26th and Fowler in his lifetime. It was also the location of his funeral.
Harry Lane died in June 1966 at the age of 86. He had 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren when he died. Lane and his wife are buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Store 1: North 24th and Ames Avenue
In 1898, Harry Lane opened his first operation in North Omaha. The store was called the Saratoga Drug Store, and opened in the former (second) Saratoga Hotel at North 24th and Ames. This area was one of the first neighborhoods in the entire Omaha area, as it was originally an 1854 river town. After it lost its townhood, the area grew into an urban suburb, replete with all the amenities of any successful neighborhood, including grocery stores, taverns, restaurants and bars, as well as churches, social halls and more. Streetcars constantly roamed past the store since a major streetcar barn was kitty corner to the store for 50 years. Lane’s was a central landmark for more than 70 years, and there are still fond memories of the business.
For instance, from the 1910s onward, the Saratoga Drug Store had a large ice cream freezer in the backroom and made their own ice cream every Saturday morning for more than 25 years. In 1910, a branch of the Omaha library started operating inside Lane’s. There was a small collection of books there, and an automobile delivered new books three times weekly. “A large circulation of books” was planned, because Lane’s was seen as a busy place with a lot of foot traffic.
Starting in 1920, this store was called Lane Drug, and Harry Lane’s enterprise expanded.
Harry Lyman’s daughter Betty married Fred Lyman, and that couple ran the store after her father passed away. Mrs. Lyman closed the store after a several break-ins in 1970.
This store closed on March 22, 1970.
Store 2: North 30th and Fort Streets
Starting in 1910, the Post Pharmacy at 2920 Fort Street served soldiers with the Army at Fort Omaha, as well as the Miller Park neighborhood. By 1924, Harry Lane bought the business and was operating it as another Lane’s Drug Store location. Charles McManus moved to Omaha and became the pharmacist at this location in 1948. In 1954, Lane renovated the building after longtime tenants there passed away and the store closed. The building was gone by 1964, bulldozed to make room for the new Mister C’s restaurant parking lot.
Store 3: North 16th and Locust Street
Lane’s Drug Store opened on the northwest corner of North 16th and Locust Streets in 1923. Before him, Chester Blake operated a drug store on this corner for at least 25 years, during when it was also called the Bradish-Blake Drug Store. Lane’s Drug Store address there was at 2902 North 16th Street.
When Lane’s moved in, he made a longterm commitment that lasted almost 50 years. However, even that determination had limits: after the Omaha World-Herald reported that Lane’s 16th Street location had been firebombed twice in 1967. It was targeted again in other acts of violence in 1969 and 1970.
The 16th and Locust location of Lane’s Drug closed in 1973. Around that time, the restaurant next door closed. The Corby Theatre down the street was closed. While a new Hinky Dinky building was opened across the street in 1969, there were no other new businesses in the intersection for a long time. The drive-through at 16th and Binney closed, the Max I Walker Cleaners moved out, and the professional offices on the second floor across the street from the drug store closed.
The intersection was never the same.
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