Florence Boulevard, aka “The Prettiest Mile in Omaha,” is home to a few mansions, some mysteries and a couple of duds. There are also some regular everyday homes there, too. This is the story of 5815 Florence Boulevard, which might be normal, might be intriguing, but is definitely interesting!
When the City of Omaha and its residents finally recognize the value of historical places throughout the entire city, places like this house will be revered for their histories. Although I’m won’t unravel a mystery the way Miss Cassette does so excellently, I do hope you enjoy what follows…
In the Beginning
Florence Boulevard didn’t begin as a fancy boulevard, or even as a friendly drive. It was the original Winter Quarters Road that led from the new Omaha City to the old townsite where Florence was eventually built. Probably laid out between Winter Quarters and Bellevue in the 1840s, it traversed the wide plain above the Missouri River bottoms, cutting through a few small creeks but mostly jutting through the unbroken prairie heading north.
A few enterprising farmers wanted to capitalize on the views of the river, so they built their farmhouses along the road. One of the first was built in 1880 north of the creek ravine where the Storz Expressway is now. This lot eventually became one of first homes along Florence Boulevard when it was built in 1892, and I’d suggest whoever originally owned it was happy with the installation of the park-like drive from their home to the city south of them, as well as the old town of Saratoga where they likely did their shopping.
According to a 1979 interview with Marge Bobbitt, one of the longtime owners of the property, that original farmhouse was moved from the lot o North 24th and Himebaugh Avenue. That would’ve happened before the first advertisement in 1906. Although I can’t find any sign of the house at that intersection, the two-story barn on the property was built in 1888, and continues standing as evidence of the property’s heritage.
A New House
In 1909, the lot for this home was advertised like this: “5815 Florence Blvd. $5,500 If you want a fine home site on the boulevard with grounds of unsual beauty, go out and see this place. Has long frontage on the boulevard extending back 807 feet, three acres in all.”
Built in 1918 for $12,000, the house measured 26′ by 40′ and was designed by architects Charles Nye and C.N. Robinson for Nels L. Hansen, a retired farmer who owned a farm near Ericson, Nebraska. Hansen’s sister Anna died there at 75 in 1946, and Nels died there in 1951 at age 82.
Today, the home has more than 2,500 square feet on more than a half acre. It has nine rooms inside, including 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. There’s a small detached garage and a full partially finished basement.
The Bobbitt Family
Longtime owners of the house were the Bobbitt family.
After buying the home from Hansen’s estate, James and Mary “Margie” Bobbitt’s family lived there for a long time. James died at the age of 51.
However, Marge (1914-2001) was clearly a survivor. She opened a business called Bobbitt’s Moulding and Framing and ran it for decades. As a member of Pearl Church and leader of the Prettiest Mile Neighborhood Association, Marge was very active throughout the community, and her children were frequently cited in the newspaper for their academic pursuits and more. She also started an endowment fund for the Uta Halee Girls Village in 1984.
Because of the size of their land, the house was referred to as “the Bobbitt farm.” The neighborhood association held an annual barn sale and bake sale at Marge’s house through the 1970s and into the 80s. She also hosted a neighborhood picnic there for years.
On one day in the early 1980s, both of Marge’s daughters held their weddings in the house’s side yard. Marge was proud of this, and in 1995 reminisced for a newspaper article saying, “It was a beautiful day for the weddings, with peonies, iris and lilacs in bloom.”
Marge Bobbitt passed away in 2001. One of her daughters remembered her as “an entrepreneur, a businesswoman and a community leader.”
Hard Times for the Historic Barn
After Marge died, the house and barn ran into hard times.
Merlin Sorem lived there for a while. The last owner of the was a lawyer named Craig H. Borlin, who also taught criminal law classes at Metro. In 2002, Bank One sold the house to Borlin for $101,000. In 2007, the house was included in the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Reconnaissance Survey of Portions of North Omaha Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey. Although it wasn’t explored in-depth, the implication was that the property is valuable enough to consider preserving it on the National Register of Historic Places.
Borlin passed away in 2010. Apparently, the house and the barn haven’t been occupied for the seven years since then.
Instead, the house is owned by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as Freddie Mac, which a public government-sponsored loan company. It sits empty, and is still being held in foreclosure by them today. If you’re interested in buying and restoring this beautiful home with a rich heritage and 125-year-old barn, call your real estate agent.
Special thanks to Bernetta Hunter and James G. Settle for inspiring this post!
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