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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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.
RELATED: Redlining | Neighborhoods | Streets | Streetcars | Churches | Schools
I have always seen this house. Interesting and different history about it. Thanks 4 sharing
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When we moved in to the house which is no longer there at 5419 Florence Blvd. We used to watch a black horse and buggy trot around a track at what I thought was the Bobbitt house acerage. We moved in in 1953. We thought our house was built in 1864.Across the street was a apple orchard.
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oh if I just had some money
That was my step-dad’s (Craig Borlin) house at the time that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He ran his law office out of that home, as well. I worked for him and visited often. That home was beautiful, but a little scary. I was not fond of being there by myself. To his credit, he made that home and yard look amazing. He had a landscaping side business, in addition to being a police officer, when I was a kid. He always made the yard of any home we lived in a wonderment. I have driven by only a few times since his passing in 2010 and it always makes me sad. He really loved that home and had big plans for it.
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