The Saratoga School was opened at North 24th and Meredith Avenue in 1866 by local residents. It was a one-room schoolhouse, and was one of the first public schools in Nebraska.
Over the years, Saratoga School was located in at least four different buildings all within the vicinity of North 24th Streets and Ames Avenue.
First Saratoga School
The first Saratoga School was built at near Saunders Road and Grand Avenue, which today is called North 24th and Grand. There are no known images of the first Saratoga School, and barely any mention of it. However, in his 1857 journal about starting the town of Saratoga, founder Erastus Beadle made a few passing mentions about a school for children in the town. It was a one-room schoolhouse. When the town folded that year without being incorporated or having any form of taxation to survive, there was no obvious way for the school to survive. However, it did, and there is evidence from 1867 through 1891 that shows it existed. For instance, the Saratoga Precinct elections were held at the school house every year starting in 1867.
Second Saratoga School
The second Saratoga School surely did exist, as witnessed by the 1885 picture shown here. According to 1881 records from the State of Nebraska, Saratoga School was located in District 2. Located on the northeast corner of 24th and Ames, the Saratoga School had 5 teachers in 5 classrooms serving more than 40 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The students learned reading, writing and arithmetic, and were controlled with strict punishment. Much more than the typical pioneer schoolhouse, Saratoga School was a big building for its time. This building stood until 1891.
Third Saratoga School
The town of Saratoga was annexed into Omaha in the 1890s with its school becoming part of District One, today called Omaha Public Schools. The third Saratoga School was built in 1892 by District 1. Costing $25,000, construction was planned from designed by John Latenser, a popular Omaha architect.
Located in the middle of a commercial district, by 1900 it was across the street from a large streetcar barn, along with Lane Drug, the Saratoga Hotel, several grocery stores and the nearby Druid Hall. However, the area experienced a slump at the turn of the century right after the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Expo and the school was closed around 1915. In 1925, the nearby University of Omaha began using it as a science hall. When they moved to a new campus in 1937, the building was abandoned, and in 1938, it was demolished.
In 1914, the school was hit hard by measles, dragging the principal into a battle with the City Health director. They wanted to close the school and send all students home; the principal wanted to stay open and provide vaccinations. Vaccinations won, and the students stayed in school. However, the location of a dump behind the school became suspect through this epidemic, leading to it being cleaned and covered in 1917. Covered with a field, it eventually became the site of Omaha University’s football field in 1927.
Fourth Saratoga School
The fourth Saratoga School was completed in 1926. A state-of-the-art facility, it served students through eighth grade with indoor restrooms, central heating, and plenty of classroom space for students in the neighborhood. During this era, the neighborhood around the school transitioned from being a leafy all-white suburb of Omaha to become integrated. 40 years after it was built, in 1966 the school districted added a west wing with eight new classrooms, a health room, and a cafeteria.
When Omaha Public Schools began integrated busing in 1976, African American students were taken from Saratoga School and sent to white schools in other areas. Saratoga then only had students in kindergarten through third grade. When integrated bussing ended in 1999, Saratoga served students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. In 2005, the district expanded the building again with more office space, a new library and computer lab, a teacher work area, and central air conditioning.
Ending Saratoga School
In 2017, Omaha Public Schools announced the end of Saratoga School. After more than 150 years and as the oldest school in Omaha, the building was designated to become an alternative school to serve high school age students. Today the building still exists, but Saratoga is gone.