- Built: circa 1900
- Address: 2811 Caldwell Street
- Architecture: Antebellum
- Demolished: circa 1965
Originally called Riverview, the original home on this lot was built around 1900 and was said to be “one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city.” Sitting on four lots covered with fruit trees, large shade trees and a fine lawn, the home was widely known. The original 10-bedroom house was covered in brick and wood, and by 1910 there was a new barn, all near the southwest corner of North 28th and Hamilton Streets.
In 1917, J. W. Martin contracted with a contractor named A. M. Hough to rebuild the 2-story home to include 2,880 square feet. The mansion had huge two-story, columned home built in style of a Southern plantation mansion. Newly redone, the home had 14 rooms and a dance hall with two indoor bathrooms on a half-acre. There was also a double garage, servants quarters, as well as a large chicken house. The style of architecture on the home was called Antebellum, and while that was renowned for being a Deep South style, this North Omaha home had front pillars, a house-wide balcony, large evenly spaced windows, and a symmetrical appearance.
Alfred and Elnora Brooks Jones
By 1920, the mansion became the home of Alfred and Elnora Brooks Jones and was renamed Hillcrest. Alfred Jones was a successful African American businessman with “a varied and colorful career” who ran barber shops, cafes, and entertainment businesses as well as real estate and insurance agencies. Elnora Brooks Jones was the first African American graduate of Omaha High School. He’d been a caterer in Omaha since 1888.
Starting around 1923, the Jones operated his catering business and a popular cafe at the house. Elnora and Al’s seven children worked in the business alongside their parents as cooks, waiters, maids and more. Renting out the mansion as an event space, the residence was the site of parties, concerts, church and social activities. In 1925, the Hillcrest restaurant was closed for several months, but reopened early in 1926. Later that year, the chicken coop on their property was burned down, causing $1,000 damage.
During the next few years, Jones’ operated a business as an employment company from the home. He hired African Americans as “help” to white people, including as maids, cooks, chauffeurs, waitresses, laundresses, nurses, janitors and servers. and more. That business continued for the next several years.
Elnora died in 1931. That same year, the “Al Jones Inn” appeared in the newspaper. However, it didn’t stick, and in 1933 Jones rebranded his business as the “Southern Club” at the same address.
Alfred died in 1936. Elnora and Alfred’s daughter Florence Jones ran the catering business for a few years after her fathers’ death, but didn’t continue past 1939. From 1940 to 1945, Hillcrest was a “convalescence home.” By the 1950s the mansion was made into apartments, and stayed that way for a decade.
The mansion was demolished by the late 1960s.
In 1967, the lot was selected to become one of GOCA’s temporary “recreation areas” for poverty-ridden areas.
Today, you can visit the site of Hillcrest. However, there is no historical marker, plaque or monument to this important home in North Omaha history.
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