The Kountze Place neighborhood was built for middle- and upper-class Omahans seeking a streetcar suburb suitable for building large homes, raising fine families and enjoying the fruit of their labors. Indicative of the Victorian era, the home was designed in the Eastlake or Stick style, which featured a lot of woodwork and embellishments to really show the owners wealthy to anyone looking. This is a history of the Copeland Home at 1922 Wirt Street in North Omaha.
Building A Fine Home
Maynard Bassett Copeland (1855-1953) came to Omaha after working as a school teacher in Massachusetts. His job was the manage the Omaha branch of Disbrow and Company, a custom millwork business. Copeland was the nephew and protege of Martin Disbrow, the founder of the company. After building a large factory at North 12th and Nicholas Streets in 1886 for the company, Copeland constructed his fine home in the exclusive Kountze Place neighborhood in 1888.
The manufacturer of sash, doors and other fixtures for fine homes, it was only appropriate that Copeland used a lot of his company’s products when he built a fine home for his wife. According to lore shared by a descendant, many of the rooms in the house were referred to by their wood rather than function, such as the mahogany room, the oak room and so on.
Starting in the 1890s, Mrs. Mary Louisa Copeland (1858-1930) was very involved in missionary work through her membership at Plymouth Congregational Church in North Omaha. In 1909, the Copeland’s daughter Louise was a junior at Omaha High School when she won a national essay contest for the Daughters of the American Revolution.
There was a carriage house in the back, and Copeland kept a garden and a cow for fresh milk for years. The house held a butler’s pantry, maid’s quarters with a back staircase, and a speaking tube to talk to the kitchen from the upstairs bedroom. The 1913 Easter Sunday tornado demolished the front porch shown above, and it was replaced with a new one that extended the full length of the house afterwards.
By the time his wife died in 1930, Maynard Copeland was president of the Disbrow Company. He lived another 23 years after his wife, all of them at the family home he’d built so many years before, and they are buried together at Forest Lawn.
A 1946 feature in the Omaha World-Herald highlighted the career of M. B. Copeland, who served the business for 65 years starting in 1881. Opening the Omaha office in 1886, he became president of the business in 1912. The newspaper said Copeland was the chairman of Disbrow Company board of directors and regarded as a dean among Omaha businessmen when he died. The company was sold in 1982 and the factory remained in operation for several years afterwards. Today it stands empty, but included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Nicholas Street Historic District.
When it was sold in 1953, it was advertised as having 10-rooms including six bedrooms and a 4-car garage.
Life After The Builders
When Copeland died,
my grandmother sold the house with the stipulation it be torn down, as she didn’t want anyone outside the family to live in it—in my opinion, quite a shame! I’m told she sold it for the same amount it cost to build, $10,000.
Special thanks to David Wright for contributing information and the historic pic for this article!
Wirt Street is fantastic. To see some of the historic beauties still standing is amazing. One can only imagine what the area looked like “back in the day”, when acreages were the norm. Side note on my connection to Maynard Copeland: I worked, for a couple years, in the old Disbrow Millwork Building. I loved the brick construction, the wood beams, the high ceilings… I have hope that that structure will be brought back to life someday soon.
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