A beer empire soaked North Omaha in success, including a massive brewery on North 16th and a gorgeous home on Wirt Street. It was 1909 when Charles Storz (1859-1932) built his massive Arts and Crafts style home at 1901 Wirt Street in the fashionable Kountze Place neighborhood. This is a history of the Charles Storz house.
About Charles Storz
Charles Storz was born in 1859 in Benningen, Germany, and immigrated to the United States in the 1870s to work at the Columbia Brewery where his brother Gottlieb Storz was brewmaster. He became Gottlieb’s brewmaster when the Storz Brewery opened at North 16th and Charles Streets. At some point before 1889 though, he began running his own bar at North 24th and Clark Streets.
In the 1890s, the Storz Brewery opened a series of tied houses across Omaha and beyond. These were pubs that only sold the brewery’s labels. When federal law made it illegal for breweries to have tied houses, Charles Storz started managing the pub at the site of the brewery, which was at 1837 North 16th Street. The Storz Pub became a “soft drink parlor” during Prohibition, and Charles Storz continued to run it.
Charles’ German-born wife Wilhelmina died at age 53 in 1919, a decade after her house was finished. Ten years later in 1929, Charles Storz was in a serious car accident that wounded him greatly, forcing his retirement.
In 1932, Charles Storz was struck by a car as he walked home across North 16th Street. After beginning to recover at Methodist Hospital, he died that October at the age of 73. He was buried next to his wife at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Building the Storz House
In 1909, 50-year-old Charles Storz celebrated his success with the building of a fine house. Located at 1901 Wirt Street, the house was designed by popular local architects Fisher and Lawrie. The wealthy suburb of Kountze Place was host to the Trans-Mississippi Expo just a decade earlier, and lots in the neighborhood were valuable property. There are several mansions and large residences on either side of the home, and for 40 years two streetcar lines traveled within blocks. There are large churches nearby, too, including the North Presbyterian Church, and movie theaters including the Corby Theater.
A wood frame, three story house, the design represents a faithful execution of the Arts & Crafts style. Emphasizing hand-crafted wooden excellence, there were various woods used throughout the house, along with fine detailing and more. Outside, the house has a wide porch, deep eves and strong bracing for the roof. The house is three stories tall and has 3,890 square feet. There are five bedrooms and two bathrooms, and ten total rooms throughout the house.
The Kountze Place neighborhood stayed upscale through the 1920s. After the 1919 lynching of Will Brown, the Near North Side neighborhood experienced massive white flight. Wayne McPherson, Clay Pulver and several others owned the house between the 1930s and the 1950s. During those 20 years, block busting by real estate agents became more aggressive as real estate agents struck the neighborhood around the Charles Storz House too, and by 1940 the neighborhood was falling out of fashion with white people.
In the meantime, African Americans moved into Kountze Place with many buying large, beautiful homes in great condition. While many were kept up well throughout the years, the Charles Storz House fell into disrepair by the late 1970s.
Saving the Home
The homeowners had a hard time maintaining the house. When the City of Omaha threatened to demolish it because of its condition, historical preservation advocates called for the house to be saved. The City of Omaha bought it from the homeowners and developed plans to restore the house and turn it into a duplex. In early 1982 the city signed over the house to Omaha’s original historic property advocacy leader, a nonprofit called Landmarks, Inc.
Partnering with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Consumer Services Organization in 1983, Landmarks, Inc. used City of Omaha money and federal dollars to restore the home. After it was completed, in May 1983 there was a public open house to show off work completed. At the same time, several other homes along Wirt Street were restored and there was talk of establishing a historic district between Wirt, Binney and Spencer Streets. However, that never happened.
In 1984 it was designated an official Omaha Landmark, and today it remains in good condition.
You Might Like…
- A History of North Omaha’s Wirt Street
- A History of the Kountze Place Neighborhood