Originally built around 1900 as a vaudeville theater, a building near the intersection of North 24th and Lake Street regularly swapped hands and became something new over and over. Throughout the years, the address was home to a movie theater, dance club, bowling alley, upscale supper club and fancy nightclub. This is a history of the now-demolished building that once stood at 2410 Lake Street.
A Vaudeville Theater
The Diamond Theater was opened as a vaudeville around 1900. Built as a two-story building, there were offices and an apartment in front on the second floor, and the rear was open on both levels for performances. It sat 400 people, and originally covered 3/4 of the lot. Various performers who came through Omaha regularly played there, including full vaudeville shows, as well as singers, dramatic performances and others. It would have featured burlesque comedy and song and dance, as well as other performers. During this era, the building probably had segregated seating for Black people at the back, with seats for white people at the front.
A Movie Theater
O.S. Finch bought the Diamond in 1912, immediately converting it into the Diamond Moving Picture Company. Built as a movie theater for predominantly African American moviegoers, it was Easter 1913 when the building was completely obliterated by a tornado. Striking early afternoon on a Sunday, several several moviegoers were immediately rumored to be dead inside. Fortunately though, there weren’t that many viewers at that show and not a lot of people died in the theater itself. However, it was wrecked.
Finch rebuilt the building soon after to its original dimensions, including the 400-seat auditorium. Operated as the Diamond Theater, it exclusively showed films distributed by Universal Pictures. In 1915, Finch added onto the rear of the building and covered the entire lot. Featuring 750 seats, it was renamed the Finch Theater, and it continued serving Black moviegoers.
The Finch Theater was closed in 1923, and soon after sold to the Micklin brothers who owned the hardware store on North 24th, and later at North 19th and Nicholas Street. Maurice D. Micklin (1900-1953) remodeled the Finch and reopened it as the Lake Theater in 1924. It was closed again in 1929.
During this time period (1912-1929) the building had offices on the second floor and storefronts on the front. One of the businesses on the first floor included a real estate office.
Jim Bell’s Club Harlem opened here around 1935. Learn more in my article “A History of Club Harlem” here »
Bowling the Night Away
In 1939, the slanted movie theater floor was removed from part of the building and bowling lanes were put in. After becoming the Victory Bowl in 1939, it was renamed the Lake Street Bowling Alley in 1946. This was actually the second bowling alley opened for African Americans in Omaha; the first was around the corner on 24th Street. The Lake Street Bowling Alley operated until at least 1950.
For a brief time in 1938, the Swingland Cafe opened here. It was called both the Cotton Club and the Harlem Nites Cafe in 1939. In 1940, the Savoy Cafe was open. The Lake Street Theatre was operating here in 1949.
Opening the Off Beat
The Off Beat Supper Club was opened here in 1953. Incorporated by a group of Black investors, it was home to the Onyx Room for performers, the former offices and apartment on the second floor were converted into the Skyroom Supper Club. The owners were especially happy with the Skyroom, and advertised its beautiful setting and high-end professional kitchen. There was a brief period in the late 1950s that the Skyroom was the K-Vet Club. The business stayed open until 1970 Learn more in my article “A History of the Off Beat Club” here »
Offbeat Teen Club
For several months between 1970 and 1971, the Offbeat Teen Club operated at 2410 Lake Street. Along with live soul music performances, the space was regularly open for neighborhood young people. It closed without fanfare.
After the Offbeat Teen Club closed, the building was abandoned and demolished in the 1970s. A unique vestige of Black resilience and fiscal empowerment for nearly half its life, the building was an iconic institution most people were just used to seeing.
As of 2020, the lot has sat empty for more than 40 years. There is no historical signage telling of the address’s significant role as an African American hotspot for 70 years, and no indication that the future holds anything important for this very important location.
You Might Like…
- A History of Jim Bell’s Club Harlem
- A History of the Off Beat Club
- A History of the 24th and Lake Historic District
- A History of Restaurants, Diners and Cafes in North Omaha