A History of The Climmie

The Climmie, 2514 N. 16th St., North Omaha, Nebraska

In the 1920s, North 16th Street was jam packed with fancy apartments and rowhouses from Dodge Street north to the busy intersection of Locust Street. The rowhouse at 2514 North 16th Street was finished in early 1929 when the street was at its nexus. Although the thoroughfare struggled during the Great Depression of the next decade, after World War II it was full again. This rowhouse is now called The Climmie, and it played an important role then, and today stands as a rare testimony to the glory that was once a bustling big street.

A large living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and one bedroom make each apartment identical. Outfitted with a murphy bed and wood floors, the apartments have been rehabilitated by their current owner, Ethel Mitchell. Mitchell single-handledly rescued the building from demolition after it sat empty for decades.

What Was Going On?!?

1938 image of the Near North Side, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1938 aerial view of the Near North Side neighborhood in Omaha. Cuming Street is marked in read; the orange lines are (from left) North 24th Street, Florence Boulevard and North 16th Street.

The “Roaring Twenties” were a busy time for Omaha architect Richard Everett (1889-1972). During this decade he designed several structures in North Omaha, none of which are still standing. However, perhaps his finest design in the community is still standing. It is the rowhouse at 2514 North 16th Street.

Built with four units, this brick rowhouse is two stories tall with an unfinished concrete basement. Its most important design element are the four large porches in the front that allow people to live outside of their house. Otherwise, The Climmie has a typical neoclassical design outside highlighted by a craftsman style interior.

Bretnor Court, 2536 N. 16th St., North Omaha, Nebraska
These are the Bretnor Court apartments at 2536 North 16th Street.

Located across the street is The Sherman, an older apartment building that established North 16th as an apartment Mecca for locals. The Climmie was built in the same tone as The Sherman, and was one of hundreds of similar rowhouses built throughout North Omaha in this era. For the first time, connected by streetcars to downtown and shopping at North 16th and Locust, residents were able to have all the calmness of suburban life with all the conveniences of urban living in Omaha.

Occupied mostly by Jewish renters for decades, The Climmie was part of the strict redlining that kept North Omaha strictly segregated until the early 1960s. It wasn’t until then that African Americans were allowed to rent there.

Located along the block with The Climmie were two large apartment buildings, four rowhouses, and the large Bretnor Court apartment building. Today, only Bretnor Court still exists. There were several businesses nearby too, including a gas station, grocery stores, and boutiques north and south of the building.

What Happened?

The Apartments at 2514 N. 16th Street
The Apartments at 2514 N. 16th Street were some of the high points of apartment life in North Omaha in the 1920s.

After World War II, many of the middle class apartment dwellers moved away from North Omaha. Their apartments lacked the amenities that newer developments by 72nd Street featured, including in-home washer and dryers and new refrigerators. When the Omaha and Council Bluffs Streetcar Railway Company ended streetcar service along North 16th Street in 1955, it was a death knell to high quality lifestyles along the strip. Within a decade, many of the apartments along the street had become derelict and were largely abandoned. By the 1970s violence marred the entire area, while benign neglect and white supremacy gutted the community any hope for a brighter future.

By the 1980s, many of the apartment buildings surrounding were slated for demolition, and many of them were wrecked. The La Grata Apartments, Marianna Apartments, and The Ivy apartments were both demolished, along with many others. After the removal of streetcars, the surface of North 16th was allowed to deteriorate by the City of Omaha, along with the sidewalks, the streetlights, the curbs, and all the greenspaces that once lined the street.

Luckily, the Ernie Chambers Court and the Bretnor Court apartments, as well as The Sherman and The Margaret, were rescued from demolition. Unfortunately, most of the other rowhouses throughout the neighborhood resembling The Climmie were demolished, including four rowhouses surrounding The Climmie.

2514 North 16th Today

Today, the rowhouse at 2514 North 16th Street has been renovated and updated and Ethel Mitchell, a good owner who got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She also named the building The Climmie. Today, it stands as a testament to North Omaha’s once-significant role in growing Omaha’s economy by providing substantial working class and middle class homes. Now its leading the charge in revitalizing a once-tremendous neighborhood.

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