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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  1. That apartment building is across the street from the Sherman and it was vacant for years. I’m surprised Rusty didn’t buy them and renovate them herself, maybe she thought it wasn’t worth it. I lived at the Sherman from 2007 to 2018 and that building was vacant the entire time I lived over there. I’m glad someone came along and did something with it. I wish people with the money would consider investing in that area and give it the much-needed facelift that it needs. I don’t know the history of that area besides the Sherman, but I can tell there used to be a chain of retail stores between Cady Ave and Locust St, those buildings should be renovated for retailers to come into the area, but not another liquor store. Allied Furniture actually set up a liquor store and applied to get a liquor license, well we shut that down because there were already 3 places within walking distance that sold liquor, which were Chubb Foods, The Dunn Deal Cafe/Liquor store and then the B&T convenience store on Florence., there was absolutely no need for another liquor store as all they do is contribute to the deterioration of the neighborhood. I used to get up in the mornings, go out to my balcony and count the number of homeless people from the Francis House that would walk down to Chubbs or Dunn Deal to buy liquor. I can’t tell you how many times I called the fire dept. for people passed out on the sidewalk on 16th street. Numerous times having to remove people passed out on the lawn or the steps of the Sherman. They are lucky I didn’t have the German Shepherds that I do now. Mrs. Turner was trying to do something to improve the neighborhood, she owned the empty lots around the Sherman apts and I remember she suggested to me one day that she wanted to buy a Mcdonald’s franchise for the area and asked me if I would help run it, which I declined because I don’t like working in fast food and I wouldn’t have been the best candidate anyway. She was actively trying to get businesses to come to the area, she even contacted Walmart about them bringing a store to the area, which they obviously declined it. I suggested to her that she either invest in or find a company that offers temp services jobs to come into the neighborhood. I also told her that she should consider buying that abandoned store by Ernie Chambers court, I think it used to be called Daileys. I remember it being open when I first moved to Omaha back in 2001 so I was surprised to see it abandoned when I moved that way. If I had the money, I would have bought that building and turned it into a technology center, computer lab, and cyber cafe where all the neighborhood kids could come learn about computer sciences, have fun with computers and video games, and be in a safe environment instead of running the streets looking for trouble and the wrong things to get into. Thank goodness that area at least has the Hope Center and its a net positive. I remember one day reading a World-Herald article about Omaha having one of the highest murder rates per capita among Black men in the country and the World-Herald used a picture of that building for that article. I thought to myself, that place looks familiar, all I had to do was step outside to the balcony and verify it. I have a lot of memories from living over there for so long, but that area eventually caused depression in me because it’s so run down and just reaks of hopelessness, and nobody who has the money or influence to change things actually cares. Moving to Minnelusa did wonders for my outlook. Out of the 11 years that I lived there, I never really had any serious problems with anyone because I grew up in the worse neighborhoods of North Minneapolis and I had to show the people around there that I am not going to play around with them and I’m not going to tolerate inconveniences or interruptions in my life caused by them, especially when I have 2 young daughters to take care of. I left them alone, they left me alone.


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