Some buildings melt into North Omaha’s backdrop, unnoticed and unappreciated for their beauty, uniqueness, and history. Whether they’re commercial, religious, industrial or otherwise, I think its important to bring out the past, the designs, and the legacy of these spaces, and to preserve and protect what’s left. Towards that end, this is a history of 4225 Florence Boulevard in the Saratoga neighborhood.
The Saratoga neighborhood had several buildings constructed and businesses opened between 1900 and 1929. The vibrant real estate business in the area included construction of a large, multi-use building at 4225 Florence Boulevard. Sold by the Gruenig Real Estate Company, the new building had 15,000 square feet and several storefronts facing the boulevard. The building included the addresses:
- 4221 Florence Boulevard
- 4223 Florence Boulevard
- 4225 Florence Boulevard
- 4227 Florence Boulevard
- 4229 Florence Boulevard
The Prettiest Mile Motor Company car dealer was located at 4225 Florence Boulevard from 1922, when the building was finished being built. There was also a car painting company located there until 1927. The car dealer lasted until 1928.
In 1928, the U.S. Agricultural Chemical Company moved into the building. Encouraging families to “insure the lives of your chicks,” the company proposed its “Gland-O-Lac Chick Starter” was a “life insurance” for baby chicks to get “early boilers and layers.” They suggested, “You can break all records by feeding Gland-O-Lac Chick Starter. 2 1/2 pound chicks in 9 weeks–no other feed can equal it.”
Eventually using the brand name Gland-O-Lac Company, they continued producing medicines for chickens and dogs here into the 1940s. There was alos another company at the building called United Laboratories, and according to the Omaha World-Herald, they had “analytical and consulting chemists, bacteriologists and testing engineers.”
During the 1920s, the L.M. Decker Company built washing machines here, too.
The Central Construction Company, also called the Home Owners Service Inc., was located in the building during the 1950s and 1960s. Selling doors, windows, and siding, the company also provided installation and built additions to houses. They went bankrupt in 1970, and the business was liquidated that year.
The Kenron Corporation operated from the building from 1962 to 1967, too. An awning and window company, they operated in conjunction with the Central Construction Company.
By this point the building was advertised with 16,580 square feet, including 5,000 square feet of air conditioning space.
Mason’s Fire and Safety Company was located there in the 1960s and 1970s, along with the AAA Heating and Air Conditioning Company.
Today, the building has 17,189 square feet and is zoned for light industrial usage. Owned by the Dundee Granite Company. A company called GMS Wërks and Firenze International is located there now. Started in 1924 by an Italian immigrant named Isidoro Bortolotti (1897-1990), the firm was originally called the Universal Terrazzo & Tile Company. Expanding to include tile, coatings, concrete, paving bricks and natural stone, Bortolotti was active into the 1970s. In 2011, the company concentrated on natural stone products, and today it has worked in a dozen states from its North Omaha home. It continues being located at 4225 Florence Boulevard.
The legacy of this building reflects the surrounding neighborhood’s role in providing light industrial jobs for North Omaha’s middle class neighborhood. However, it also reflects the risks facing historic buildings in the community which are routinely under-recognized for their significance and frequently modified or demolished without thought by the City of Omaha.
Perhaps this building can be saved before its too late.
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