The Saratoga neighborhood has existed since Nebraska was on the edge of the Wild West. After its glorious revelry during the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Expo, it settled into becoming a successful neighborhood on the edge of Omaha with a business center at North 24th and Ames Avenue. One of its nicest features was a vaudeville turned movie house. This is a history of the Suburban Theater in North Omaha.
The Suburban Theatre was opened around 1900 just south of North 24th and Ames Avenue. Owned by Charles Jacobsen, it opened as a vaudeville and was converted to a movie theater within a decade. Jacobsen was a Danish immigrant who was one of the first horse-drawn streetcar drivers in Omaha. His theater, run by his son Fred Jacobsen, was credited with being the first theater in the city that wasn’t located downtown.
Jacobsen would have been in touch with the pulse of the Saratoga neighborhood because of the Ames Avenue Streetcar Barn built on the corner of 24th and Ames in 1899. He hosted special days for different populations, including kids shows and family shows and shows just for streetcar drivers.
Alas, his business model might not have been the best, and the Suburban closed for the first time around 1920. William H. Creal bought the theater soon after. Creal was a theater magnate in Omaha, and owned several others. Despite this, he was fined by the City of Omaha building inspector for allowing the rear door of the theater to be blocked by rubbish. The theater was closed again shortly after that. Later, Creal’s son owned the theater, which they closed to open the nearby Beacon Theater by 30th and Ames in 1927.
Originally built of brick with a wooden façade, after it was the Suburban Theater the space became a grocery store, a restaurant, a pool hall and then a bar and grill called Kato’s that was there for almost 50 years.
Today there is a barbecue and liquor store in this historic building which is not designated as an official Omaha Landmark or listed on the National Register of Historic Places.