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This is a history of North 42nd and Redman Avenue in North Omaha, Nebraska, by Adam Fletcher Sasse for NorthOmahaHistory.com

A History of the Intersection of North 42nd and Redman Avenue

Some neighborhoods have been in Omaha since the beginning of the city in the 1850s. Others were suburban developments, either intentionally planned or just part of the sprawl of a city growing quickly with few checks and balances on developers. The area around Sorenson Parkway west of North 33rd Street falls into the second category. This is a history of the intersection of North 42nd and Redman Avenue.

Building for Who?

This was the Shaver's Supermarket at 42nd and Redman in North Omaha, Nebraska, when it opened in 1959.
This was the Shaver’s Supermarket at 42nd and Redman when it opened in 1959.

Surrounded by farms and fields from the 1860s onward, the area around 42nd and Redman was originally out in countryside. Located a half mile from the commercial intersection at North 42nd and Grand Avenue on the edge of the historic Central Park neighborhood, the area around 42nd and Redman grew up enough to get electrical lights installed in 1908. From that point through the 1960s, this area was called “Northwest Omaha” and was regarded as being a suburban neighborhood.

This new Northwest Omaha neighborhood was a suburban enclave for white families to flee from the increasingly Black neighborhoods closer to downtown Omaha, including the Near North Side, Kountze Place, Bedford Place and Saratoga. Instead, they took long commutes from their jobs to 42nd and Redman and similar areas, and relied on white-only institutions that were de facto segregated.

In the post-World War II housing boom, the area around 42nd and Redman was engulfed in construction. I estimate that from 1945 through 1960, more than 1,000 houses were built in the area immediately around the intersection. The Meadowbrook Homes addition started construction at the southwest corner in 1952. With 80 homes in the development, it extended from Redman to the south side of Jaynes Street, and from North 42nd to North 46th Street. The Meadowbrook Homes were advertised as “real bargains” and featured “low priced homes” starting at $8,000. The ads said, “Not prefab or precut, but conventional built with FHA inspection and guaranteed loan. 24’8″ x 32′. 2 bedrooms, utility room, living room, kitchen, bath. Plaster throughout. Cedar siding, complete with doors.” There were also full basements. Later ads said there were “24×30 conventional 4-room, number of homes limited, compare before you buy. The very best of material and construction.” This is just one example of the many homes built between Fort Street and Kansas Avenue, from Fontenelle Boulevard to North 48th Street.

Other developments in the neighborhood during the 1950s included a number of churches growing and opening, such as Central Park Presbyterian Church, St. Richard’s Catholic parish, and other congregations. As the main thoroughfare between two primary Jewish cemeteries in North Omaha—Golden Hill and Temple Israel—there were initially a number of Jewish residents in the area, too.

This 1958 Frosty Drive-In ad showed a map to their location in North Omaha,.
This 1958 Frosty Drive-In ad showed a map to their location.

Keeping Segregation Intact

With the increased pressure from Omaha’s Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, whites-only neighborhoods throughout the city faced increased pressure to integrate. Real estate agents, along with lenders, home builders and insurance companies, maintained white supremacy with a variety of tactics, including racially discriminating associations that could legally maintain segregation.

In 1958 neighborhood leaders established the Redman Valley Recreation Association to serve their own desire to keep Black people segregated from white people. Focused on building recreational facilities, the association grew quickly to serve 200 families and put out a bid for constructing the Redman Valley Recreation Association swimming pool in early 1959. Located at 5416 Fontenelle Boulevard, just a few blocks from the 42nd and Redman, the pool would cost $15,000 to build, and the bathhouse was estimated at $5,200. It was finished quickly and opened that summer.

In 1963, the Omaha Star called out the Redman Valley Recreation Association for its racism. During a citywide debate over where to locate the low-cost housing for seniors to be built by the Omaha Housing Authority, the Redman group signed onto a plan that kept the housing in the segregated neighborhoods south of Ames Avenue and east of North 30th Street. The building was constructed at North 24th and Pratt Streets. However, the racially exclusive pool couldn’t withstand the end of segregation in Omaha, and when white people started moving away and African Americans moved in, it closed.

As many middle class white families moved out, the association collapsed. With the association gone, the pool was closed permanently in 1974. By 1978 the newspaper declared it a “city problem,” and that year the pool was filled in with concrete. Today, that concrete pad is still there and the pool house has been repurposed as the Shiloh Church of God in Christ.

Businesses Grow

Businesses salivated at the idea of serving all those residents, looking for commercial spaces throughout the area. It was the 1950s before the intersection took off commercially, but suddenly there were several businesses there. A grocery store, drug store, drive-in, bar and other places opened up quickly.

The Wiles Mobile Station was located at the intersection for a long time, as well as the Crest Service Station. Wiles became the Sprague Mobil in the late 1960s. That shop started selling used cars immediately, and by 1970 the intersection was home to Sprague Used Motors. The corner was also host to Branson Mobile and the Redman Mobile station starting around 1971.

The first large development at the intersection was the Shaver’s shopping center on the northwest corner. It included a supermarket, drug store, liquor store, barber shop and laundry, with parking for 125 cars. Construction was started there in 1958. In 1959, Shaver’s Supermarket opened at 42nd and Redman. In a congratulatory ad from that March, the company said “Your response to the new Shaver’s at 42nd and Redman was wonderful… From now on it’s up to us to make Shaver’s at 42nd and Redman the kind of store you love to shop.” In a February ad that year, the store said “We’re sure you’ll be delighted with Shaver’s at 42nd and Redman! Every feature of this wonderful new store has been planned with your shopping convenience in mind. With the opening of this store, Shaver’s brings its reputation for low prices and good food to another section of Omaha. Providing really good food is the first duty of a food store. Shaver’s knows you can have good food at reasonable, low prices. That’s the way Shaver’s has succeeded!”

Several restaurants were located at the intersection throughout the years. A Dairy Queen was at 42nd and Redman in the 1960s. In 1963, the Redman Steak House opened next to the Frosty Drive-In, but closed quickly because of neighbor’s protests to them serving alcohol. The Frosty Drive-In opened on the southwest corner of the intersection in 1957, after Truman Clare built the building for $5,700. The building has been many food-related businesses since Frosty closed in 1962, including Tele-Chick (1962-1963), the Andersen Dairy and Donut Store (1963-1972), Little Mac’s Place (1972-1978), S.J. & Sons Fish and Chicken (1980-1984) and the Bus Stop Cafe (1984-1987).

In the 1960s, there was a Dreshers Dry Cleaners located at the intersection.

By the late 1960s, the area wasn’t referred to as Northwest Omaha anymore. Instead, it was woven into the fabric of the community and thought to be a sustainable place for long term, stable living and business. Space in the strip mall at the intersection was available for lease in 1970. The advertisement said, “Excellent space available in modern shopping center, former doctor’s office.”

A Kwik Shop opened near the corner in 1971. A convenience store, the business was constantly busy and maintained its customer base for more than a decade.

Businesses Decline

Still a desirable area, the intersection hadn’t declined yet. However, all that was different by the mid-1970s.

The Blacklight Amusement Center was at 4293 Redman Avenue in North Omaha, Nebraska, in 1972.
The Blacklight Amusement Center was at 4293 Redman Avenue in 1972.

After Dresher’s Dry Cleaners closed, Blacklight Amusement Center took over their spot at 4293 Redman Avenue in 1972. Filled with pool tables and pinball machines, the business was owned by Paul Talarico and was a popular teen hangout for several years. However, they immediately struggled with staying open because of complaints from neighboring businesses. According to the World-Herald, Arthur Seigfreid, owner of Seig’s Drugs next door, said “The main problem is that they attract a bunch of hoodlums. They draw an undesirable element to the area. I’ve lost customers because of that place. We’ve had a multitude of problems.” Seig told the newspaper he anticipated $1,500 in lost sales per month the amusement center was open. “If there’s a generally steady increase each month and then it drops off drastically, there’s something wrong.” Blacklight’s lease was canceled in May of the year, and the business was ultimately open for fewer than 5 months.

Within a few years several other businesses moved out. It was 1980 when Seig Drug moved to another location. Art’s Auto Supplies moved into the intersection in the late 1970s, and Phil’s Foodway took over the Shaver’s location in 1979. It was founder Phil Morrison’s first grocery store. Leola McDonald (1955-2010) opened a store at the intersection called Mystical Sounds in 1977. It was her first venture before opening Leola’s Records and Tapes at North 33rd and Parker later.

In the 1980s, the City of Omaha started removing the abandoned Chicago and Northwestern tracks (formerly the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad tracks) just north of 42nd and Redman. For more than a century this line served the region, and after trains stopped running on it there were empty tracks for decades. However, for the almost the entire next decade an empty dirt track sat along the route where the rails were. In 1981, Phil Morrison, owner of Phil’s Foodway, said construction hurt his business there. In 1982, the Kwik Shop near 42nd and Redman closed. Zion Wheel Baptist Church was located in this storefront in the 1990s and early 2000s, but didn’t stay and today it sits empty.

This building at 4222 Redman Avenue in North Omaha, Nebraska, was Kwik Shop #606 from 1971-1982. Today its empty.
This building at 4222 Redman Avenue was Kwik Shop #606 from 1971-1982. Today its empty.

In the 1990s, the City of Omaha redeveloped the old railroad as the Sorenson Parkway. Today, the route shuttles drivers from North 30th Street to North 90th Street. Some drivers stop at the current businesses at 42nd and Redman.

Indicative of the challenges facing the intersection, in 2000 the Douglas County Adult Probation Office opened a satellite office next to Phil’s Foodway. A county commissioner expressed concerns over the safety of the staff in the office, saying “I think there are some serious concerns on the part of the staff who will be working there. They don’t want to go.” The offices aren’t located there anymore.

That same year, Phil Morrison and his business partner converted their Phil’s Foodway grocery store into a Cubby’s Convenience Store.

42nd and Redman Today

Art's Auto Supply was located at 42nd and Redman for several years.
Art’s Auto Supply was located at 42nd and Redman for several years.

The neighborhood around the intersection has changed a lot since its heyday in the early 1960s. The housing stock has not been improved and in many cases has deteriorated dramatically. There are a number of apartment buildings around the intersection that have not been up kept or modernized since they were built in the 1950s and 1960s. When houses in the area have fallen into disrepair, the City of Omaha has either supported their demolition or demolished them itself. There is little in-fill activity in this neighborhood, where builders construct new houses to replace old ones that have been demolished.

The intersection pales in comparison to its high point in the 1960s. However, despite the way its painted by the media and seen by passers-by, the commercial intersection of 42nd and Redman isn’t dead. At the turn of the century, there was a barber shop located at the intersection. Other businesses located at North 42nd and Redman today include Cubby’s Convenience Store, which anchors the corner, and a store called $.99 Cents and More. Lermu Asian Groceries Store, Cross Auto Repair, Misty’s Angels Daycare, and Misty’s Convenience Store are also at or near the intersection.

Misty's Angels Daycare and Misty's Convenience Store are located at the corner of 42nd Street and Redman at 5438 North 42nd Street, today.
Misty’s Angels Daycare and Misty’s Convenience Store are located at the corner of 42nd and Redman Avenue today.

The customer base in this area is largely African American, but includes Asian Americans and white people too. This a working class neighborhood in need of an upswing. The City of Omaha needs to introduce strategic beautification of the buildings in the area, and send a city planner in to work with building owners and business owners and residents to practically, meaningfully and sustainably repair the damage done by 50 years of benign neglect by Omaha city leaders. Then the area can move ahead.

The other thing that needs to happen is for the City of Omaha to acknowledge the value of this intersection in the past. Right now, there is no historical recognition of the value of North 42nd and Redman Avenue in the history of Omaha. Despite its undeniable influence and guidance in anchoring the commercial life of this area for more than 25 years, its lost among the noise of the traffic racing up and down Sorensen Parkway today.

42nd and Redman Historical Business Directory

This is a 1960 aerial pic of the intersection of N. 42nd and Redman Ave. in North Omaha, Nebraska, with several business locations identified. Pic courtesy of the Omaha Public Library.
This is a 1960 aerial pic of the intersection of N. 42nd and Redman Ave with several business locations identified. Pic courtesy of the Omaha Public Library.

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BONUS

In 1959, a Shaver's Supermarket opened at 42nd and Redman. In this congratulatory ad from March 5, 1959, the company said "Your response to the new Shaver's at 42nd and Redman was wonderful... From now on it's up to us to make Shaver's at 42nd and Redman the kind of store you love to shop."
In 1959, a Shaver’s Supermarket opened at 42nd and Redman. In this congratulatory ad from March 5, 1959, the company said “Your response to the new Shaver’s at 42nd and Redman was wonderful… From now on it’s up to us to make Shaver’s at 42nd and Redman the kind of store you love to shop.”
Seig Drugs was at 42nd and Redman for more than 30 years.
Seig Drugs was at 42nd and Redman for more than 30 years.
This was a 1958 ad for the Frosty Drive-In at 42nd and Redman Ave. in North Omaha, Nebraska.
This was a 1958 ad for the Frosty Drive-In at 42nd and Redman.

7 responses to “A History of the Intersection of North 42nd and Redman Avenue”

  1. I grew up not far from 42nd and Redman. My parents shopped at Shavers and Seig Drugs. Spent from 1970 to 1973 swimming at the pool and belonging to the swim team( some of the best Summers of my childhood). We played on the railroad tracks and friends put graffiti on the train overpass on Fontenelle Blvd.We to buy candy that was connected to the drug store and went to a dentist at the back of the building. Frequented the Dairy Queen and our Neighbor worked at the donut shop. So sad the neighborhood went down hill. My family moved in 1973 but still have a strong connection to North “O”. Thank you so much for these articles. Brings back great memories. Lived there till I was 16 great times

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for the article I thought that area was forgotten, it was a perfect area to grow up

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Grow up next door to Redman valley pool I remember all the store my mom worked at dairy queen it was like a little piece of heaven we knew all are neighbors too

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I spent every summer at the pool!! Loved Pak A Sak!! Took the PATH, to the pool daily and sledded down it in the winter!

    Sad how things change!! Great job and thanks for the history lesson. I now know why my parents bought the house at 5304 N 44th Ave.

    Colin Quinn

    Liked by 1 person

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