North Omaha’s African American culture has grown and changed dramatically since its founding in 1854. One of the main drivers of the culture for more than a century has been the Black media. From the time Omaha’s first Black newspaper was published in 1889 through Shanelle Williams’ continued use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media today to build the African American community in Omaha, Black media has continued to transform the North Omaha community and the city at large.
Almost a decade ago, I stumbled across stories of a railroad that looped around Omaha. Different sources told crazy realities, including conflicting ownership, court cases, and the rise and fall of several neighborhoods in North Omaha. I was fascinated that I saw this track all the time when I was growing up, but I never knew its story, so I started researching. I read articles and pamphlets, books and maps. After that, I started an article on Wikipedia to share what I’d found. Well, as you know, that’s never enough for me. With some recent encouragement from John Peterson, a fine Omaha history writer, I am going to expand here on what I’ve researched and learned about the Belt Line Railway in North Omaha.
The Mormon Tree, also called the Brigham Young Tree, has loomed over my studies of Florence history for a decade now. I’ve seen mentions of it in old newspapers and heard stories about it from older people. However, I couldn’t find anything about it all this time. Until last month. Finally, after all these years, I wrote the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters to ask about the Mormon Tree.
Immediately after World War II, there was a rush of soldiers flush with government money that allowed them to buy homes and build families right away. A lot of North Omaha finished in-filling during this period, with houses constructed in just a few months and selling a lot quicker than that. Spread across a few streets in the Miller Park neighborhood, one set of these homes created an architecturally distinct area that should be designated as a historic district and preserved quickly.
For more than 15 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has been fighting lead poisoning in North Omaha as part of a citywide environmental cleanup focused on the 27-square-miles east of 72nd Street.
Did you know that North Omaha has at least eight historic cemeteries? Serving religious and ethnic populations as well as the general public, these are the final resting places of thousands of people from the 1840s through today.
Now seen as the front door to Omaha, Cuming Street has also served as the city’s farthest edge; as the growing, mighty muscles of industry and business; and as its dirty, neglected backside. This article highlights the history of Cuming Street, from its beginnings through to present day.
More than 65 years ago, a newspaper was launched to serve Omaha’s African American community. Coming from a legacy of several Black newspapers before it, the paper was launched by the visionary Mildred Brown and her husband Ed Gilbert. Losing its direct competitors within a decade, The Omaha Star became the city’s Civil Rights media champion, refusing to print negative news and constantly focusing on keeping it positive. The original banner was “Joy and Happiness”, and the only told good news.
A history of the Belvedere neighborhood in North Omaha, Nebraska.
Built: 1875 estimated Address: 1504 North 19th Street Architecture: Eastlake Style Demolished: 1900 estimated When Omaha was first starting up in the 1850s and 1860s, it was built with wood. Wood-frame stores, hotels, homes and boarding houses were all over. There were some soddies, too. One of the first people to help the city move […]
The North Omaha Radar Station has a long history. Located at 11000 North 72nd Street, it was built in 1950 as the Omaha Air Force Station. With exactly 40 acres on the intersection of North 72nd and McKinley Drive, it was part of a Cold War-focused radar network and was officially closed in 1968. That […]
One of North Omaha’s landmark roadways that has always intrigued me is Cuming Street. My dad used to take my brother and I to Canfield’s, where we’d comb the aisles for what seemed like hours. Creighton University seemed like a foreign land, but in high school I discovered Bemis Park and began lulling in the […]
The original town of East Omaha was south of the present-day Eppley Airport, west of Abbott Drive, and north of the river. It was known known as East Omaha and was claimed by Edmond Jeffries in 1853. That was a year before the so-called Indian Territory was opened to white settlement and a year before Omaha City was founded. The next year, it became Omaha’s first annexation, brought into the city in 1854.
This is the story of the Florence-area country escape of the Brandies family called Arlena Lodge…
This story begins with the death. On November 2nd, 1989, Mildred Brown passed away. Easily the mother of North Omaha pride, Mildred co-founded The Omaha Star in the late 1930s and ran it by herself for almost 50 years. She promoted the community mercilessly, building pride, power and purpose through her paper, and her death was a massive loss to everyone in North Omaha, especially the African American community.
The history of Florence begins with the tangled clopping of horse hooves and rattling of the sideboards on beat up wagons. The story of the town begins with people leaving, people coming back, a town booming, a town shrinking, and then getting annexed into Omaha and calming down. It’s a story that’s still being written every day, and lately things are on the up and up!
This is the original Poor Clares Monastery built in 1904. It still stands at N. 29th and Hamilton Streets. Located in the middle of the hustle and bustle is a spectacularly beautiful, formerly consecrated rental facility that few people in the entire city know about. For more than a century there was a monastery […]
With the old country ties in mind, one lawyer in Omaha took it upon himself to bring some fellow Irishmen back to Omaha to stump for “Cowboy” Jim Dahlman, Omaha’s corrupt longtime mayor who was controlled by local boss Tom Dennison. Did his tireless campaigning get him a seat in the Nebraska State Legislature? Was there dirty money involved in building his palatial home?
The N. 24th and Lake intersection as it appeared in the early 1950s. Jim Bell’s Club Harlem was to the left of the intersection at 2310 Lake Street. The horns blared out the doors, crowds of Black and white jazz fans waited impatiently to cram in, and bunches of kids stood around the back door […]
Dan Desdunes was The Man. The leader of Omaha’s powerhouse music scene for more than 20 years, here’s his story…
Built in 1915, the Broadview Hotel at 2060 Florence Boulevard operated for several decades. Much the same as today, Omaha was culturally segregated in the early 20th century. That included its hotels. Spectacular stories about wonderful early hotels didn’t include African Americans. Places like the Grand Central Hotel, the Cozzens Hotel, the Herndon House, and […]
The banner from a 1910 periodical for parks maintenance. It costs money to be a respectful, successful cemetery. They actually have to conduct a regular and brisk business in order to afford their existence. Today, many old cemeteries have charitable groups or beneficiaries who pay for their upkeep. However, it hasn’t always been easy to raise […]
The Gas Bag was the official newspaper of Fort Omaha in 1919.Fort Omaha was opened in 1878. Home to thousands of US Army troops over a century of service, many people lived and died at the Fort. Today, some of the buildings that still survive on the campus include the General Crook House and the Commissary, both […]
In the month of October 2015, I was invited to participate in Q98’s After Dark Halloween special with JT and Pat. Making two appearances before the special, I was able to share some stories and have fun with the opportunity.Here are the shows I appeared on – I’ll be adding the actual After Dark Halloween […]
Nurses learning their trade at Immanuel Deaconess Hospital in the 1910s. There were 20 buildings at the old Immanuel Deaconess campus in North Omaha. Located at N. 34th and Meredith, the first building opened there in 1891. Over the years, the campus included a hospital, an orphanage, an old folks home, and a mental health […]
Prospect Hill Cemetery was not Omaha’s first cemetery. This article explores that, and shares information about the city’s actual first cemeteries, including a few others lost to time.
Since before the Nebraska Territory was founded in 1854, executions including lynchings, shootings and hangings happened in Omaha. The Omaha Claim Club, established by the city’s founders, used intimidation, threats, and drownings in order to enforce their homesteading over anyone who tried to disagree with them. In 1860, the US Supreme Court made their actions […]
On October 24, 1889, the Omaha Daily World reported that G.S. Kennedy, an African American mechanic who frequented the bar at the Paxton Hotel, was “somewhat indignant” for being charged a higher price than usual because, as the bartender said, he was Black. My review of other articles from early Omaha shows wasn’t Kennedy’s experience wasn’t exception in […]
Omaha’s Colored Commercial Club was an business referral, employment agency, and community building org for almost a decade. This is it’s history…
This is the story of A. J. Poppleton’s North Omaha estate called Elizabeth Place.
The J. J. Brown Mansion belonged to one of Omaha’s early industrialists, and became one of Omaha’s first hospitals. Discover it’s story…
In the 1870s, businessman John McCreary built a fine Italianate mansion in present-day North Omaha. Here’s a history.
The most famous mansion built in North Omaha is probably the Mayne Mansion, also known as the Redick Mansion. Clifton E. Mayne was a pioneer real estate investor and salesman in the city. In the 1870s, a farmer built a little house along Saunders Street leading north out of Omaha. He sold ten acres and his little farmhouse to Mayne in 1885.
The Jewish people in North Omaha were tied together with the establishment and growth of the community for a century…
OMAHANS HAVE BEEN MISINFORMED! We like history. We want to be proud of the past. Sometimes, in order to be proud, we intentionally forget, ignore, or otherwise let go of the parts of the past that we’re not proud of. For years, the people of Omaha have been told that all of the buildings […]
Nestled between the Miller Park neighborhood and Sorenson Parkway is a 150 year old institution that’s been a powerhouse, a prison, a balloon school and a neglected surplus, and many other things. This is a short history of Fort Omaha. A group of officers at Fort Omaha in 1918. My Story As a whole, Fort […]
The Presbyterians were one of the congregations that grew along with Omaha. Arriving soon after the city’s founders, the first Presbyterian church in Omaha was opened in 1856. Over the next 25 years, more than 100 Presbyterian churches were founded in towns and cities across Nebraska. Their buildings became institutions for the faithful, for their communities and for the culture of the state. However, educating enough pastors to lead these flocks was becoming a challenge.
Native Americans are not gone, and neither is their culture. This article is not intended to mythologize, romanticize, or historicize American Indians of any kind in any way. Instead, its a simple summary of what white people have found about the Native Americans who lived in the area we know today as North Omaha.
This is a biography of Nebraska’s first African American legislator, Dr. Matthew O. Ricketts. He served from 1893 to 1897.