|The Nebraska Goodwill, located at 16th and Cuming.|
Before anyone developed N. 16th, it was the country road that led to the old town of Saratoga. Founded in 1856, Saratoga depended on a bend in the Missouri River for its business. Although the town formally boomed and busted within two years of its founding, people kept living there. Eventually it was annexed into Omaha, and now it blends in with the area around it. But when the Omaha Horse Railway inched passengers with a wagon and horses along the route to the old town, visitors would have seen Erastus Beadle's house. Beadle was the town founder who moved on to a small town called Denver after his first attempt at profiteering off the west didn't work out. The next time it did. They also would've seen a Presbyterian school called Talbot Hall, and an old Englishman named Richard Siemon's brewery in Saratoga, too.
N. 16th once meandered along with a grand view of the Missouri and it's broad river valley. Horse-drawn coaches would inch through the fields and forests along the way. It was along this bucolic drive that the city's original business barons built their plush country estates. They lobbied for the street to be renamed for one of their heroes from the Civil War, the decorated, ruthless Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman. The likes of Andrew Poppleton, a territorial lawyer, built a mansion at 1560 Sherman Avenue. Many of his colleagues in business, government, and industry did the same, and that is how N. 16th originally served as a broad country road for the broad country estates of Omaha's wealthy class.
Plush Apartment Row
Times changed. As more industry moved onto Sherman Avenue and businesses stacked onto it's corners, the wealthy estate owners moved to other environs. Moving along N. 16th in the late 19th century, a traveler would've seen a transforming area.
|The Sherman Apartments at 2501 N. 16th Street.|
They would have seen the 1897 Sherman Apartments, one of the city's first-ever apartment buildings, located at 2501 North 16th Street. Built reminiscent of a Greek temple with fat front columns and triangular rooftops, The Sherman stands today as a testimony to the influence of the Trans-Mississippi on the city during that period. Another important residence was built just about 100 years ago, in 1916, at 2103 N. 16th St. Called The Margaret, these apartments were fancy, high-end rentals for the metropolitan suburbanites who lived along Sherman Avenue and commuted on the streetcar into downtown Omaha.
Right across the street from The Margaret is an even more grand edifice to the area's once luxurious lifestyles, the Strehlow Terrace. Built between 1905 and 1916, the complex included four buildings designed in the Prairie architecture style. Huddled around a courtyard and fountain, the complex was designed for professional class residents to enjoy their apartment lives. Luscious landscaping and suave marketing kept the complex fancy for some time.
|The Apartments at 2514 N. 16th Street.|
By the beginning of the 21st century the corridor was changing. Gone by then would have been any evidence of the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition. After eliminating the possibilities of hosting it at the junction of N. 16th and J.J. Pershing Drive in East Omaha, the Expo's businessmen-leaders selected a site along N. 24th St. and bordered by N. 16th. Extravagant buildings and grand pond of the site were all gone, but memories lingered. They lingered in the form of the Douglas County Fairgrounds and the Sunset Driving Park, both of which were located between N. 16th and Florence Boulevard, south of Commercial Avenue.
Urbanizing the Corridor
Just 100 years ago, driving up 16th Street from downtown Omaha into the north side was a treat for the eyes. A thriving center of the city's most important industry of the period, which was beer, there were also important places to live and essential places to go. Its a far cry from the fear of North Omaha that many people have today, and it deserves a closer look on the history of North Omaha blog.
|The Storz Brewery, located at 16th and Charles.|
|An old fire station at 1017 N. 16th St.|
Around the beginning of the early 20th century, at the very northern end of Sherman Avenue was a little farming community called East Omaha. It was home to a grocery, churches, and a cluster of small homes in a rural setting. Further north was the Missouri River as it bent a contour towards Saratoga. Just before the river was the little Florence Lake and a one-room country school called Beechwood School, which was brought into the Omaha School District in the 1940s. Also in this community was Sherman School, which went through various iterations before exclusively becoming an elementary school.
Today, North 16th is a meager shadow of it's former self. Left to rot and decay by the City of Omaha and it's investors, it is a sore sight in need of a lot of love. The grandeur of the Trans-Mississippi, the exclusivity of upper-class lifestyles, and the upbeatness of suburban sprawl have all left the heart of this place. In their places are community depression, cyclical neglect, and local government ineptitude in the face of change. Hopefully time will emerge the champion as targeted investment renews life to old apartments and reminds Omahans of their roots.
In the meantime, we can remember that North 16th Avenue was ALIVE a hundred years ago, and discover that part of it's history lives in each of us who cares to learn more.
Check out the accompanying map I made!
These are businesses along North 16th Street. They were located there anytime between 1880 and 1956.
- David B. Gross pawn dealer at 410 N. 16th St
- City and Loyal Furniture shop at 223 N. 16th St
- Brodegaard Brothers Jewelers at N. 16th and Douglas Sts.
- Stewarts Seed Store at 119 N. 16th Street
- Harmon and Weeth Coal at 1503 N. 16th
- Bonoff Sample Store at 206 N. 16th St.
- Mrs. A. Huster Millinery in the Hotel Loyal Bldg at 221 N. 16th St.
- Holcomb Chemical Products Company at 918 N. 16th St.
- Hollywood Spots-Lite Company at 912 N. 16th St.
- Black's Annex at 702 N. 16th St.
- Ken's Cafe at 2304 N. 16th St.
- Omaha Updike Milling Company at 1513-23 N. 16th Ave.