Friday, March 07, 2008

Alphabet City!

The Magic City!

Where the streets have no name ...

South Omaha was once a separate jurisdiction, before being absorbed into Omaha in 1915. South Omaha once extended from Center Street on the north, to the community of Albright, just north of Harrison Street to the south.

When you say "South Omaha", images of South Omaha's still-thriving central business district come to mind, centered about 24th. Street, and covering the alphabet from roughly L to Q.

This area is about 1/2 mile due east of the now-disbanded Union Stockyards, once the world's largest meatpacking center, having stripped Chicago of this title in 1952.

The packing industry is long gone, having flown to the 'burbs and the hinterlands, but the 24th. Street commercial strip is still vibrant and bustling, with a colorful mix of old and new!

Let's take a stroll up 24th., observing the present with the past, and possibly the future ...

From Q to O ...

We begin our odyssey at Q St. heading northbound. This area abounds with mixtures of thrift shops, restaurants, and long-standing business of all types.

One thing that will be conspicuously absent along our journey today are oh-too-familiar chain restaurants.

Isn't it NICE! :)

It might be said that the market for thrift shops is saturated, as this now-vacant one, otherwise still in very good shape, indicates.

Merwald's, a heating and air conditioning contractor, has been in this neighborhood for ages, and probably will be for some time to come.

These buildings on the west side of 24th. certainly have some rich history, but unfortunately I don't know much of it.

If you will pardon my digression, one of my favorite sites of all time is "Forgotten-NY" ( with a seemingly-bottomless collection of very entertaining neighborhood walk-throughs, all set about with photographs. I'm not trying to rip off the concept, but let's just say that the pages that Kevin and his gang have put together were really what inspired me to do this piece, and I would like to acknowledge that.

It would be really cool if somebody would put together a similar "Forgotten Omaha" site. Don't look at me, I lack the time, resources, and knowledge! Kevin has such a broad and deep encyclopedic knowledge of such things as streets, buildings, people, businesses. I had to ask what that Post Office building was when I was preparing this piece! :(

If you like this entry, you might want to check out (but after you finish reading the entry here, of course!) :)

Doing this piece, and in particular that building above, really shows me how much I don't know about the area. If I had more time, I would camp out at the Libe for the better part of a day and do some serious research on the various landmarks.

But anyway, back to our program ...

This is a trolley barn, or rather it was.

Update: I just checked the Richard Orr book, Streetcars of Omaha and Council Bluffs (ISBN 0-9653505-0-9), which gives all kinds of transit trivia, including photos and diagrams of car barns, and it doesn't mention this one.

However, the "O&CB StRy Co" logo on the front ...

(Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company) indicates that it was indeed once the property of the Omaha area's once extensive trolley system.

As we continue north from P Street, we pass an eclectic mix of street vendors, a meat market, a nightclub, and ...


This is reported to be a once-popular restaurant, but is now open only for catering and special functions.

City Hall!

Yes, South Omaha, as an independent city, had its own City Hall. It's still standing ...

... but now a law office.

From O to N ...

I was going to say that South Omaha had two banks catering to the meatpacking industry, the Stockyards National (now part of Wells Fargo), and the Packers National.

But wait! There's more! Make that three! There was also the Livestock National Bank, formerly at 24th. and N.

Packers National was on the northeast corner of 24th. and O, and is now ...

... yes, another law office. :)

We continue down the slope toward N St. as we pass the site of the former Phillips Department Store, for years the venerable anchor of the South Omaha business community.

Phillips Store had a supermarket on the lower level, the entrance from a parking lot off the alley in the back, and a regular department store above. Kind of the Super Target concept years ahead of its time!

On the west side of 24th. there still stands one of South Omaha's most notable landmarks, the former Roseland Theater.

It closed as a cinema house years ago, having been converted into apartments.

The marquee could use a little bit of TLC! :(

Moving right along down the slope toward N., we pass the El Alamo restaurant and a pottery house.

Across the street to the west we see Petersen-Michelsen Hardware, another long-standing business in the area, having re-opened here after a disastrous recent-years fire.

Notice the "Carpenter" inscription! This is yet another building with a rich history, one I'm unaware of.

Just down from P&M is one of the more colorful outdoor displays.

As we reach the corner of N. Street, we look westward to notice an elegant well-maintained building showing influences of Victorian and Queen Anne styling. This is yet another building with a rich history, I'm sure, about a century's worth. (Edit-update: "Ricko" says that this is the old Tivoli Theater. "What is now the pharmacy was the lobby of the theater. It housed the Calandra Camera store after the theater closed.")

Maybe some day I'll be able to devote more time to research some of these and do a follow-up "Rest Of The Story" page.

Kubat Pharmacy has a long-lived history of serving the South Omaha community, but is a relative newcomer to this particular location.

Kubat Pharmacy first opened in the 1930s at 13th. and Garfield, moved a few times, and settled in their long-time flagship facility at 49th. and Center.

They have recently expanded and opened this location, which is reportedly doing well, despite being only three blocks from the nearest Walgreens. Yes, an independent business can successfully compete, same as with the restaurants.

To L St. and beyond the infinite ...

Just off 24th. are a couple well-maintained street murals.

One thing that's refreshingly absent in this neighborhood is gang graffiti. Yeah, it happens, but they do a very good job of getting rid of it promptly!

Also just off 24th. in this area is an assortment of specialty shops and service agencies.

As we continue northbound we begin up an incline at N. Street, along a varied mix of rather colorful and unique facades, anchored by a dental clinic.

Is this one a salon or a restaurant? Maybe both?

Across 24th. to the west, we notice this striking display on a child care center.

It's a church! No, it's a bank.

Guess I spoke too soon about the graffiti, huh? Oh well ...

The Partridge Building stands vacant! Undoubtedly, rich history here!

A moneychanger ...

This one looks like a kind of everything store ... :)

And a few more restaurants.

We reach the Post Office. That's what they tell me it is, anyway. :)

As we look toward L. St., we notice that ubiquity is indeed beginning to invade!

Maybe they made them a deal they couldn't refuse. :)

Returning to Q. St., we wander southward, and wonder why anyone would ever need Red Lobster or Long John Silvers when they have:


GaryFL said...

That yellow-brick building is in fact a post office. My daily bus route goes by the front of it.

Anonymous said...

Omababe, you out-did yourself this time. I've been a fan of your site since you put it up and this is the best yet!!!!!!!! Thank you.

Mike F said...

I love it! Its more than a decade since I lived in Omaha for a time. This was one of my favourite parts of town. Perhaps because here in Australia we have Mexican restaurants - but they don't serve anything you'd recognise as Mexican food.

Big Bear said...

According to the incorporation registration of South Omaha, the city border to the north was Vinton St, not Center St. Post annexation, the maps show South Omaha as up to Center St.

Big Bear said...

btw, I have started a project called South Omaha Heritage, beginning with a facebook page to bring as much South Omaha history in one place as possible.

Way back when, where you have a picture of Kubat pharmacy, it used to be Tobin's Drugstore

Jeri Todero Connor said...

desenseMy Dad drove a street car if you would like his pic in his uniform.

Anonymous said...

Nice job. The yellow building was the post office where i registerd for the draft. the pottery building used to be Wheeler Auto parts where i had my first job out of high school befor that it was a Chevy dealership. the business next to it was at one time Joahnas Bar.When you took the pic of Godfathers the building over your right shoulder was a drug store and a woman named gala harvitze taught quitar upstairs.Woolworths was a store like Phillips with a dinner across the street from that drug store.Down the street from the drug store where the mexican resteraunt is was a magazine store it sat next to the Bohemian cafe and that sat next to a bakery.On 24th and L street there was a Hinky Dinky store that later became a bank.Up the street past south high was McDonalds were i spent most nights with a lot of others( LOT RATS) Out Qst there where the driveins Q twin east and west.Joe tess was about a third it's size now and sat on a corner(befor the interstate)and there was a Dairy Queen just up the street from there.24th and vinton there was vinton bowl. there was a bowling alley across from south high and of course The Chief theater.From the rich and diverse ethnic backgrounds that made up south omaha to the feeling of belonging growing up in south omaha will always be my happiest childhood memories. Proud SOB since 1959.

Anonymous said...

When I was in High School I lived lived in the projects and went to Omaha North. I worked at the DQ for about 2 or 3 mouths. I hear it was always robbed and thats why it closed. Rich history there.