Friday, March 20, 2009

The Street That Almost Never Was ...

Street oddities, revisited, again.

(Yet again, I'm claiming fair use of a few copyrighted works, for the purposes of commentary, criticism, and educational purposes.)

To make a long story long ...

Going back into ancient history - not really relevant but it sets the scene - shortly after I moved to Omaha, I and a friend got into this habit of occasionally wandering about the cemeteries of North Omaha during the wee hours. We weren't doing anything wrong, just enjoying each others's company and taking in the, uh, scenery. We were 20-something, old enough to know better, but young enough to say "what the {f-bomb}"!

Mormon Cemetery and B'nai Jacob Cemetery were trivial to enter, but Forest Lawn was more of a challenge as it was well-fenced and locked up tight after dark. Can't risk any escapes, can we? :)

Anyway, yes, we were trying to find a way to sneak into Forest Lawn and we wandered a couple of blocks southwest of the old 40th. St. entrance gate, trying to find a way across the brook that flows along the south side of the developed portion of the cemetery.

We didn't find one.

What we did find was evidence of some abandoned but very significant road construction. Lanes were graded, but unpaved and overgrown with weeds and brush. This was very obvious, since the natural terrain in the area is quite hilly.

This would have been just southwest of what is now the junction (it really isn't an intersection) of 42nd. St. and Hanover St.

Had we discovered a true ghost road? :)

We figured it was some kind of road construction effort, abandoned during the gas shortage days of the 1970s. I didn't even think of this again, until ...

... I was looking over an old map, undated but probably ca. 1960s or so, and there it was! The road that never was!

This map, of uncertain vintage, clearly shows Forest Lawn Avenue running through southwest from roughly what is now the 42nd. and Hanover junction to, yes, Forest Lawn Avenue, a length of which is extant and signed, in the vicinity of 50th. and Redick.

Notice the railroad tracks, long since abandoned and torn up, the right of way now used for Sorensen Parkway.

I was curious (meow!) so on an otherwise sunny Saturday afternoon I took off in search of the street that never was. I ventured to what is the existing west end of Forest Lawn Avenue, paved and signed, and ...

I thought I found the Holy Grail of Street Necrology! Wow!

From 50th. looking northeast, what at first looked like the the continuation of the once-to-be or once-was Forest Lawn Avenue was obvious, but a few things did not make sense.

Decades before, we had stumbled upon what was to be the eastern end of this stretch, those days being in the late 1970s, and it had been abandoned for several years at that time. However, this section looks like a fairly recent abandonment. The pavement here is solid, no major cracks, weed growth, etc.

I'm not at all a streetlight expert (sorry, Kevin and Jeff) :) but it appears to me that the lights are of recent vintage and probably operable. The No Parking signs with the circle-slash icons also date the poles to a time later than the 1970s.

The barricades, in particular, look not very old, indicating that this was a fairly recent closure.

Doing a little homework uncovered the true nature of this section of the street. It was, until recently, running through an apartment complex, the Wintergreen Apartments, and really had no connection to the planned but never constructed section of Forest Lawn Avenue.

Googling a bit brought forth many headlines such as these:

You know the drill, blighted apartments, absentee slumlord, hotbed of crime, city eventually seizes and razes the property.

This aerial view shows the Wintergreen Apartments ca. 2004.

Also obvious in the view is the once-planned right of way for the never-constructed section of Forest Lawn Avenue.

This map, from The Phone Book<tm>, shows things more or less as they are today.

The barricades shown in the photos above are at the green dot, the closed-off Newport Avenue, shown in the photo below, is noted by the red dot.

Notice the stop sign (somewhat difficult to make out, but it's there, look closely at the right, taller post), facing west toward Forest Lawn Avenue. This was the farthest east that this section of Forest Lawn Avenue made.

If we peer through the brush, we can see some remains of the now-leveled Wintergreen Apartments, such as abandoned furniture and a still-standing street light.

The remains of a parking lot can easily be seen looking west into the former complex.

From the barricaded terminus of Forest Lawn Avenue, the remains of another of the former complex's parking lots is evident as well.

Looking northeast from Newport Avenue just east of the barricade, we can see the western end of the planned right of way of the unconstructed section of Forest Lawn Avenue.

Returning to the Scene Of The Crime<tm>, along what is now 42nd. St. just south of Hanover, the path to the once-graded future Forest Lawn Avenue extension is still visible, looking westward.

So, what's the story? What happened?

I don't really know, but my guess is that Forest Lawn Avenue had been planned for some time to span from its existing eastern section to its existing western section, but after a false start and the lack of a real need, the project was abandoned. That's my guess, anyway. :)

But wait! There's more!

Another chapter of Street Necrology unfolding!

It appears that the section of 42nd. St. between Newport and Read is destined to be abandoned. Barricades and signs are up, it appears to be inaccessible.

The Yahoo map (above) shows most of this discontinuity, the Google map (also above) still shows 42nd. as being complete through this area.

To those unfamiliar with the area, yes, these photos look more like they were taken in rural Kentucky than in Omaha. This particular area, around 42nd. and Read, although surrounded on some sides by regular fully-developed urban neighborhoods, is very primitive and rustic, lacking infrastructure and in some cases even paved streets.

Looking at a topographic map of the area, several very steep hills in the sparsely-developed region are shown.

The green dot shows the barricaded southwest end of the section that passed through the Wintergreen apartments and the red dot shows the limit of the eastward progress of Forest Lawn Avenue in this area. The orange dot shows the barricades to the west of 42nd. St. where Forest Lawn Avenue was to continue west, roughly in parallel to the stream. The blue dots show the locations of the barricaded blocking off the now-abandoned portion of 42nd. St. Notice the very sharp downhill drop-off just north of the barricade.

Looking at the lack of development in the area it's very obvious why Forest Lawn Avenue was never completed and parts of some streets, such as 42nd., have been closed.


Bosco55David said...

Omababe...I was checking WOWT's website tonight and saw a segment about the Wintergreen apartments and some possible upcoming development. Thought you might be interested!

`ChewY` said...

Wintergreen was a cesspool of crime, gangs, and drugs during the 80's and 90's. When first built, mid to late 60's, was a really nice place. There was a push to develop to the north at that time, the projects were abandoned for one reason or another, Wintergreen was one of the first to be completed in that area, and unfortunately, the maybe the last... There were a whole bunch of abandoned areas in Omaha similar to this, that just didn't seem to make any sense, malls, catholic colleges, church campuses, all over town, that just sat vacant and deteriorating. There was even a whole neighborhood abandoned, down in Bellevue, next to the airforce base. Looked like the homes were circa post wwII. Reminded me of Love Canal. Some of the development to the north has picked up again throughout the 90's. Even stretches of interstate highways, sat abandoned, for a long time. There was an overpass/offramp that sat vacant at 30th and Dodge thereabouts, for 20 some years.
There were bridge supports built out in the middle of a field, south of Omaha, as far as I know a road still has never been built there...go figure

RP Johnson said...

I have not lived in Omaha for 50 years and only visited two or three times since then. The 50th reunion of my North High School graduating class is this summer and it looks like I may have to attend. The Bohemian Cafe is still there?! There is a pedestrian bridge across the river to Playland Park?! Your photos of Canigias on Fort St. stunned me. When I hug out there in high school, the parking lot/eating area was gravel. The original location was also a drive in that the locals called "Horse Meat Harrys". I forget the true name.

OK, its been 50 years, but I still refer to Omaha as "back home"

Unknown said...

This was cool to see I'm not the only one intetesedi in these things