Omaha, Nebraska

The Busch ResidenceThe area designated as Omaha’s Gold Coast Historic District certainly was not the city’s first Gold Coast. There were several neighborhoods within the downtown where early on the city’s professional class and business leaders built substantial homes.  South 10th Street, Saint Mary’s Avenue, and the Capitol Hill area could all boast beautiful private homes. Through the natural expansion of the downtown, few remnants of these homes and early neighborhoods still exist.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Omaha’s economy recovered from the 1893-4 depression, commerce prospered and the city became more refined.  A new “Gold Coast” began to develop west and central to the downtown at the close of the Victorian Era. Residential architecture departed from the Victorian tradition and many private homes were designed as beautiful examples of the revival styles that had become popular throughout America during the first decades of the 20th century.

Visitors to the Gold Coast should appreciate the district in its fullest historic context. It is much more then examples of large old houses from a by-gone era. From the perspective of history and preservation, the district has an important story to tell.

Although there has been some infringement from business and industry, much of the district is still remarkably intact and projects a fairly accurate picture of what the neighborhood looked like a century ago.  Many of the homes give the viewer a window to a privileged lifestyle that was only sustainable by a very small portion of the general population.  The era did not last long as American lifestyles and culture changed dramatically after the end of World War I. 

A significant number of the homes were designed by a class of architects considered master builders. That is to say, architects whose structures set them apart within their profession. They were acknowledged by their peers as having exceptional talent. Some local histories have referred to them as, “The Big Three”.  They were John Latenser, John McDonald, and Thomas Kimball.  John Latenser (1858 – 1936) best known for the design of the Douglas County Courthouse, Central High School, and the J.L. Brandeis Store, has several beautiful homes in the Gold Coast.The Josyln Castle

The John McDonald (1861-1956) firm is best known for the Joslyn Art Museum and many early downtown buildings. McDonald was the most prolific designer of private residences within the Gold Coast. His most renowned “high-end” residence is the Joslyn Castle, an anchor of the historic district. Thomas Kimball (1862-1934), most noteworthy of all of Nebraska’s architects of that era, had some level of national exposure.  He and his partner, C. Howard Walker, were appointed as the architects-in-chief of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898.  His most noteworthy work, Saint Cecilia Cathedral, located in the heart of the Gold Coast, dominates the skyline and is possibly Omaha’s most photographed landmark.         

Finally, the district presents a 20th century architecture design spectrum of Omaha housing. It mirrors the progression of Omaha’s residential housing as it evolved through the last century.  Not long after the decline of the Gold Coast lifestyle, the district evolved into a middle-class/professional class neighborhood which developed residential housing styles that ranged from post World War II housing, mid-century modern, to late 20th century eclectic architecture.

In 1997, the Gold Coast Historic District was formed from two separate neighborhoods that developed simultaneously. The West Farnam neighborhood, today known as the Blackstone area, developed south of Dodge Street. The Park Place neighborhood, known today as Cathedral, developed north of Dodge Street. Thirty-Eighth Street is the north/south street that connects the two neighborhoods. 

The Park Place neighborhood was designated as Omaha’s first historic district in 1979. It was created by a local Omaha ordinance which sought to protect the historic integrity of 38th Street from Davenport north to Cuming.  The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.  As a national historic district, its boundaries were expanded to include the beautiful homes to the south of Dodge Street in the Blackstone area. All told, 357 properties were identified in the survey as having historic significance.  

The Gold Coast Historic Preservation Assn, Inc. was founded as a non-profit historical society dedicated to preserving the physical character of the district, collecting and preserving aspects of its history, and promoting it as an integral part of Omaha’s rich architectural and social legacy.

This website was designed to provide a short introduction to the Gold Coast.  You are invited to learn more about the district’s rich history by attending the events and tours offered to the public through the Gold Coast Historic Preservation Assn. Please check in the Events section of this site for information regarding scheduled events as well as other historic sites within the district. For guided tour information email us at info@omahahistoricdistrict.org

This site is sponsored by the Gold Coast Historic Preservation Assn. Inc.

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Web Page Designed by Chad Yang and Dustin Andersen.