10 places that make omaha ‘omaha’

Every great city has them – places you can’t find anywhere else, places that locals take pride in, places that honor the past or signal a new community direction. Omaha is no exception, and Omaha by Design’s volunteer Place Game facilitators have devised a list to get the public thinking about places that make Omaha ‘Omaha.’

The Place Game, a free service of Omaha by Design, is an organized way of brainstorming potential improvements to public spaces by listening to the people who use them. It was developed by the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.

All places on the list can be accessed by the general public. Click on the links within each entry for more information. Got a place you’d like to share? Post your suggestions here.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

705 Riverfront Drive

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the longest pedestrial bridge to link two states. It provides safe crossing from Omaha to Council Bluffs over the Missouri River for walking and biking enthusiasts, and connects to 150 miles of trails on each side. The bridge is 3,000 feet long and 15 feet wide, allowing visitors to stand about 60 feet above the river. (Photo by Ken Mayer)

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Old Market and Wholesale District

Harney to Howard, 10th to 13th and Howard to Jackson, 10 to 12th streets

The Old Market and Wholesale District is a City of Omaha historic landmark that’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. It’s significant to the commercial development of Omaha as a wholesale jobbing area, which mushroomed in the 1880s and continued well into the 20th century, serving as the distribution center for a variety of goods shipped on the Union Pacific Railroad and its branch lines all the way to the west coast. Comprised of former light industrial and warehouse buildings and wholesale jobbing houses, today it’s a popular entertainment and residential district that’s home to restaurants, shops and loft apartments.

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Memorial Park

6005 Underwood Ave.

The park, created in 1948, is a memorial dedicated to veterans who served in World War II. It’s the home of Bank of the West’s annual Fourth of July concert and serves as an excellent setting for military style weddings. The formal rose gardens feature more than 1000 rose bushes. The view from the memorial site provides sweeping views of midtown Omaha. (Photo by Ken Mayer)

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50th and Underwood

This corner of the Dundee neighborhood is a great place to sit back and watch the events of the day unfold. The neighborhood was named one of the nation’s 10 best by the American Planning Association in 2011. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was built at the end of a streetcar line in the early days of the 20th century.

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Dreamland Plaza

24th and Lizzie Robinson

Many a jazz great played at the Dreamland Ballroom. Today, the Dreamland Plaza serves as a community gathering space with seating areas and a spacious stage for musical entertainment. A bronze sculpture of three musicians, created by local artist Littleton Alston, pays homage to the area’s rich history. Omaha Urban Neighborhoods provides walking tours of the N. 24th Street neighborhood – call 402.709.2486 to schedule a walk.

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S. 24th Street

L to Q

South Omaha is the city’s melting pot, and the S. 24th Street corridor – thanks to the efforts of many – is being transformed into a vibrant ethnic townscape. The Tree of Life, located on the southeast corner of 24th and L, is a sculptural metal work that celebrates the four primary ethnicities from the area. Omaha Urban Neighborhoods provides walking tours of the S. 24th Street neighborhood – call 402.709.2486 to schedule a walk. (Photo courtesy of Omaha Urban Neighborhoods)

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Allwine Prairie Preserve

Entrance @ 14810 State Street, Bennington

Tallgrass prairie once extended through much of eastern Nebraska. Due to the cultivation of the rich prairie soil, only scattered remnants remain today. The preserve, a reestablished grassland research area, was donated to the University of Nebraska at Omaha Department of Biology in 1959 by Arthur A. Allwine.  In 1970, 130 acres were seeded with native tallgrass prairie species, and an additional seven acres were seeded with mixed grass species. More than 250 species of woody and herbaceous plants have been identified on the preserve.

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Central High School

124 N. 20th St.

Central High School opened as Omaha’s first all-grades school in 1859, although it took 12 years for the district to construct a building. In 1869, the Nebraska Legislature donated the old capitol building to be used as a high school, but it was declared unsafe and was torn down in 1870. A new high school was completed in 1871 and featured a 150-foot spire that dominated the downtown horizon. In 1876, electrical engineers wired the school’s tower to give Omaha its first demonstration of electric lights. President William Howard Taft visited the school in 1911 and climbed the tower for a better view of the city. Before the advent of air conditioning, locals would sleep on the school’s lawn for relief from the heat on muggy summer nights.

By 1897, overcrowding and poor ventilation caused the board of education to approve the construction of a new, larger building. The cornerstone for the current building was laid on Nov. 16, 1900. The east side of the school was built first. From 1900 to 1912, the school was constructed one side at a time around the original red brick tower building. The tower building was demolished and removed before the north side was constructed. The old building’s heating and ventilation plant was removed to create an open air courtyard at the center of the structure, which was enclosed during an extensive renovation in 1981-82. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert S. Wigton)

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Standing Bear Memorial, Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus

30th and Fort

Standing Bear, a member of the Ponca tribe, was imprisoned at Fort Omaha upon returning to his homeland to bury his only son, whose dying wish was to be buried in his native land. A writ of habeas corpus, filed in U.S. District Court by the attorneys representing the Ponca leader and his followers, was the first time such a motion had been filed on behalf of a Native American. The writ, a legal act through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention, was granted by Judge Elmer Dundy following a two-day trial in Omaha. To honor Standing Bear’s time at the fort, a memorial was erected on the parade grounds. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Community College)

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Zorinsky Lake and Park

3808 S. 156th St.

This west Omaha respite has a large lake for boating and fishing, playgrounds, 7.4 miles of paved trails, picnic areas, a football field, five baseball fields and three soccer fields. It’s named after Edward F. Zorinsky, who served as Omaha’s mayor from 1973 to 1976 and as a U.S. senator from 1977 to 1987. (Photo by Ken Mayer)

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Is your neighborhood a great place? Help improve the public spaces in your corner of the city by hosting a Place Game workshop. Omaha by Design offers Place Game workshops free of charge for neighborhood and civic groups from March through October. For more information, call 402.934.7055 or email info@omahabydesign.org.