October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Jess Ewald

Brick-laid streets that have resisted asphalt resurfacing. Old-time globe street lights in lieu of goose-necked halogen lights. All-brick Tudors, with a few stray colonials thrown in for good measure. Meandering roads that invite leisurely drives. These are the hallmarks of the Country Club neighborhood tucked between artsy Benson and traditional Dundee.

Country Club’s boundaries technically extend from 52nd to 56th streets and from Blondo to Corby streets, says Matt Herzog, president of the Country Club Community Council. But generally speaking, Country Club connotes a larger area, encompassing homes between Maple and Hamilton streets and 48th to 56th streets. Once outside of these perimeters, the all-brick houses decrease and rental properties increase.

Country Club is popular with homeowners looking for an established neighborhood with charm at a reasonable price point. Peter Manhart, part of the Manhart husband and wife realtor team at CBS/Home, says Country Club offers a good “bang for the buck.” All-brick homes, a rarity in most areas and cost-prohibitive for new construction, abound here. Single-family dwellings with virtually no rental properties are another draw. And Country Club fits the real estate mantra, “Location, location, location” to a T. With its close proximity to downtown, the city’s universities, and thriving arts and entertainment districts like Benson, Dundee, Aksarben, and Midtown Crossing, Country Club is alluring. So are the home prices that run between $130,000 and $275,000.

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Country Club has a history as old as our city. Once 161.2 acres of John A. Creighton’s farm, it was sold to Omaha Country Club in 1889 for development into a premier golf course. For nearly 35 years, it catered to citizens wishing to escape the bustle of city life on the greens of a golf course. However, the city was growing west. So in 1924, OCC sought refuge from an ever-encroaching city by moving to its existing location in the rolling hills north of Immanuel Hospital and selling its land for $150,000.

Theodore Metcalfe’s developing company then used the existing slopes of the former golf course to construct affordable homes for Omaha’s growing population. Streets and avenues were wide and lined with ornamental lighting. Despite the Great Depression’s economic woes and World War II, development continued until completion in the late 1940s.

What is old now was at one time suburbia. However, Metcalfe strove for diversity of design, shunning cookie-cutter construction typical of developments. Most homes were built in the Tudor style but varied in flavor. There are examples of twin-gabled Tudors as well as French-inspired Tudors with turrets. The all-brick English L-shaped home was also popular. Metcalfe mixed brick with stone for added effect, and slate roofs offered additional architectural character.

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Today, gracious living abounds in the area still. Its strong neighborhood association is in large part responsible. The Country Club Community Council’s mission is “to promote, preserve, and enhance the quality of life in the neighborhood.” Herzog selected Country Club as his neighborhood of choice when he and his wife moved to Omaha from Washington, D.C., with their children because of its innate charm and kid-friendly atmosphere.

“Country Club has a great, active vibe despite its age,” asserts Sarah Kaseforth, who has served as CCCC Secretary for over a year. Like the Herzog family, Kaseforth and her husband are transplants, coming to Omaha from Chicago. “Country Club was a standout for us due to the Tudor-style homes, well-maintained yards and streets, and young families seen out walking along the neighborhood streets.”

It’s these same young families that make the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Metcalfe Park one of the most popular CCCC-sponsored events. Picture pastel-clad preschoolers searching for spring-hued eggs among the daffodils and sprouting grass while their parents look on, catching up with neighbors after a long winter.

Other year-round gatherings further foster this community feel. Every summer, the neighborhood sponsors a community garage sale with unsold items being donated to the Stephen’s Center and the Benson Refugee Task Force. The highlight of the summer, however, is the Labor Day Picnic. It’s like a block party on steroids with bounce houses, face painting, balloon hats, and plenty of food and drink.

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But perhaps the most beloved tradition, says Herzog, is the Winter Luminary Event. Residents place luminaries along their walkways and neighborhood sidewalks, effectively lighting up some the longest, darkest nights of the year with the soft glow of candlelight. Complimentary trolley rides for both residents and the general public tour the avenues during this festive time. It’s like traveling back in time to when the neighborhood was first established.

An anchor of the area is Metcalfe Park, which underwent a much-needed renovation in 2011. On any given day, you can walk by the park and see young girls in hijabs swinging with recent refugees from Africa and Myanmar, a testament to the area’s melting pot character.

Perhaps what encapsulates the spirit of the neighborhood is this simple story of kindness. After the birth of their first child this past summer, Kaseforth and her husband were overwhelmed by the generosity of their neighbors, even those with whom they just shared a wave and passing “hello.” Cards and gifts poured in as soon as young Trent was born. Says Kaseforth: “It is a great feeling to know that my neighbors care about my family. Coming from a large city, this type of gesture is unheard of!”

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