March 26, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We started this with no idea of what it would become,” says Sharon Olson of the home at 2737 Mary St. that later became The Minne Lusa House.

“We mostly wanted a way for neighbors to get to know one another again,” adds Beth Richards, the other half of the duo now known colloquially as The Minne Lusa Ladies.

They bought the repossessed property in 2010 for a mere $20,000, and the tan stucco home built in 1918 is now the epicenter of a resurgent Minne Lusa neighborhood, which is located just north of Miller Park.

Canning marathons, fried green tomatoes, and cookies may have been the inspiration behind the earliest Minne Lusa House events, but the cozy place has since grown to host nonprofit and other events. It hums with activity whenever Santa makes a visit and is one of the main bases for Halloween activity when the annual Trick-or-Treat on the Boolevard fright-fest sends goblins scurrying up and down Minne Lusa Boulevard one block to the east. Police chiefs and precinct captains have listened to neighborhood voices here, as has Ben Gray, the area’s representative on the City Council.

Their weekly Saturday Morning Coffee started local and small, but word of the meet-ups quickly spread. Now Saturday’s draw people from all over the metro area. One Minne Lusa native who now lives in Florida stumbled upon the home’s Facebook page during a nostalgic bout of Minne Lusa-themed web surfing. Struck by the happenings there, she had custom Minne Lusa House coffee mugs made and presented them to
the home.

“Sometimes it’s so crowded here on a Saturday morning that there’s no wiggle room,” says Richards.

“When things first started to take off,” adds Olson, “I remember thinking, ‘Who are all these people?’”

Richards, a retired telephone company employee, has lived five houses down from The Minne Lusa House for the last eight years and has been in the neighborhood for 15. Olson, a retired mail carrier, lives around the corner in the house in which she grew up.

It was at that moment that Rosalind Moore, president of the Miller Park Minne Lusa Neighborhood Association just happened to pop in—as is the wont of many neighbors—to discuss an effort to start a neighborhood newsletter. The women are also part of an effort to have the neighborhood, whose name is Siouxian for “clear water,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We want people to know that this is a great neighborhood,” Moore says. Too many people, she says, know the area and other parts of North Omaha only from crime reports. “The neighborhood association, The Minne Lusa Ladies, and so many others here work to make sure that people know that our neighborhood makes a positive impact on the community.”

Community, The Minne Lusa Ladies believe, is built on conversations.

“Neighborhoods are destroyed from within,” says Olson. “It begins when people stop talking. We aim to do something about that.”

Visit The Minne Lisa House on Facebook and the neighborhood association at millerparkminnelusa.org.

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