May 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lined with stately manors and trees planted nearly a century ago, the boulevards of the Field Club Historic District evoke the kind of old-fashioned, small-town charm that would have Bing Crosby and Bob Hope singing in the streets. Seven decades ago, that very thing happened.

After performing at the Omaha Field Club in 1945, the iconic crooner and accompanying comedian took their show on the road to perform for children living in the adjacent neighborhood. In the time since, television has replaced front porch views as evening entertainment, and homeowners rarely cut their grass with push mowers. The traditions and architecture of an era-past are preserved in Omaha’s most storied neighborhood.

“It’s a multi-generational area with more than 100 years of families and history,” says Elaine Buescher, membership chair and board member of the Field Club Homeowners League. “The neighborhood is unique in that you have people who have lived there their whole lives, raised their kids, and then their children come back and do the same thing.”

NeighborhoodProfile2Encompassing Pacific to Center streets, and 32nd to 36th streets, the 16-block neighborhood lies just southwest of downtown. It’s the location of dozens of older homes that have been protected from deterioration, making it one of the few historic neighborhoods in the Midtown area to proudly show its age in favor of modern upheaval. If walls could talk, the homes of Field Club would have nearly 125 years of stories.

The Field Club Historic District developed in the late 19th century as a well-to-do suburb of Omaha connected to downtown by the new trolley system. The oldest homes were constructed in a large Queen Anne style, perched upon a hill overlooking Hanscom Park. In 1898, a smashing-good-time county club opened just west of the first homes, which gave the neighborhood its name. Impressively designed houses continued to develop in the district until 1962. Over the years the area has seen noted happenings such as the birth of Gerald R. Ford, and it has hosted distinguished guests like Theodore Roosevelt.

In 2000, the Field Club District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, following the research and support of Ed Quinn, a local historian and businessman.

“It’s this historic aspect that attracts residents to the area,” Quinn says. After relocating back to Omaha from Los Angeles in 1996, Quinn moved into the neighborhood, just blocks away from the house where his grandparents lived and raised his father.

The history of the Field Club is further preserved by its multitude of annual events and traditions. Luminary night, which occurs every December, asks neighbors to celebrate community by placing small candles in white paper bags along the sidewalks and driveways. The residents also hold a progressive dinner each year in which neighbors advance to one another’s homes for successive courses.

NeighborhoodProfile3It’s during holiday celebrations where no expense is spared. For 30 years, a Valentine’s Day ladies brunch has been hosted by resident Pam Johnson. On Halloween, more than 900 trick-or-treaters cram the neighborhood to fill pillowcases full of sweets and marvel at houses adorned with festive décor. Life-sized replicas of dragons and gargantuan spider webs can be seen on this occasion. Independence Day is also celebrated with a bang as neighbors parade down the streets with homemade floats each July Fourth.

Dr. Ashley Hall and his wife moved from New York City to the area in 2008. The couple was looking for a place in the heart of Omaha that had a deep, rich history, as well as a sense of community.

“When we moved in, several people stopped by to introduce themselves and see if we needed anything. After living in the Bronx a few years, that was alarming at first,” Hall say

If it’s the history that persuades people to buy homes in the district, then credit the connections to other neighbors that keep many residents staying here for 20-plus years. “It’s a true neighborhood where people get to know one another and establish these relationships that become lifelong friendships,” Buescher says. “I have a wonderful long list of babysitters within walking distance.”

Residents enjoy catching a breath of fresh air at Hanscom Park, Omaha’s first green space; teeing off at the Field Club, the oldest country club west of the Mississippi River; or attending service at Westminster Presbyterian Church, one of only two nonresidential properties in the district. If they are looking for something more modern, the neighborhood is just blocks away from Midtown Crossing, or a short drive to downtown’s bustling Old Market.

“The geographic location further gives this place value, even though Field Club really remains solely a neighborhood, and not a business-residential mix,” Quinn says.

In this storied midtown district, children still cavort on lawns shaded by Colonial and Tudor style homes, while neighbors sip lemonade together on one another’s porches. It’s just as Crosby sings in his rendition of “In the Good Old Summertime”—“No trouble annoying, each one is enjoying, the good old summertime, strolling through a shady lane.”

“It’s a 20th century neighborhood that represents almost every type of architecture from the 1880s to the 1950s,” Quinn says. “We’re our own small town in a big city.”  OmahaHome

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