Tag Archives: Country Club

Unblemished Beauty

January 22, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this continuing series of exploring architectural styles, we’ve covered such diverse genres as Jacobethan Revival, Art Deco, and Victorian, but deciding what the heck to call a home has never been much of an issue.

Until now.

This space was slated for “Spanish Colonial.” Seems simple enough, we thought. But just to be doubly sure in assigning that moniker, we sent the photograph you see here to three different architects and asked them to chime in. We got three different answers, only two of which had the word “Spanish” in them. And none of them were a flat, straightforward “Spanish Colonial.”

So let’s default to an Omaha World-Herald story from 1931 that called this home on North Happy Hollow Boulevard “one of the best examples of Spanish architecture in the middle west.”

A permit was issued in 1928 for the home now owned by George and Christine Greene. It was built—for the then princely sum of $16,000—by noted architect Bert Hene, whose timeless mark was made all throughout Happy Hollow, Fairacres, Dundee, Country Club, and beyond. The space features a handsome library/music room and a 40-foot sunroom with broken marble and a tile.

While this beauty looks like something straight out of Sunset Boulevard (“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”), it is the library that tells one of the home’s most intriguing stories.

The tile-roofed stucco home with arching windows was purchased in 1933 by Dana Van Dusen, a Harvard law school graduate who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1934. A former city attorney, he was then the general counsel of Metropolitan Utilities District.

On Sept. 29, 1947, a pair of prominent MUD officials were menaced by a former district employee.

A car driven by Personnel Director Earl Frederickson was forced to the curb by another vehicle at 18th and Cuming streets. The disgruntled former employee climbed in Frederickson’s car and threatened him.

A half hour earlier in Happy Hollow, a shot had been fired through a window of the Van Dusen home. The former MUD worker had no gun on him when he was arrested, and none were registered in his name.

The window has long since been repaired, but a bullet hole remains to this day on a shelf in the library…and Christine and George Greene have no plans to repair the blemish that speaks to the quirky history of their stately home.  OmahaHome

Spanish-Colonial

River Stone Fireplace

January 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Kurt and Beth Bratches moved to Omaha from Connecticut just over a year ago, one of their must-haves was a home with a fireplace. “I grew up with a fireplace,” says Kurt, owner of All Things Home, a remodeling service.

A former day trader, Kurt and his family would often escape the buzz of Wall Street in the serene calm of the Adirondack Mountains, where cozy lodge rooms were commanded by roaring stone fireplaces. The Bratches channeled their vacation nostalgia as the focal point of the living room in their warm and inviting Country Club home.

Built in 1932, the home needed a few updates. “The fireplace was tragic,” Kurt says. “I tore everything out.” Beth, an interior designer with The Designers, came up with the design.

“I always think it’s important to let the house speak to you a little bit,” she says. “The paneling is not something we would have chosen. I think it was done in the ’60s, but when you look at design, that’s kind of coming back. Let’s just replicate that design there so it goes with the house,” she says.

“The key is to update it without taking away the character and integrity of the house,” Kurt says. He first used a hand chisel to take out the existing hearth. “That was the un-fun part of it. It’s messy.” He then built the box and the surround. For the mantle he used a piece of reclaimed cedar from a friend’s barn in Connecticut.

He used mason screws to secure the box to the masonry. “The idea is to put your fasteners on a spot that can be hidden.” Kurt then used a sheet of birch over the top. “I laid it up like a frame and then I put the pieces in between it and framed it all out,” he says.  He finished it with crown molding and gave it a coat of satin paint. “Satin gives it a nice patina.”

A tip from a pro? Kurt first taped the dimensions of the fireplace on the floor to experiment with the stone’s placement, like putting together a puzzle. “That’s how I figured out where everything was going to go,” he says.

The entire project cost $400 and took about a week to do. “You buy quality lumber. It just comes out better,” he says.

The cedar for the mantle wasn’t the only material that took a circuitous route to Omaha. The Bratches collected the project’s river stones from such sites as the Long Island Sound, Rhode Island’s Block Island, and Omaha’s Standing Bear Lake. One of the stones stands out among all others. The one engraved with the word “home” was a gift from their daughter.

The Bratches’ self-styled river stone fireplace now serves as a visual collection of some of their favorite memories…a love story written in stone.

Roughing It

July 11, 2014 by

Reality TV is increasingly crowded with all manner of woodsy survivalist fare. Most programs focus on the notion of “extreme” something-or-other, with life-or-death cliffhangers leading up to every commercial break. So I thought I’d take my elder grandson, 4-year-old Easton, into the wilds (of my back yard) to test our mettle against the forces of nature.

Turns out that nature had nothing to do with our survivability quotient, and roughing it was the least of our challenges. The entire adventure ended up being an object lesson in the foibles of urban camping in my Country Club-area neighborhood.

The dreamy, awestruck look on Easton’s face as the four of us trekked from the deck to our campground was one I had seen only on the rarest of occasions, situations that usually involved Santa, Star Wars, or sugar.

The four of us? Oh, I neglected to mention Easton’s constant pillow-time companions, a pair of plush toys named Bug (a lady bug) and Guy (a wiener dog). Our bare-bones shelter was a 30-some-year-old pup tent purchased from Sears that is now held together by a patchwork of duct tape and jagged stitches hastily sewn around a campfire over the decades. It was the same tent and same back yard in which Easton’s father, Eric, first braved the elements of a now distant, earlier millennia.

We were well-stocked in the reading department, with Easton choosing a couple of favorites—The Cat in the Hat and Caps for Sale—as the stories that would usher him into the land of nod.

So far, so good. The rest of the evening unfolded as follows:

9 p.m. sharp
Easton’s out like a light.

9:06 p.m.
Bug and Guy follow suit.

9:20 p.m.
The party on a neighboring deck is in full (and loud) swing.

Midnight
Still awake as the beer flows freely next door. Worse yet? Country music.

12:33 a.m.
A staccato series of explosions off in the distance (Fireworks? Gunfire?) is followed by a symphony of sirens (definitely gunfire) and is later accompanied by a police helicopter strafing the ‘hood in pursuit of some midnight malcontents.

1:10 a.m.
The party over the fence mercifully fizzles out, but I am to the point where, now totally wired and checking my watch every ten seconds, all I can do is to think about how to think about getting to sleep.

2:00 a.m.
Surrender. I make if halfway to the house through the dewy, toe-tickling lawn carrying the dead weight of a sleeping child before a tiny voice murmuring the words, “Bug…Guy,” causes me to reverse course.

2:01 a.m.
Easton is nestled in a warm bed with his buddies and, again, completely comatose.

“Did you get tired of camping, Po-Po?” Easton asks the following morning using my nonsensical nickname, one of mysterious, unknowable etymology.

Yeah, I guess I kinda did. I had become tired of camping. The city had done what nature could not in terms of derailing our wilderness outing. Only Easton, Bug, and Guy came through the experience showing the resiliency of true outdoorsmen.

Po-Po? Not so much.

SMALL

Queenly meets quaint

November 25, 2013 by

Joslyn Castle Holiday Historic Home Tour

Do you recognize the scene pictured above? That’s the cover photo from our previous issue and now you have a chance to get an inside peek at this and two other magnificent homes on the Joslyn Castle Holiday Historic Home Tour.

Tour the famous Storz Mansion, the elegant, sophisticated Gold Coast Barmettler House (pictured above), and the spectacular, historic Joslyn Castle, all decorated for the holidays. Enjoy special tastings at each home and a holiday gift boutique on the second and third floors of the Castle.

The Joslyn Castle Historic Home Tour is Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets for the tour are $20. Purchase tickets for either event at www.joslyncastle.com or by calling 402-595-2199. Tour tickets will also be available at the door on the days of the tour. A special Tour and Boutique Preview Party will be Dec. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Castle. Tickets for the Preview Party are $75 and include tour admission.

iStock_000022672899Medium Country Club Community Council Luminary Night

The flickering glow of 
candlelight will warm even the chilliest of visitors on Dec. 8 as hundreds of luminaries line the streets of one of the city’s quaintest neighborhoods for one 
special night every holiday season. Organized by the Country Club Community Council, the annual luminary event renders a magical curbside tableau in the picturesque neighborhood known for its English Tudor brick homes and old-time globe street lamps. See our feature on the Country Club neighborhood. Pour a thermos of hot cocoa and pile the kids in the car for this nostalgic drive-by delight.

Country Club

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!”