There are certain houses that seem to hold within them an unusual power of gravity. The homes that, for generations, maintain the ability to attract, to pull family and friends together, even as they pass from one owner to another. The St. Cecilia neighborhood home of Bill and Julie Erickson, known affectionately as “The 808,” is one such house.
Julie explains: “This house was such a hub for the neighborhood for years before we owned it that it took on its own name. The beauty of this history of ‘The 808’ has been so endearing to our family, and we want to maintain that as best we can.”
Built in 1890, this Queen Anne wears its many years with style and grace. Its intimate rooms seem to radiate with the warmth of the countless lives that have filled the space over the years. Beautifully restored wood floors, rich lamp lighting throughout, and a bright, open kitchen contribute to an inviting, nurturing atmosphere.
“The big porch in front really sets the tone,” Bill notes. “You can fit a lot of people up there.”
“If that porch could talk!” Julie adds.
If it could, it would have much to say about the years it played host to generations of the Neary family, who owned the home for 40 years. It was in this era that the house earned its long-held name. The original Neary family of six children has since branched out to a sizable Omaha clan of many dozens. Today, they’re collectively known as “The Neary Nation.”
Ellen Neary, wife of Chuck Neary (one of the six children who grew up in the home), recalls the warm welcomes she received every time she came to visit her in-laws. “I can remember the feeling of driving down from our farm in northern Iowa and getting so excited as we drove closer, knowing all the faces waiting for us in the house.”
Ellen’s daughter, Shauna Hautzinger, has her own fond memories of time in the home. “I’ll always remember sleeping in the back bedroom, saying prayers with Grandma, looking up at the towers of [St. Cecilia] Cathedral.”
Since becoming owners, the Ericksons have hosted three groups of Nearys for tours of their old family home. “To us,” Julie says, “the Nearys are really the heart of this house. All the memories they built together. That’s the foundation.”
With this spirit in mind, the home’s interior feels ready for guests at any moment. Special touches, such as filled-to-the-brim candy dishes on nearly every side table, a fully stocked bar at the ready, and enough seating for a family of 30, mean that the home is set for gathering of loved ones any day or time.
“I love chairs!” Julie confesses. “They just come to me from all over.” Elegant exposed-wood seating—some from a funeral home formerly owned by Julie’s father—and colorfully upholstered pieces from estate sales or other family members provide each room with an eclectic warmth.
“I guess I’d describe my style as country French,” Julie says. “I love rich colors and wood. I’ve always had wood shutters made for each of our houses.”
Julie’s talent for design was established in her youth, during her years working directly under the guidance of Omaha interior designer Peg Boyle. “I got to go to all the buying trips to Chicago; and Hickory, North Carolina; and L.A. I was basically her protégée, and she taught me how to do all of this.”
While Julie’s eye is to the construction of distinct “vistas” throughout a space, it’s all framed by Bill’s passion for creating a precise color backdrop.
“At all of our houses throughout the years, no paint is off the shelf,” Julie notes. “It’s always a Bill Erickson creation.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s scientific, but it’s quite a process,” Bill says. “For this house, it took about four or five months to decide on the exterior color, painting a whole side of the house, watching the light hit it throughout the day, changing it slightly, mixing in a bit more white or green, trying again.”
Though Bill and Julie have been full-time residents only since December 2018, they’ve owned the home for more than 10 years now, having first rented it out to their college-age children, John and Jane, and their children’s peers.
“John was going to Creighton and we thought instead of paying all that rent, we could invest in a place ourselves,” Bill recalls. When daughter Jane finished high school (before moving to Chicago for school), it was her turn to hold the keys. Again, this meant several years of eager guests filling “The 808.” Late nights on the porch, conversations filling the kitchen, a body in every chair…
Throughout this time, refurbishing work was slow but continuous. Labor-intensive tasks, like pulling up kitchen linoleum “millimeter by millimeter” to reveal pine floors beneath, were done with an eye for maintaining the home’s original charm.
A love of real estate and an eye for design seem to be a shared genetic trait among the Ericksons. While many 20-somethings might look at their rental home merely as a crash pad, John and Jane were eager to contribute what they could to the home’s restored elegance in their several years as residents. What is now a lush backyard oasis, framed by the dramatic cathedral spires, is largely the fruit of plantings made years earlier by the Erickson children.
Today, the whole Erickson family has combined their shared love for architecture and design, working together as collaborative real estate agents in the Denton-Erickson group. “It’s in our blood,” says Julie with a smile. With a gem like “The 808” to call home, it’s easy to see why.
This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.