Hartman Addition: Streetcar Dreams and Skyline Views
How did the transportation and housing revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s leave a lasting impact on the Hartman Addition?
Hartman Addition Neighborhood - 16th and Williams Streets
The neighborhood of Hartman Addition or 16th and William is a close neighbor to the famous Little Bohemia neighborhood on South 13th Street. Little Bohemia was founded in the late 1870s by the Kountze Family. That neighborhood is a predominantly Czech area with some Italian and German families intermixed due to the proximity to Little Italy and St. Joseph Catholic Parish, which was a German majority church. 16th and William, or Hartman Addition, was also a predominantly Czech neighborhood, with Italian and German influence. This community was established just after Little Bohemia in the 1890s. Overall, Hartman Addition grew on labor from the industrial areas and railroad yards to the north, in what is now the Old Market, as well as the packing house jobs of South Omaha.
Hartman Addition depended greatly on the streetcar line that went down 16th Street, from Vinton Street in the South to Florence in the North. This public transportation system fueled economic growth along 16th Street, generally, and in Hartman Addition, specifically, and connected both the south side and north side of the city with downtown. With the rise of car culture and suburbanization in the post-WWII period, many white ethnic residents began to flee traditional inner-city neighborhoods like Hartman Addition for the suburbs. The streetcar system began to decline and the 16th Street line was halted for good in 1951, dealing a major blow Hartman Addition. These changes were further exacerbated by the decline of the packing industry to the south and the industrial areas to the north. With many businesses that relied on foot traffic and the need for services near to home, the intersection became increasingly abandoned in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Kotera & Sloup Grocery Store
The building at 1261 South 16th Street, which is made of wood and stone and painted a light tan color, was built in the 1890s and originally co-owned by Frank J. Kotera and Joseph J. Sloup, who established the Kotera & Sloup grocery store, which was a big part of the community in its hey-day. During the early-20th century, small grocers were much more prevalent than the large chain stores that dominate today. Each neighborhood had a grocery store within walking distance or on the streetcar line to serve local people. Kotera & Sloup sold a wide range of produce and other food products and was a good complement to the pharmacy across the street, which was owned by the Beranek family. Next door was a bar that was an important gathering place for people in the neighborhood. As young and old came and went, they would always pass by the grocery store.
Frank Kotera was held in great esteem in the community because he and his partner always gave to local people in need. In fact, during the Great Depression, when the store itself was forced to close, Kotera still gave food away to struggling community members. According to his family, they even got frustrated with Frank at times because they were going without while he was donating food to the needy in his neighborhood. Kotera also distributed food to children at Boys Town with Fr. Flanagan.
Frank Kotera died on June 29th, 1942. At the time of his death, the Kotera and Sloup Partnership was one of the oldest business partnerships in Nebraska. In the 1950s, Kotera and Sloup was sold and renamed, “Save ‘N’ Have.” It continued to serve the local community until the 1980s when the grocery store went out of business and an antique store filled the space.
This building was certainly a victim of the declining population of the area, as people increasingly moved to the suburbs, as well as the rise of car culture and the decline and ultimate end of the streetcar system in the 1950s. In addition, the space was also undoubtedly impacted by big-box retailers, their lower prices and larger selections.
The photo below contains the families of Frank J. Kotera and Joseph J. Sloup who both ran the Kotera & Sloup grocery store together. They were always active in their community and gave food to people that needed for free.
The Metz Brewery Saloon
The building that I am studying is on 1263 S. 16th Street was constructed in the 1890’s, as white ethnic immigrants were coming to the city in large numbers to work in the nearby packing industry. Like many other early buildings in the area, it was a two-story structure with a business on the first floor and housing on the second story. Many small houses are located nearby and the sidewalks in this community are wide and well-lit. For most of its existence, the space was occupied by a restaurant or bar that served the local working-class community as a place to get together with family, friends and co-workers and sometimes discuss issues. In the early years, the bar was owned by the Metz family and was called the Metz Brewery Saloon. It sold food, alcohol and treats. Fred Metz was the primary owner, while other family members owned stock in the company. His son, Fred Metz, Jr. was also a big help at the saloon. In 1931 during Prohibition, the business was ordered to close by the police because it sold alcohol illegally. After Prohibition ended, the bar reopened and continued to thrive along with the neighborhood surrounding it. After Fred Metz died on February 8, 1937, the bar was sold to Anton Frank Holub, who changed the name to the Holub Restaurant. Later, another bar called Ace and Ann’s set up shop in the building. In its heyday, a grocery store operated next door and several other small businesses filled other spaces nearby.
As the surrounding community declined in recent decades, it became increasingly difficult for businesses to succeed in the area. After lying vacant for a number of years, the original building at 1263 S. 16th Street was torn down in 2018 and is now an empty lot. There isn’t one clear explanation for why the neighborhood declined, but many. In the 1950s, the streetcar system, which led many people to this neighborhood, was discontinued. In the 1970s, the stockyards and packinghouses that had employed many of the local residents began to close. Many people that lived nearby began moving away to the suburbs. As these and other changes set in, businesses closed, leaving behind only fond memories of the people who grew up in the area.
This artifact is an Omaha World-Herald article from when this business was ordered to close because of prohibition. It was important because it shows that prohibition didn’t just affect one part of the country it affected everyone, and it places Omaha in the national story of Prohibition.
Today, there’s a parking lot where this building once stood, the lot has stood vacant since the settlement house was demolished in 1964. The building that the lot belongs to seems to have been built in the 1970s or 80s. There is grass and mulch with flowers surrounding the lot and some trees to the right. This parking lot belongs to a Catholic charity called the Juan Diego Center. While it’s no longer a settlement house, it’s still serving the community as a charity.
This streetcar ran from 26th and Q to 30th and Fort. The woman you see in this photo is Margret Bell and this genuine smile on her face captures her sense of pride for the community. In 1945, the stockyards were at their peak and employees would take this streetcar to work every day. Many stockyard workers came from the 30th and Q neighborhood and were proud of the hard work that they did. This shared mentality influenced how tightly knit and integrated this community was. After work, they would take the streetcars home and have a drink at one of many local taverns or saloons; there being 135 in Omaha alone and over a dozen in the Saint Mary’s neighborhood. By making the neighborhood accessible to thousands of people the streetcars became the backbone of the area’s economy. However, without passionate drivers like Mary, none of this would have been possible.
Photo Courtesy of Durham Archives, Bostwick-Forhardt Collection.
The Swoboda Bakery
For much of its early existence, 1422 William Street was home to the Swoboda Bakery, owned by Frank J. Swoboda. The structure was built in 1889 by Joseph Dworak. The building, made with red brick and green trim around its three doors and multiple windows, is larger than most of the structures nearby. The top half was used as living quarters, while the bottom was for the business. Swoboda Bakery occupied the space until the end of WWII in 1945. From the late-1940s through the 1960s, the building housed a plumbing business, a repair shop and a carpet service, among other tenants. In the 1970s and 1980s, as the neighborhood went into sharp decline, the structure stood vacant.
The building alone is fascinating, but the original occupants had interesting and dramatic stories, as well. For example, Frank J. Swoboda had two daughters, Rose and Alice. While the two daughters were out on a double date at Peony Park in 1931, Rose was shot in the ankle by her ex-boyfriend who wanted her back. Rose had refused to get back together with the man, so he attempted to shoot her new date, but hit her instead. On a more humorous note, in 1937, Frank sold out of his “delicious rye bread” (500 loaves) in one day. When he went upstairs to cook dinner at the end of the day, he realized that he did not have any bread to go with his family’s meal. As a result, he had to go buy bread from a competitor’s bakery in the area. The Swoboda family was also active in the community and sponsored a place called “Cosmo Club,” which held social events and raised money for community causes. The Swobodas also donated money to the Red Cross Flood Relief.
In the end, the businesses housed in this building were ultimately a casualty of the streetcar ending in the 1940s, the movement of large numbers of people to the suburbs and the decline of industry to the north and south of the area. Today, as some of the surrounding neighborhoods, like “Little Bohemia,” experience revitalization, perhaps that renewed vitality might ultimately reach this neighborhood. If so, maybe a business could open again at 1422 William Street and attract a new, young crowd and be sustainable for years to come.
The Beranek Pharmacy
The Beranek pharmacy opened on 1402 South 16th Street in 1889 by Stanley A. Beranek. The outside of the pharmacy is made of reddish-pink wood and includes a wood sign that stretches above the top of the roof. The front of the building has four windows for the display. It now is a residential building that is run down.
During the early part of the 20th Century, pharmacists were more than just the person your doctor called to fill a prescription. Pharmacists back then had the main purpose of being closer to a doctor, particularly in working-class communities where local people could not always afford to see the doctor. Instead, they often visited the local pharmacist, described their ailment and the pharmacist would suggest a remedy. In addition to being an important professional figure in his neighborhood, Mr. Beranek was also a prominent and generous member of his community beyond that. He was active in his church, where he had perfect attendance at Sunday services for forty-six years, and helped raise $1223.00 with a group of other pharmacists to give to help build the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Omaha.
Stanley Beranek, who died in 1935, served as his neighborhood pharmacist for 37 years. When he retired in 1926, he passed on his practice and store to his son, Stanley C. Beranek, who continued the business until 1960. The 1960s were a time of decline for the neighborhood, making it increasingly difficult for local businesses to survive. With the move of many residents to the suburbs after WWII, the decline of industry in South Omaha and to the North in what is today the Old Market, and the loss of the streetcar on 16th street in the 1940s, it became harder and harder to get the foot traffic necessary to bring people into the store. After the pharmacy closed it was converted into a residential home which it functions as until this day.
This artifact from the Omaha World-Herald shows the official closing of the Beranek pharmacy after 71 years of operation. This artifact is important because it marks the end of both the pharmacy in our neighborhood and marks the decline of Hartman Addition.
"I believed that I would be working independently most of the time, especially after the first day. Overall though I ended up working at least 80% of the time in a group. Whether it was working on research or editing a movie, most of my time was spent working in a team which I greatly enjoyed."
- Gideon C.
"I learned that there is more to a building than the outside and that every building has a story and has a place in history. I also enjoyed the program because I have history in my particular community and now, I feel more connected to that history."
- Ruth H.
"The best part of this experience was visiting multiple areas of Omaha and learning about the people and the businesses of the area. Now, whenever I go by a neighborhood I can remember what I learned and spread knowledge to others."
- Edgar C.
"Before this program, I viewed Omaha as a boring city with nothing in store for it. Now I view Omaha as an amazing city with so much going on and so many people trying to better Omaha through different projects involving businesses and jobs. Because of this program I learned a lot about me as well, yes I can be shy but it is okay to be myself which is something very important that I need to keep learning."
- Janitzia M.
Youth-Driven Visions for the Future
1261 S. 16th St.
My business is William Street Dentistry; this dentist’s office will be great for the neighborhood because it will be conveniently located and will also cater to the population surrounding the building. The building it is in the former Kotera & Sloup Grocery. The prices will be lower than others and will have a community board on the outside windows so that we can be involved with the community. Some remodeling will be needed on the outside so that it looks safer and people will feel safer along with some shade and railings near the outdoor steps.
The neighborhood needs a dentist’s office because the closest one is 5 miles away so having one nearby will be convenient to many people. A successful dentist’s office might encourage new businesses to move in and provide the people of the residing neighborhood some new products or services. There is a bus stop nearby so people will most likely pass by it so some will know about it. The neighborhood is a very nice place as there are many people living there and it even has a local artist’s studio and many other businesses.
1263 S. 16th St.
My business will be a Mexican restaurant called MC Restaurant. Before my building was torn down it used to be a restaurant and bar that thrived. All the people in the neighborhood went to hang out and eat at this place. I want to keep that legacy going. I want people to eat here and just hang out with people from the city. I want this lot to return to a building that is a hangout spot for many people. There will be 2 parts to my business. There will be the Mexican restaurant part on the 1st floor of the building and the 2nd story will be where everyone goes to hang out. On the 2nd story, there will be computers for people to do whatever they want and bookshelves for people to study or something. The 2nd story won’t earn me any money, but it might bring customers in. I will need a few workers. I will need about 2 chefs and 2 or 3 waitresses. A person to keep everything nice and tidy and 2 people for the manager, one for the daytime and one for the nighttime. Perhaps a person that knows things about books or technology for the upstairs part of things.
I think my business will thrive just like it did before it was torn down. There aren’t many restaurants around my area and my business has something different that no business has. I have a place for people to hang out or do their work. There are computers with free Wi-Fi and even books. This restaurant will give the neighborhood what it needs. A place to eat and hang out!
1422 William St.
My business is the William Street Arcade. Inside there will be a small ice cream parlor and a little food area. I will sell burgers, drinks, chips, and game cards. With the game cards you put money on them and then your points go on them every time you swipe and play a game. Some of the games I will have are basketball, ski ball, multiplayer games, and regular arcade games. To get my business noticed I will have a grand opening where if you come you can get a $5 game card and one free ice cream cone, so people come and check it out. I will also buy advertising space on social media or YouTube. I will also buy spots on benches near bus stops so that way they can just take the bus to the bus stop near my arcade. I will have about seven employees. I will have two managers who will do things like making sure everyone follows the safety rules. They will also make sure that all employees follow the company guidelines. There will be one chef, they will oversee cooking the burgers. I will have one technician; the technician will take care of all the arcade games. I will have one ice cream parlor worker. They will just get the scoops of ice cream. I will have two waiters/waitresses. Their jobs would be giving the people their food and drinks. My goal for many of the jobs is to hire local teens since it can be hard for younger workers to find jobs in the community they live in.
My business will be better for the community because it will be the start to making it thrive like it did years before. Since this business is local it will supply jobs to people in the community. It will also be bringing in money. My business will also be better for the people on the neighborhood. This is because it is closer, so they won’t have to drive far distances to hang out and have some fun. Not only will it be easier to hang out it will also be more convenient for people, and they won’t need to spend as much on gas. I feel that I will get a lot of customers because I’m local and people in the community will come and support a business that is trying to make the neighborhood a better place.
1402 S 16th St.
My business is the 16th Street Workshop. This workshop will be a carpentry workshop that allows you to buy a membership to get access to the workshop with all the tools that you could ever need. With this, if we don’t have the tool that you need you can suggest that the workshop upgrade its current tool or buy a new tool. Next, there are different levels to membership, a basic membership or an advanced or VIP membership. With these different levels, you get different things, basic allows access to all the current and new tools. With advanced you get a discount on materials and a $10 credit on materials in our store. Finally, our VIP membership includes, a cool custom jacket, and exclusive access to our company demos, which will let you test out all the latest tools that all the top of the line companies give us. (along with all of these you get any of the benefits lower than your membership.)
I believe it will be beneficial for the community because it allows people to, mainly, fix things that they already own. With this, I will have educators to help people fix things and build things. Also, with the educators, they will help you with broken tools, how to use tools, how, step by step to build a thing that you want to build. More on the community is that we will have 10-20-dollar classes to teach people to fix things with the tools you already own at home. We will also have 5-dollar classes to teach kids how to use tools and the safety of certain more dangerous tools. The main thing I built this business is to help the community out with the problems it has and to improve it without pushing the people who already live in this neighborhood without pushing them out. With many older homes in the neighborhood, these skills will be vital for keeping the classic look of the area
Research combined by Janitzia M., Gideon C., Edgar C., and Ruth H. Students who worked on the project will attend high school at Central High School, North High School, and South High School.