Long Neighborhood - 24th and Clark Streets
How did societal changes in the 1950s and '60s alter the landscape, livelihood, and economy of the Long School neighborhood?
The Long School neighborhood was established in 1868 and is bounded by Lake Street on the north, Hamilton Street on the south, North 24th Street on the east, and North 30th Street on the west. The neighborhood is named after Eben Knapp Long of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Omaha Public School board because of his involvement with city operations. In addition to having a neighborhood named in his honor, an elementary school called the Long School was named after him. Built at 2520 Franklin St. in 1893, the school attracted a variety of working-class ethnic groups to join the neighborhood, including Scandinavians, Jews, and African Americans. After the influx of residents moving to the neighborhood, many small businesses, often Jewish-owned, began to line North 24th Street, providing everyday amenities for residents. These businesses were all in close proximity to one another, ensuring that residents did not have to travel far to meet their needs. This also ensured that money and resources stayed within the community and kept the area vibrant and thriving. Residents could board the Omaha streetcar at 24th and Franklin streets and ride to Lake Street to visit a variety of clubs for entertainment or walk to meet their shopping and practical needs; they had access to everything they needed.
At the turn of the 20th century, however, the neighborhood began to decline due to a pattern of white flight and redlining. Real estate agents would tell white residents that their neighborhood was going to be taken over and run down by African Americans, and then encourage them to sell their houses for cheap and flee the area. White residents fled not only their homes but their businesses. In addition to businesses and homeowners leaving the area, Black residents were being prevented from leaving North Omaha because of the discrimination they would face if they tried to move outside of the lines drawn up by the city. Black residents essentially found themselves trapped in a community that the city lost interest in. Furthermore, the Long School neighborhood, along with the rest of North Omaha, was troubled by several different events of racial unrest. Riots incited by multiple cases of police brutality and lynchings led to several buildings being burned by protesters, many of which were left as empty lots or vacant buildings. These riots accelerated the process of neighborhood decline initiated by redlining and discrimination. Without accessibility to amenities, more residents fled along with businesses, leaving behind economic and social distress in the neighborhood.
A 2019 7 minute interview with Juanita Johnson, president of the Long School Neighborhood Association. Talked about what the association does and what is needed to bring back the neighborhood.
A 2019 7 minute interview with Patricia Allen who grew up in the neighborhood. Talked about what 24th Street used to look like. Its vibrancy in the 1940s-1960s. Its a close-knit community. Talked about the 1960s riots.
1837 N. 24th St.
In 1917, a new building was welcomed at 1837 N. 24th St. It was owned by a man named Fred Heglin. There were several businesses that were located at that location throughout the years. It began as a grocery store and later became the First Church of Deliverance, Raybon’s Café, Climax Tailors, Andrew’s Cleaning Service, and Cornelius’s Chateau. The businesses were once thriving, but the neighborhood sadly declined because of the riots, and the lot now sits unused in 2019. It is owned by the city of Omaha and is worth about $18,000.
Shown are several examples of advertisements for businesses in the former building located at 1837 N 24th St. As can be seen from the ads, over the course of decades, the building housed a variety businesses to serve the residents of the Long School neighborhood.
1814 N. 24th St.
Built in 1911, 1814 North 24th St. was home to the Alhambra Theater from 1911 to 1930, the second-largest theater in the city at the time. Originally run by Frank Goff, who was also known as “Big Daddy Goff” and considered “Omaha’s pioneer showman,” the Alhambre staged vaudeville performances and local amateur acts with an accompanying five-piece orchestra in its earliest days. Goff is also credited with bringing the first motion pictures to Omaha, screening them first at his Franklin Theater and then at the Alhambre. In its heyday, the theater was described as a “glittering movie palace.” The Alhambre also hosted a series of special events and charity benefits. Despite the theater being white-only, African American boxers were featured in fights at the Alhambre in 1911 and 1912. In the tumultuous year of 1919, the theater faced rancorous labor protests when it hired a non-union worker to run the film projector. That same year, the lynching of Will Brown spurred a tightening of racial segregation in North Omaha and the start of white flight from the area, marking it as an increasingly African American neighborhood. Nonetheless, the theater continued to be a white-only venue through the mid-1920s, when it finally began to admit Black patrons. During the second half of the 1920s, the Alhambre screened mainstream films, as well as African American-produced movies, including those directed by Omaha’s pioneering black filmmaker, George Johnson, and his Lincoln Film Company, which is often credited as the first all-Black motion picture company in the United States. Facing increasing competition from other theaters and growing economic challenges in the neighborhood, though, the Alhambre closed in 1930.
During the first half of the 1930s, after the Alhambre shuttered, the building was used to host political rallies, civic clubs and other social events. The space was also home to a roller skating rink, a grocery store and even a miniature golf course! Interestingly, in 1933, as fascism was on the rise in Europe, the International Jewish Workers Order sponsored a speech by Jewish New York journalist and author, P. Novick, titled, “Nazi Propaganda and Anti-Semitism.” In 1936, the building burned down and is today a vacant lot.
This newspaper article from the Omaha World-Herald on February 6, 1936, describes the fire that destroyed the Alhambra Theater at 1814 N. 24th Street. In addition, the article provides a summary of the excitement the theater generated in North Omaha when it first opened in 1911, during the waning days of vaudeville and the earliest years of silent film.
The 1917 advertisement promotes the latest films by Charlie Chaplin and Lillian Gish, two of the biggest stars of the “silver screen” during its initial heyday. “The Cure” was an early Chaplin comedy that followed the efforts of an upper-class drunk who entered a spa in an effort to dry out. “Souls Triumphant” was a drama, but it has been lost to time so little is known about the plot. (Images Courtesy of Omaha World-Herald)
2428 Franklin St.
The vacant lot at 2428 Franklin St. began as a housing development in 1938. During the peak of the Long School neighborhood, the residents at this address were in close proximity to many businesses on 24th Street. As tough times plagued the area as a result of social unrest and many moving out of the area, the building was demolished in 2001. It has remained unused through 2019. In 2015, Bethel AME Church purchased the lot with the intent of expanding and renovating the church. However, city codes and an assessment of the structural surroundings kept that from coming to fruition. In 2019, the land is valued at $90,000.
This artifact is a photo of Bethel AME Church. The 2428 Franklin vacant lot is currently owned by this church. It was purchased in 2015 with the purpose of renovating and expanding the church. However, due to city codes and structural concerns, the church was unable to complete this vision.
1804 N. 24th St.
1804 N. 24th St. was the middle bay of a larger, three-bay commercial structure built in 1922 in what was, at the time, a thriving multi-ethnic neighborhood. Augustus Anderson operated Augustus Anderson Grocer there from 1923-1926. In 1926, Russian Jewish immigrant and jeweler, Sol Lewis, opened a radio showroom in this location. After Lewis left the building in 1932, a series of Jewish-owned and operated businesses filled the space until the end of WWII.
Following the war, the area transitioned to a predominately African American neighborhood. In 1945, Gerald “Jerry” Morris and his wife Ethel opened Tip-Top Tailors, which was an extension of Crosstown Cleaners, a dry-cleaning and tailoring business they owned. Morris moved to Omaha’s Near Northside from Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1930s. As a businessman, Morris participated in the Mid-City Businessmen’s Association, a predominantly African American group. In 1964, Tip-Top Tailor closed. Since that time, the building has housed a church, as well as several other short-lived businesses. The broader decline of the neighborhood has made it increasingly difficult for businesses to succeed over the past few decades, resulting in the space lying empty for much of the time. As the 24th Street corridor in North Omaha sees some renewed energy, it is hoped that this building may yet make a comeback.
In addition to his dry-cleaning and tailoring operation, Morris also owned the popular Offbeat Club and Jerry and Johnny’s Drive-In restaurant. He was an active member of the Northside branch of the YMCA, as well as the Beau Brummel Club, an African American social organization, and a supporter of the Democratic Party. During the civil rights era, Morris led membership and fundraising drives for the local NAACP, encouraged the group to pressure congressional representatives to support the 1957 and 1964 Civil Rights Acts, and personally lobbied the state legislature in support of a Fair Employment Act.
(Left) This 1944 advertisement for Tip-Top-Tailors appeared in the local African American newspaper, the Omaha Star. Tip-Top-Tailors was owned by prominent local African American entrepreneurs, Jerry and Ethel Morris, who operated the business from 1945 to 1964.
(Right) This artifact is a picture of Mr. And Mrs. Morris, the owners of “Tip-Top Tailors”, the most successful business located at 1804 N 24th St. Jerald Morris was a resident of Omaha for 16 years but was from Des Moines, Iowa. He and his wife were very active in the community. Mrs. Morris was a resident of Omaha, as well, but was a native of St. Joseph, Missouri. They also owned other successful businesses, such as the Crosstown Cleaners, Johnny & Jerry’s Restaurant, and The Offbeat Club.
1806 N. 24th St.
The building at 1806 N 24th St. was built in 1922. Like many buildings in this neighborhood, the first wave of businesses to occupy the space during the 1920s and 1930s were Jewish-owned and operated. The first tenant was a general merchandise store operated by Nathan N. Bernstein. In 1925, this space was used for Harry Belmont Clothing, but one year later it became home to Sol Lewis Jeweler. Lewis’s jewelry store remained open until 1932, when a hardware store owned by Max Rosenstein moved into the space. During WWII, from 1941-1945, the building remained vacant as the impacts of redlining and white flight began to take effect in the area. In 1946, an African American entrepreneur, Harold Kaplan, opened a successful dry goods store that was later bought by Canfield’s in 1966. Kaplan was a member of the Mid-City Businessmen’s Association, a largely African American group of Northside businessmen that sought to promote their own businesses on the Northside and across the rest of the city. The building briefly housed an Economy Beauty Salon in 1967, but soon became vacant. The history of 1806 N. 24th St. highlights the relationship between the Jewish and African American communities in North Omaha during the early and mid-20th century.
This advertisement for the Harold’s Dry Goods and Variety Store ran in the Omaha World-Herald on May 3, 1946. Harold’s Dry Goods was owned and operated by Harold Kaplan, the first African American business in the space, after two decades of Jewish-owned shops at the address.
2019 MIHV Project
"I really enjoyed working with an architect. He showed me how to make a sketch of my building and really improve the look of it."
- Ah Kaw Kuh W.
"I thought MIHV would be learning only about past history. But it was actually not only that but also creating new history. I liked that opportunity."
- A'Ron B.
"I liked getting to know so many new people and learning about the history of our city. I especially enjoyed doing interviews with people who know so much about the history."
- Jayden R.
"I liked learning how to use several resources to find out information about the older parts of our city."
- Alize’e W.
"The best part of MIHV was meeting new people. I liked this because I interact differently with different people, and I thought it was a good chance to meet all kinds of people before going to high school."
- La’Nya W.
"I like that MIHV was a fun learning experience, with a difficult and unique challenge. I really enjoyed the time with the teachers and university students."
- Angel G.
Youth-Driven Visions for the Future
My business is La'Nya’s Medical Center at 1806 N 24th Street. The purpose of this “one-stop-shop” center is to meet the needs of the residents in the neighborhood. Currently, there are no medical resources in the area. The goal is to have a start-up medical center, with expectations to expand as the neighborhood hopefully grows, as well. Included in this location will be a general physician for family medical needs, for both regular well visits and illnesses. An after-hours Urgent Care center will also be available. A pharmacy will be at this location, as well, to meet the pharmaceutical necessities of patients. In addition to physical health, a mental health professional will be employed, as well. For routine visits or emergency interventions, mental health is as important as one’s physical well-being. Lastly, a family dentist will be available for routine dental care, in addition to further dental procedures needed.
A. K. K. W.
My business is a charity called Share. The charity is intended for the immigrant/refugee and relies on donations from people or businesses. The charity is a 2-story building that has donated items on the bottom floor and living space on the top floor. The room on the top provides a place for people without a home. My goal is that Share will partner up with Habit for Humanity on 24th Street.
My business will be a new 2-story grocery store called Angel Groceries. What makes this store unique is the product? I will make sure that I provide products that are specific to the community around me. In addition, on the upper floor, there will be a room open for renting of charity and other social events. By including this large space for events, it further encourages the surrounding neighborhood to utilize a location in their own area for their needs.
Royal B. Performing Arts Academy is a community “Hollywood”. The people, especially the youth, have an opportunity to pursue instruction and practice in a number of liberal arts: theater, dancing, art, and singing. In addition to classes and individual instruction available, community theater and other live performances will be held at the auditorium/stage theater.
Alize’e W. and Jayden R.
My partner and I developed a business as a job center/community center. At this location, people can have a place to spend some of their free time with others in the neighborhood. In addition, people struggling to find jobs can utilize the job assistance program to find employment. Lastly, it is also a donation center in the basement.
Research combined by Omaha Public Schools Students. Students who worked on the project will attend Benson, Central, North, and South high schools in Omaha.