Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Douglas County
Produced by Liz Lee.

Part 1      Part 3

City of Omaha

Note: Please refer back to the Omaha first page, or to the Chapter Table of Contents for the complete listing.

SECTION 1:  The Early DaysSECTION 2:  More Early Days
SECTION 3:  Omaha in 1870SECTION 4:  Present Day (1882)
SECTION 5:  CrimesSECTION 6:  Fires and Public Works
SECTION 7:  Health, Parks, MailSECTION 8:  The Press in Omaha
SECTION 9:  Press ContinuedSECTION 10:  Religious
SECTION 11:  Religious (cont.)SECTION 12:  Cemetery and Schools
SECTION 13:  Legal and Medical Professions
Boyd's Opera House | Hotels | Business Blocks
SECTION 15:  SocietiesSECTION 16:  Societies Continued
SECTION 17:  BusinessSECTION 18:  Manufacturing
SECTION 19:  Manufacturing (cont.)

20 - 46:

   ** Omaha Biographical Sketches **
| WOODARD~ZEHRUNG | West Omaha Precinct | Douglas Precinct |

List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter

City of Omaha 14



The ground covered by the Opera House is seventy-seven feet front on Farnam Street, and 132 on Fifteenth street. The foundation of the structure was begun in November, 1880, the footings being put in at that time. Its opening entertainment was October 24, 1881. The grand entrance to the Opera House is on Farnam street, and is thirty feet wide. The gallery entrance is entirely separate, and is located on the east side of the house, opening from Farnam street. The first story has a projecting cornice of galvanized iron of neat design, and over the main entrance is a balcony five feet wide, to be used by the musicians. The main portion of the building is four stories high, while the rear part, containing the stage, is five stories. The height of the building from the ground is eighty-six feet. The building is constructed of St. Louis pressed brick, and Missouri sandstone, the latter being carved in various designs, and forming the ornamental trimmings. The main cornice is seventy-one feet above the sidewalk, and is made of galvanized iron, with a large pediment in the center on Farnam street, with illuminated glass letters, "Boyd's Opera House," in the panel of the pediment. Just below this, carved in Missouri sandstone, is the following inscription: "18-J. E. Boyd-81." The general style of architecture is American renaissance.

The stairways are all black walnut, with ornamental designs, and the wainscotting is all in French walnut panels. There is a commodious lobby, and from this we pass through three wide entrances, richly draped into the semi-circular promenade. The parquette and parquette circle are seated with handsome iron folding opera chairs, of the latest design, upholstered in crimson leather, and the dress circle above is furnished with the same style of chairs. The parquette and parquette circle and dress circle have a total seating capacity of 1,070 and the gallery will accommodate 600, making the capacity of the theater, with the boxes, 1,700. The railings of the dress circle and gallery are made of wood, with iron panelings, the iron work being designed specially for this house. The proscenium opening is thirty-five by thirty-six feet, the frame being of elaborate design, and handsomely carved. Immediately in the center of the proscenium archway is a very large medallion of Shakespeare. There are three boxes on each side of the proscenium. They are very commodious and open both toward the state and the audience. The first story is embellished with heavy balusters and ornamental columns, and with projecting balconies. The whole is surmounted by a cornice extending across the proscenium and connecting the boxes. The painting is light lavender and brown in three different shades, and gilt, all being harmoniously blended. The interior of the boxes is papered, and frescoed on the paper. The papering is gold panels and dark red velvet, the panels being frescoed.

Upon the proscenium arch or cove are two allegorical groups, one representing "Drama," and the other "Art." The group on the left, representative of "Drama," consists of three figures of youths, the central standing upon a pedestal, while on his left another removes a mask and the figure on the right side holds a mirror. The right panel shows three youths' figures also, the central being "Declamation," while "Art" sits. These two are reproduced from the cove of the Vaudeville theatre, Paris. Both are wrought in strong colors on a sky ground. Between these classical representations lies a square panel bearing the monograms "J. E. B." painted in rich colors and gold upon a narrow ground. Panels in arabesque designs in gold, buff and browns fill the remainder of the cove.

The frescoing throughout the entire house is of the Eastlake style, the dome being particularly attractive. The ceiling is laid off in panels in various shades, all giving a pleasing and rich effect, and medallions, executed in the highest style of the frescoer's art, are located in prominent positions.

The stage is forty-five feet deep from the drop curtain, and there is a space of five feet from the drop curtain to the foot-lights, making the stage fifty feet from the foot-lights to the rear wall. The height from the stage floor to the fly galleries is twenty-five feet, and from the fly gallery to the rigging loft thirty-eight feet, making it sixty-three in the clear from the stage floor to the rigging loft, and the rigging loft is fifteen feet high. This makes the total height of the stage seventy-eight feet. The immense size of the stage will accommodate the representation of any drama or spectacular piece that has ever been played in this country.

One of the principal features of this temple of amusement is the stage and scenery which equal those of any Western theatre in artistic embellishment and mechanical arrangements. The stock of scenery is very large and complete, consisting of twenty sets, which admit of producing all dramatic, comic, operatic or burlesque entertainments in a metropolitan style. The drop curtain is original in composition, and artistically executed. It contains a Venetian landscape in medallion in the center, fourteen feet in diameter, surrounded with a series of squares of old gold, pale blue and black satin. The black is so artistically handled that it gives life and harmony to the other colors. In each of the several squares there are flowers, ruins, vines and birds, painted in representation of needle work. On either side of the squares is an easy hanging of maroon drapery. The whole composition is a very charming picture. The several sets are in keeping with the drop curtain, and consists of a parlor scene after the Louis XV style, with a rich damask hanging, plain chamber, prison, oak chamber, perspective palace, palace arches, rustic kitchen, horizon, rocky passes, garden, light landscape, woods, cut woods, perspective street, street arches, street, house, flats, set house, garden balustrade, garden statues, flower vases, set waters, set rocks, rustic bridge, farm pieces, and several other sets; also cut wood border, straight and arched, sky border, and drapery borders, grand arch and straight working tormentor borders. All the above borders work from above the stage and are all worked by one man.

The opera house is heated by steam throughout, with both direct and indirect radiation. The direct ventilation is through the windows and the dome, which can be opened or closed at pleasure. The indirect system of ventilation is distributed through the floor, leading into the flues built in the walls, and these flues are artificially heated to insure a draft when necessary. This system carries off all the heavy air at the bottom of the house. This is done as much for acoustics and system in heating as it is for ventilation. Besides the employment of stone and brick in building the opera house, security against fire is assured by the standpipe and water system. The lines of hose with butts are placed at the two wings of the stage and two more in the fly galleries. There is also a line of hose with attachments reeled up in each of the three lobbies. An exit for use in case of fire is built to open from the main floor to the roof of the adjoining one story building on Farnam street. The cost of this most notable building was upwards of $100,000.

The following is a list of opera house officials: James E. Boyd, proprietor; Thos. F. Boys, business manager; E. E. Whitmore, treasurer; Professor Sauers, leader of orchestra; Noxon, Halley & Toomey, scenic artists; John W. Booth, stage carpenter; Albert Koster, property man.

The opera house was opened on Monday evening, October 24, 1881, when it was filled to its entire seating capacity. Nearly as many as were admitted were compelled to turn away. Soon after the curtain dropped upon the first act, Gen. Manderson, occupying a seat in the lower box on the left of the stage, arose and addressed the audience as follows:

"Ladies and gentlemen: I have been requested by many of our citizens to say a few words on this occasion, expressive of our appreciation of the event that has brought us to this beautiful place. We who reside in Omaha--this thriving city of ours--feel frequently called upon to bewail and bemoan our discomforts and our wants. Smarting one day from the blinding dust that fills our eyes, the next day we are swearing perhaps at the thick mud that pulls off our overshoes, and we cry aloud for pavements, sewerage, better hotel accommodations, and numerous other needs. But do you know that, paradoxical as it may seem, there are a great deal of comfort in these discomforts? The want means a needed supply. The supply means happiness created. We can only be measured by the extent of our former misery. Our gratification in this beautiful structure to-night is immeasurably increased by the keen sense of past depravation. (Applause.) These wants, too, lead us to know that there are in our midst men actuated by the enterprise, the nerve, the public spirit, to satisfy our needs; now we know and now we appreciate such men as the Kitchens, the Shears, and the projector and builder of this magnificent temple (Applause), the mayor of Omaha--Hon. James E. Boyd. (Applause.)

"To-night means a new departure for Omaha, it means that Omaha now begins to be metropolitan, for looking down the future I see that this edifice is to bear a most important part in the city's history. The citizens who will gather here to feast their eyes upon its beauties, and delight their ears from the best talent of the dramatic and operatic stage, will take into their lives culture, the refinement, the cultivation that grows from seeing and hearing all the best that can be seen and heard. The beauty of this place should be marred by nothing of the commonplace or vulgar, and I feel sure that it never will be under the present efficient management. (Applause.) I move, ladies and gentlemen, that, as expressive of the feelings of this audience, we adopt this resolution:

"On the opening night of Boyd's opera house, we who are assembled to enjoy its fresh beauty, desiring to express our appreciation of the enterprise that has made our high enjoyment possible,

"Resolve, That this complete building, resting securely upon its solid foundations, with its thorough protection from dangers by fire, its ample means of ingress and egress, its spacious stage conveniences, its artistic decorations, its luxurious comfort for patrons and its perfection in every detail, stands filling one of Omaha's greatest needs, affording to her people and to "the stranger within her gates', opportunity for cultured enjoyment and improving delight. We, in common with the people of this community, most heartily appreciate the generous enterprise and satisfying taste of our fellow townsman, Hon. James E. Boyd, and congratulate him upon the favorable auspices attending the opening of his beautiful temple of the muses."

Hon. Ezra Millard then rose and addressed the audience in a similar strain, extolling Mr. Boyd's public sprits and enterprise. Among other good things, he said:

"Our greatest need to-day, fellow citizens of Omaha, is just a few more helping minds and willing hands like his--men of sagacity, enterprise and nerve, such as he has shown himself to be, then we should soon see a different state of things. For one thing, the mud in which we are accustomed to revel would vanish from sight and we would be able to travel upon paved streets, and our markets of trade would be made so attractive that the dwellers in all this Northwest, and from away beyond the mountains, would visit and deal with us as never before, and they would come to live in Omaha, the new Chicago, as their metropolis, a pride and interest akin to that in which the greater metropolis, the other and older Chicago, is held by ourselves in common with the people of the great West. We are fortunate in having as a citizen this one, James Boyd, and as Mr. Joe Jefferson says, 'May he live long and prosper.'"

Mr. Boyd then appeared upon the stage in answer to numerous calls and spoke as follows:

"After acknowledging and thanking you for your cordial greeting, it would be far easier for me to say no more. But I feel that more is due in return for the many complementary words said of me, which I must attribute to the long and warm personal friendship of the gentlemen who have just spoken them, and which I an not presumptuous enough to think I deserve. While I might, under the circumstances, feel a pardonable pride in the thought that this building may last to perpetuate my name long after many of us, myself among the number, have passed away, there is far greater pleasure in the other thought that the people of Omaha have not only on this, but on former occasions, manifested their appreciation of the part I have taken in building a city that to-day outnumbers any city in either Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska. The need of comfortable and commodious theatre has long been felt. Many attempts were made to have some person or association build such a one, but all failed, and at last the duty devolved upon me. The result is what you see--an opera house that for line of sight and acoustic properties I believe has no superior. And for which I am largely indebted to the services of an excellent theatrical architect. If you will look over the programme for this evening's entertainment you will not see my name as one of the performers, and I am sure you did not come here to listen to me; but Shakespeare says, "all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players." My part of the performance has been the erection of this building. In its construction all the skill and genius of the artisan and mechanic has been combined to unite the beautiful and the agreeable with the useful and substantial. How many acts I have had to perform to bring it to its present state of completion is not necessary to mention. How well I have performed my part is not for me to say, but for you and the public to decide."


During the past three years, since September, 1878, when the palatial Grand Central Hotel was destroyed by fire, Omaha has been without a strictly first-class hotel. The Withnell House took the place of the Grand Central, but failed lamentably to meet the wants of a commercial metropolis and was closed on the opening of the Millard Hotel, in August, 1882. The Kitchen Brothers, who had leased the Grand Central a few weeks before its destruction secured the only building then vacant that could be transformed into a hotel, and they endeavored to accommodate the public as far as their limited facilities would permit. In 1881, they purchased the grounds on the corner of Fourteenth and Farnam streets, upon which the Grand Central was located, have erected on this ground a very handsome and solid five-story brick hotel, which, in many respects, is superior in its accommodations to the old Grand Central. This building was completed in the summer of 1882, at a cost of about $180,000. The interior is finished in Eastlake style, and nothing has been left undone to make it one of the finest and most complete hotels in the West. The building is in size 132 feet square, and contains about 150 rooms. It is arranged in the most approved manner, supplied with every convenience, and furnished in splendid style.

The Millard Hotel, located at the northeast corner of Thirteenth and Douglas streets, was begun in July last by the Millard Hotel Company, of which Hon. J. H. Millard is president, and after whom the house has been named. The other officers are: J. E. Markel, vice president; S. Shears, secretary, and Thomas Swobe, treasurer. The building is a five-story brick structure, with a frontage of 154 feet on Douglas street and 132 feet on Thirteenth street. The foundation consists of massive brick walls, twenty-one inches thick, laid on a brick footing four feet and eight inches wide, and this resting on a solid rock concrete basis. Above the foundation the walls are sixteen inches thick in the first and second stories, and those in the three upper stories are twelve inches thick to the roof, above which they rise (partition walls and all) to a height of four feet, giving absolute immunity to each compartment from fire in any other. These walls all pass through the attic without any opening through them, so that the communication for fire beneath, as well as above the roof, is absolutely impossible. The foundation walls as described, are laid at no greater distance from each other than nineteen feet, so that practicably the base of the building now below the ground floor is substantial as though it were a solid mass of brick or stone. The hotel, as a whole, consists of six distinct compartments, or more literally, of six separate buildings, between which the walls, as described, run up solid from foundation to coping, and these are intersected by cross walls, here and there, which immeasurable strengthen the structure, as a whole. All the engines for cooking and heating are placed in a building wholly separated by distance, and by double exterior walls from the main building. The kitchen and boiler room occupy the lower portion of a separate five story building on the northeast corner of the lot, which is separated from the mail building by a space of twenty feet on the west, and on the south by two walls running to the roof. In the upper stories of the detached building, are all the servants' quarters, and its only connection with the main building is by a bridge across to the dining hall, twenty feet distance, which can be removed in five minutes in case of necessity. The building reflects much credit upon the architects Dufrene & Mendelssohn. On the ground floor are six handsome stores and a wide entrance to the hotel rotunda on Douglas street, and the main or business entrance gents' parlor, ladies' private entrance, and two stores on Thirteenth street. In the center of the building on the ground floor is the office rotunda; spacious, lofty, with its handsome and graceful arches leading up to patent iron sky-light; presents a very beautiful view upon entering the office. Off from this rotunda lead all the public rooms of the hotel, bar, billiard room, bath room, barber shop, main stair case, etc. In case of fire or panic, every precaution has been devised for free egress. On the other side there are three broad fire escapes, from the roof to the ground, connecting with openings in each story, and inside there are two systems of broad stair cases leading through the five stories. The complete isolation of the kitchen and of the heating apparatus, the separation of the flues from any wood at any point, the fire-proof construction of all the ceilings, the solid walls separating the six distinct buildings from each other, the few openings between which are to be closed with iron doors, the impossibility of communicating fire above the roof or immediately below it, and the construction of the cornices so as utterly to preclude fire from communicating by that means--all these precautions of construction, together with the complete water apparatus provided throughout the building, combine to make the "Millard" one of the most secure from fire, as it is in construction of the strongest and solidest hotel buildings in any city of the land. The building presents a fine exterior appearance, the architecture being of a metropolitan and modern character. The interior is elegantly finished and completely equipped with all the latest and best conveniences, and is furnished throughout in magnificent style. It contains about 140 rooms, and cost about $150,000.

The Cozzens Hotel, which for many years was the principal hotel of Omaha, but for the past ten years has been standing almost idle, was purchased in 1881 by J. D. Iler and James G. Chapman, who have made an entire new building of it for hotel purposes. The building has been raised and a substantial brick basement put under it, making a commodious cellar and a substantial foundation for the structure to rest upon. The interior has been repaired and improved in every respect, and new doors and windows have been put in. The windows are supplied with two broad half length panes and new blinds. New chimneys have been built and a new tin roof covers the entire building, which is a very large three story frame structure in the shape of a T, the front part being 132 feet long by thirty-two feet wide, and the rear extension is 100 feet long and fifty feet wide. An attractive porch has been built at the main entrance and other ornamental features have been added. The interior has been entirely reconstructed and re-arranged so that the rooms are large and well lighted and ventilated. All the partitions and door frames are new and the interior has been newly lathed and plastered throughout. The hotel is lighted by gas, supplied with hot and cold water, freight and passenger elevators, another conveniences, and is first-class in every respect. It contains 125 rooms and the cost of re-construction was $15,000.

Paxton Hotel, Kitchen Bros. Proprietors, will contain from 140 to 150 sleeping apartments and over 175 rooms in all. The hotel is five stores in height and will require a force of seventy-five employes in the various departments of the house. The dining room will be on the first floor. The bar with all other appurtenances will be of an elegant order. Mr. C. W. Kitchen runs the Thornburg House at Laramie City. The Maxwell House at Rawlins, the Desert House at Green River and the Mountain Trout House at Evanston, W. T.: all being railroad hotels. Mr. J. B. Kitchens runs the Pacific Hotel at St. Joe, Mo., and Mr. Richard Kitchen attends to the Omaha Hotel interests.

There are a number of other hotels in Omaha, all places of entertainment, which do credit to the city. Among these may be mentioned the Creighton House, Canfield House, Metropolitan, Planters', American House, Atlantic, Elkhorn Valley House, Hotel De Goos, St. Charles, St. James, St. Nicholas, Western House, Hudson River House, United States Hotel, Union Stock Yards Hotel, Linde House and California House.


The Millard Block.--This large and elegant building is one of the most metropolitan structures in the western country. It is located at the southwest corner of Eleventh and Harney streets, and it is four stories with high basement, the dimensions being eighty-eight feet front on Harney street and one hundred and thirty-two feet deep on Eleventh street, with a sixteen foot flag-stone sidewalk and a well lighted and ventilated area underneath on both streets. The foundation is very strongly built of stone and brick, the basement walls being thirty inches thick. The superstructure is of brick, the walls being thoroughly grouted and strongly constructed, and the building is considered as near fire-proof as possible. The trimmings of the front are of cut stone and St. Louis pressed brick. The architecture is renaissance, and the exterior presents a grand and imposing appearance. The building is divided into three stores--the corner store being forty-four feet wide, to be occupied by a wholesale dry goods firm, the second being twenty-two feet wide, to be occupied by a wholesale boot and shoe firm, and third, also twenty-two feet wide, is to be occupied by a wholesale hat and cap firm. Each store has elegant business offices, is well ventilated and lighted, is illuminated by gas, is heated by steam and is supplied with hot and cold water, hydraulic elevators and all modern conveniences. This block was erected by Hon. Ezra Millard at a cost of $60,000. He owns forty-four feet adjoining on the west, on which he will, in the early spring, put up a building to match the above described block.


Strang's Block.--Mr. A. L. Strang was the first to erect an iron front building in Omaha. It is located at the northeast corner of Farnam and Tenth streets. It is four stories high and has a high basement, and is forty-four feet front on Farnam street and is 132 feet deep on Eleventh street. It is supplied with hot and cold water, is heated by steam and has two hydraulic elevators--one for freight and the other for passengers. The iron front is of very handsome design, and gives the structure a very solid, substantial and metropolitan appearance. The basement and first floor are occupied by Mr. Strang as a business house. His office is an elegant apartment, handsomely furnished, and has every convenience for the rapid and satisfactory transaction of business. The three upper stories are divided into commodious and pleasant offices, many of which are supplied with beautiful and cheerful fire-places and marble mantel-pieces and are otherwise finely furnished. These offices are occupied by the military headquarters of the department of the Platte, and the stars and stripes are always floating in the breeze from the flag-staff which surmounts the structure. The building throughout is perfect in all its appointments and is a credit to the city, and will ever remain a monument of Mr. Strang's public enterprise. The cost of the building was $40,000, and he is now erecting another four-story building, twenty-two feet wide, joining on the east. The front will be of iron, matching the corner building. The lower story will be 132 feet long, while the other three stories will be only sixty-five feet long, they being thus cut off so as not to shut out the light from the east side of the headquarters offices. The cost of this building, on which $3,000, has already been expended , will be over $8,000, making Mr. Strang's total investment $48,000 in buildings.




Iler's Block.--Mr. P. E. Iler, has erected a very handsome four-story brick block, sixty-six feet front and 182 feet, on the north side of Harney street, nearly opposite the Millard Block, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets. The front is of cut stone and pressed brick, the architectural appearance of which is very handsome. The building has water connections throughout, and is supplied with hydraulic elevators. It was built especially for wholesale business, the west twenty-two feet being occupied as a wholesale liquor establishment, and the east forty-four feet being occupied by a wholesale hardware firm. Each is provided with commodious and elegant business offices. The cost of the building was $40,000.

The First National Bank building has been entirely remodeled, and is now without doubt as complete a banking house as there is in this country. It is simply perfect in all its appointments, no expense having been spared to make it so. The vault has been moved back and now the entire first floor is occupied by the bank, the offices of Creighton and Boyd having been vacated to make room for the extension. The first floor and basement have been entirely remodeled, and the banking room proper is beautifully frescoed, and is supplied throughout with elegant new furniture. In the rear are two parlors, one being the main director's room, and the other being a sitting room for employés. Opening into this siting room is a lunch room, and also a room for wardrobes, stationery cases, wash stand, etc. In the basement is a fire and burglar proof vault, equal in size and every other respect to the vault on the first floor. The building is heated by steam, has hot and cold water and other modern conveniences. The cost of the remodeling was $10,000.

The Trinity Cathedral.-- The work upon this magnificent stone church has progressed quite satisfactorily during the last few months, the walls having been completed and the roof is now being put on. Up to the present there has been $20,000 expended on it. It will be completed during 1882, and when finished will cost about $30,000. The change from brick to stone greatly increased the expense, which will have to be covered by additional subscriptions. Trinity cathedral when completed will be the finest church structure in the West.

The Central Hall.--Such is the name of a substantial three-story and basement brick building, 44X100 feet, located on the east side of Fourteenth street, between Douglas and Dodge streets. The first and second stories are occupied for business purposes, and the third story is a dancing hall. It was built by Henry Koster and A. M. Clark, and cost $18,000.

Lytle's Block.--J. W. Lytle has erected a handsome three-story and basement brick building 44x100 feet on the north side of Farnam street, between Eleventh and Twelfth. The first story is divided into two stores, each twenty-two feet wide, and the upper stories contain office rooms and a hall for a business college. The cost of the building was $17,000.

Milton Rogers & Son.--This well known stove firm have doubled their store room by purchasing the Ish property and rebuilding the structure and uniting it with their own building, the two being thrown into one, making a store forty-four feet wide, 132 feet long and three stories high. This improvement cost them $10,000.

Samuel Burns has built for his crockery business a three-story brick building 12x120 feet, with a handsome front on Farnam street, north side, between Twelfth and Thirteenth, at a cost of $8,000.

J. B. Ellison has, through his agents, Boggs & Hill, erected a three-story brick building, 22x125 feet, on Farnam street, joining Samuel Burns' store, at a cost of $9,000, the front being similar to that of Burns'. This building is occupied as a clothing house.

Henry Dohle, the enterprising boot and shoe dealer, has just completed a three-story and basement brick store, 22x100 feet, with a very attractive front of unique and handsome design, the location being 1419 Farnam street, opposite Boyd's opera house. The cost was $8,500.

C. C. Housel has put up a three-story brick building, 22x100, on Farnam street, joining Creighton Hall building on the west. The cost is $6,500,

James Creighton has put up a three story and basement brick store, 22x100, joining Lytle's building on the west at a cost of $8,500.

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