Ghost of Omaha Past: City moves closer to destroying another historical landmark

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Jessica Wade
CONTRIBUTOR

The Christian Specht Building sits at 1110 Douglas Street in downtown Omaha. Built in 1884 with its iconic Italian Renaissance Revival style and cast-iron façade, the building has remained an important landmark of Omaha.

Through the Great Depression, Red Summer race riots, the rise and fall of Omaha’s meatpacking economy and every event that nature would throw at it, this building stood tall and bared witness to the city’s greatest and most horrific moments. Unfortunately, the Christian Specht Building may come to face something that will ultimately knock it down.

On Feb. 23, the Omaha City Council will vote on whether or not the city will purchase three buildings: the century old Specht building and two of its equally old, and historically relevant, neighbors. After the purchase of the buildings, they would be given to the Omaha Performing Arts.

What is sparking protest about this exchange is not the fact the buildings will be given to the Holland Center which operates under Omaha Performing Arts, or the $11 million that would be spent, although that amount of money has found some opposition.

The plan that has historians and citizens voicing disapproval was made by the Holland Center when it was originally said the group planned to tear down the buildings in order to build a parking garage.

Photo Courtesy of flickr.com
Photo Courtesy of flickr.com

After public protests, Performing Arts Chairman John Gottschalk attempted to ease this disapproval by claiming that “historic architectural features could and should be preserved.”

Among those opposed to this plan was Lupe Buckingham, a ghost hunter. After receiving permission from the building’s tenant, the Specht Building was put to the paranormal test.

Whether or not Buckingham and her team found proof of a ghostly entity haunting the building is a matter of opinion. What the building’s tenant, Julia Russell, really hoped to accomplish was a renewed interest in the building that would perhaps lead to further protest over the Holland Center’s alleged plan to demolish it.

Besides the idea that tearing down this historic landmark could potentially disturb a ghost, the Omaha City Council has much more to take into consideration before purchasing these buildings.

If the Holland Center chooses to convert them into functioning extensions of the Omaha Performing Arts without destroying the important and historic architectural features, then they should, undoubtedly, move forward with their plan.

It is easy to imagine that the building’s designer, Christian Specht, who was an active and lively member of the Omaha City Council in 1891, would approve of his famous building assisting the Omaha Performing Arts in its expansion.

However, if the group made the decision to tear down this historic landmark Omaha would be losing an important piece of its history.

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