By Jacob Snyder, Contributor
Located between Center and Leavenworth streets, from 42nd to Saddle Creek streets, Morton Meadows is a historic area in Midtown Omaha where you can eat, shop, stroll around on the Boulevard or go watch a softball game.
Not only that, but it is also a safe, friendly and “neighborly” place to live, Bob Kammel, former member of the neighbor watch program, said.
“You know your neighbors. [They] watch your place, you watch theirs,” Kammel said. “There are just a lot neighborhood values, I guess would be a good word.”
To see how Morton Meadows came to be, let’s first go back and look briefly at the history of Omaha. The city can trace its beginning to the establishment of a ferry crossing that linked Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1853, with what would become the Nebraska Territory, according to a Nebraska Historic Building survey conducted in August 2004.
The next year, speculators platted a 320-block town site and named it Omaha, which became the territorial capital, according to the same survey. By fall of 1854, 20 houses had been built within the community. And in 1857, the Territorial Legislature granted a city charter to Omaha, providing a mayor and city council.
Due to its location on the Missouri River, Omaha emerged as an important steamboat stop, as well as a point of origin for several of the westward migration trails, which firmly established the town, the survey explained. But the construction of the railroads and establishment of the agriculture made it into a prominent city. Today, Omaha is a thriving city with over 408,000 people, according to the United States Census Bureau.
“Omaha has a strong and vibrant business community and the city is home to five Fortune 500 companies,” according to the city of Omaha website. “In 2008, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine named Omaha the nation’s third best city to live, work and play.”
As for the Morton Meadows neighborhood, it was developed in the 1920s and 1930s, according to the survey, and contains some pretty significant structures and historical architecture, Kammel said, mentioning Bethel Lutheran Church and Douglas County Hospital.
When speaking about historical importance, it can be categorized under any of the following four criteria created by the National Park Service: the property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; is associated with the lives of important persons in our past; embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type; or yields or is likely to yield valuable information in history.
Besides those Kammel mentioned, some of the other buildings classified as having historical significance in the education category were Holy Cross and Dundee schools. In addition to Bethel, the Evangelical Lutheran and United Presbyterian churches were also put in the report.
Specific houses and certain architectural types, such as Queen Anne, American Foursquare, Craftsman, Arts and Crafts, Period Revival, Period Colonial Revival, Period Dutch Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Period Tudor Revival, Bungalow, Art Moderne, Prairie and Vernacular, were also written in the report.
As for their favorite area to go, Kammel and his family like the Boulevard. “It is a common space,” he said. “A lot of people make it part of their route when they walk the neighborhood.”
When asked what improvements could be made, Kammel said there are some traffic issues as a result of people using the neighborhood to cut through between Leavenworth and Center streets and 42nd and Saddle Creek streets. He also added suggestions about offering walking tours or a sidewalk display to explain the historical significance of Morton Meadows.
“I would like to see that [the structures and architecture are] given more weight…some recognition either at the neighborhood level or the city level,” Kammel said.