The Goodrich Building (1415 Farnam) on the far left was built in 1868. Initially this was the C. S. Goodrich and Co. But by 1916 the first floor appears to be The Farnam Show House. 10 cent show with pipe organ.
(Photo Above: The year is 1916. 14th and Farnam Street, just west of the Paxton, south of the current W. Dale Clark Public Library. It is believed that these three structures are some of the oldest in Omaha. Photo courtesy of the Bostwick & Frohardt Collection at the Durham Museum Photo Archive.)
There are show posters all around the entrance. On the second floor is the King Joy Cafe. This was a Chinese restaurant (following in the Chop Suey trend) chain out of Chicago. This posh little eatery was known for having spent “thousands of dollars to furnish and decorate in its Oriental dress.” On the top of the building is great sign for Storz Brewing Co. There is also a hanging anchor that reads “Chop Suey” and “Farnam.” From the Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission website I found a discrepancy in the year it was built. They show “1415 Farnam Street was built in 1900. Architect: Unknown. Builder: Unknown. Style: Neo-Classical Revival. Designated Omaha Landmark: 9/28/1982. The Goodrich Building is one of the few small scale nineteenth century commercial structures left in the Central Business District that displays the classical influence of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and Omaha’s 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.” By the 1930’s the King Joy Cafe had closed and another Omaha favorite, Harkert House, had moved their main office and one of their infamous locations to 1415. My father loved Harkert House. He still talks about it. Miss Cassette plans to do a whole article on Harkert House in the future.
The Pease Bro’s Co (1417 Farnam). Advertising “good clothes” and “furnishings”. The Pease Brothers were famous local hatters and men’s furnishers. They started the business in 1885. The second floor is Mutual Film Co. selling “moving picture machines and supplies”. On the top floor is the Musicians Headquarters. In a detail of Musicians Headquarters floor, wooden chairs in a large loft room are seen through the windows, as if a bunch of musicians had just gotten up from a session. I dream.
The Drexel Shoe Company (1419 Farnam) must have been a big, successful business. The date on the top of the building says 1881. This business stayed in this location until the late 40’s-early 50’s.
The details. Classic local Storz Brewing Co. sign with a fantastic lit up anchor. It looks like a crow with a top hat in the window. Maybe I’m imagining things.
One of the best articles I’ve ever read from the Morning World Herald, Sept 19, 1913. It described the opening night of the King Joy Cafe where an orchestra played to a full house of dinner reservations. “The orchestra leader paused for about a fifth of a second with is violin bow poised mid air. The diners at the tables, as well as the servers, heard the sound and for perhaps the same fifth of a second even mastication waited upon curiosity.” Apparently the King Joy Cafe management had secured permission to fire off many firecrackers from their front balcony. They caught fire and set off other fireworks, leading to the whole restaurant, staff and patrons alike, out onto Farnam Street. The fire department came with ladders. As it was a little fire, they cleared the smoke out (ha!) and soon business resumed. All of the commotion attracted “thousands of curiosity seekers” and Farnam Street from 14th to 15th Streets was blockaded to traffic. There were “a dozen bluecoats to clear the street railway tracks.”
I just love these Pease Brothers Company ads. The fonts to die for.
LOVE this one. This was a pervious location before the Farnam Street store.
A detail of the Mutual Film Corp windows. Faint and dreamlike. I try to imagine the days when people would walk around downtown Omaha and actually look up at the hand painted signs on the windows.
I had to include this detail of the Drexel Shoe Company windows–the shoe boxes in the windows. Why do I love that?
Photo courtesy of the Bostwick & Forhardt collection at the Durham Museum Photo Archive. August of 1940. Looking west on Farnam Street.
If you look closely you can see the checkered shingles of the Harkert House now at 1415. Dave’s Clothes Shop is in 1417. A new facade covers the once intricate Pease Bros. Co. building. The Drexel Shoe Company was still holding tight at 1419. The fantastic Metropolitan-Brandeis Drug Store is now seen on the corner in 1421 and 1423. If you gaze further to the west you will see that Beaton Drug Company and Beaton Realty Company now occupy 1501 in the Barker Building. Directly across from Dave’s Clothes would have been the essential, Nebraska Clothing Company.
Addendum: For those who want even more, like me. The businesses listed directly west of Beaton Drug in 1940 were:
1503 Bucks Booterie (Check out my friend’s photo of the entrance still in existence at https://www.flickr.com/photos/brandedbetterdotcom/26523000025/)
1504 Rogers Lunch
1506 Nunn-Bush Shoe Store
1507 Nebraska Luggage Shop
1508 Wormser Hat Stores Inc.
1509 The Wardrobe Inc.
1510 John R. Thompson Co. (restaurant)
1511 Henshaw Hotel and Henshaw Bar
1512 Harry Mason (clothing)
1513 Henshaw Cafeteria
1514 Richman Brothers Company (clothing)
1515 Famous Lunch
This is a detail of the Beaton Drug Company in the Barker Building (1501 Farnam St). Notice the drugstore diner above where the windows announce “It’s cool inside.” Polar bears are painted on the windows, crouching by diner patrons having their lunch— signifying to all passersby that it was nice and chilly in there. Probably something very special on an August day in downtown Omaha. Check out the windows they rehabbed on this very corner at the new Pickleman’s Gourmet Cafe next time you’re in the area.
2008. The door on the left was 1411. The one on the right was 1415. This was previous to the Kitchen Table moving in. I love the glass above the doors and the ornate woodwork. I discovered that Alice’s Good Food was in this location in 1968. In the 70’s, Life Uniforms was housed here. Capitol Optical occupied 1415 in the 80’s–along side the Omaha Magic Theater which was in 1417. (I will definitely be writing more about the Magic Theater in the future.) The 80’s also brought the infamous Olympic Lounge, Olympic Lounge Restaurant and the Olympic Club Fifteen Go Go Club to 1419 and 1421.
2016. 1411 is now apartments. The left doorway leads to apartments above. These have to be fantastic. 1415 is the tasty Kitchen Table restaurant. If you haven’t been yet, check it out at http://kitchentableomaha.com/. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Jazz A Louisiana Kitchen are next door. This little block is doing very well.
2016. Paxton Hotel-Manor, now just called The Paxton on the left. The Goodrich Building, Pease Building and the Drexel Shoe Company as they look today. Did anyone else notice when they were ripping off the old facade to make Jimmy John’s there was this pretty cool Asian design revealed under one of the windows on this Drexel building, which I love. Red and black. It’s still there. This article now has a follow up story. Please check out The Goodrich, Pease and Drexel Buildings Part Two: The Look Book.
Please leave a comment. I love comments. If you have any stories or comments you’d like to share privately, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, Omaha friends.
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I used to live in one of the apartments about 1415 Farnam in 2000/2001. I had two huge windows facing Farnam Street that actually opened (!) and I spent more than a few summer nights hanging out, people-watching on the street below or around the library (I had a perfect view into the second and third floors but felt a little creepy spying on people reading non-fiction. Fiction’s another story:) On the Saturday nights that I was home, I could always count on something interesting happening when Club Fusion let out, spilling forth an assortment of punkrock/nu-metal/rave kids to fight, smoke weed, burn stuff, etc. ’til dawn (or until the cops showed up.) Also got to know an itinerant couple who used to spend most of their time at the Olympic but lived in a boxcar on the old UP tracks between downtown and Carter Lake. There were always interesting characters on that block before the Paxton et al. were renovated.
Miss that place…especially the 1,200 square feet for $450 a month!
Oh this is just great! Thanks for sharing. In the research of this article, I found a girlfriend’s name listed as having rented in 1415, which I was not aware of. I asked her about it and she reported there was a bathtub in her kitchen. She had the apt facing north w the large, beautiful window. I can imagine there would be quite the hum down on the streets below.
Although she may not remember me, I remember talking to N. a few times as we passed each other on the (steep) stairs. I was in Skaffa then and I think she either dabbled with an acoustic or actually played an occasional coffeehouse gig (can’t recall.)
Anyway, small world!
Miss Cassette, I would love to see you do a full feature on the neighboring corner structure at 1419-1421 Farnam.
I’m guessing that I’m maybe 5-10 years younger than you… In the mid-80s my folks had a business cleaning nightclubs. I would often accompany them when I wasn’t in school and, for a child, it was fascinating to be in these forbidden, seedy places by day. They were QUITE different with all the lights on! Any pretense of glamor was exposed for the joke it was but there were often interesting things to find nonetheless. And with just me and my folks there, and the sound system cranking new wave tunes, any icky factor was wiped away. I could just explore.
You mentioned Club 15, which was at 1421 Farnam, and was just one of many, many go-go bars in the downtown area back then. I saw where you mentioned Mickey’s and the Bittersweet in other articles, plus Stage Door (I have a story on that one for another time). There was also the Back Door Lounge attached to the Smoke Pit restaurant, and others.
Anyway, Club 15 was very much a product of its time, and not exactly high-class. Lots of neon and black light, small round tables with glittery white Formica (that you could never get to stand straight up for love or money), cheap red and black plastic ashtrays, and faux leather barstools with lots of tears and cigarette burns. There was a small stage for go-go dancers in the center along the east wall. And if you walked south past the bar on the west wall there was a long hallway leading to restrooms. If you ever ate at Jazz Louisiana Kitchen, their bar and restrooms were the same as from back then.
Okay, so here’s the cool part. During the time of Jazz, the second floor had been removed, so the ground floor was a huge, expansive space with a loft-type level above. But back in the 80s the second floor was a separate area. And in the center of Club 15, blocked with velvet ropes, was a staircase going upstairs. Not just to another level, but more like, to another era entirely. A different reality.
I was only a little kid so I wish I could’ve recorded it better. And this was decades before we all had phone cameras. But upstairs from that sleazy little bar was a beautiful mid-century lounge. There was a full bar, though funnily enough no running water. There was a pool table and heavy, elegant couches. Windows lined the west wall, overlooking 15th street and the Barker Building. And along the north wall was a gorgeous panoramic photo, blown up to a huge size, showing the street outside the way it had looked in about 1940.
I understand now that the upstairs lounge was used sparingly when the club downstairs started to overfill. So this magical room was essentially just part of Club 15. But the difference between the two parts was night and day. Wang Chung and A-Ha might be blaring downstairs but the upstairs was always quiet. Nobody was around to smoke, but the upstairs felt smoky. And most of all, it felt occupied.
I was fascinated by the upstairs and wanted to go up there all the time. I was an indulged child, and I could’ve played up there whenever I wished. But the truth was that, while I was drawn to the room, I was also afraid of it. I was only a little kid, but I could sense the presence of men in pinstripes and women in furs, clinking glasses, maybe a cigarette girl. It felt immediate and visceral, in the well and truly haunted kind of way. It was utterly unlike anything I’d experienced before. I remember sitting downstairs drinking a pop, staring at the velvet rope and wanting to just go UP THERE so badly. I wanted to sit in that dark, smoky, dusty room, which had no smoke or dust. And listen in that totally empty silence to the whispered chatter and distant laughter of those long-ago revelers. It was like, they were just in another room. Maybe an even more fascinating and opulent room, that was even more hidden away, and that I had just never seen. These thoughts made it so much more magical but also that much more scary. And so most of the time, I sat downstairs, trying to work up my courage to ask permission, only for it to be time to leave before I managed it.
This beautiful space, at some time later, was gutted, becoming parts of a series of food joints and bars. I’d give anything to know what happened to the treasures that time, somehow, had left untouched up there long enough for me to have this special memory. What were the odds??? Slim, I’m sure.
All my life I’ve felt like there are probably many secret stories tied to that lounge, and that many famous and infamous people probably knew the place. It was such a surprise the first time we went, to find such old timey splendor tucked away in a run-down go-go bar behind the rather crusty (by then) Olympic Restaurant. Who knew? I think I’m drawn to your blog because this experience ignited in me an awareness of the mystery of downtown, and a desire to experience it ever more fully. Thank you for what you do and please keep it up!
I am an architect currently working on the building. Please reach out to me as I’d be interested in hearing more stories about the 1421 building. I could also likely get you into the space while it’s under construction. Thanks.
I really enjoy this blog, and I’m glad I started browsing through this early Sunday morning. Love these old pictures and history of Omaha, interspersed with the new fabric being woven within the city.
This particular block has always held memories as a young one-at club fusion. Besides the cog factory, it was another underage venue to hear and dance to a variety of music in my high school days.
Then, in 2002-3, a collective of us opened an infoshop, reAct at 1415. We had books and zines, an herbal ‘library’ (rescued from people’s food co-op on 40th and Farnam St. when they closed doors), served homeless needs, Food Not Bombs, and planted community gardens. We did anti-war art shows and a few music shows, notably Against Me!
It was a time before the revitalization of the Paxton, and the building was abandoned. We would occasionally go urban exploring into its empty rooms and I’d admire the history and architecture of the hotel/and its later renovation to a senior citizen/care facility.
I met N. around this era, as well, and we have had connections many times in our life journeys. In fact, this afternoon I am spending time with her! Just a nod to this Omaha small world and the many people who make it an interesting tapestry where we live. Thanks for your blog.
One of my favorites was the hidden road in elmwood park. (Jones St). We just moved into a new home, and the neighbor grew up in the home next to the lodge. I was excited to have some knowledge about the street and that interesting home!
What a difference a century makes! These buildings were so interesting — so full of character and personality — before being dumbed-down mid-century. I mourn for the earlier Omaha that none of us can ever fully know. Thanks for these delicious bits of time-travel!
Thanks for all of your cool comments, Architectural Observer. It is always a treat to find you visiting. How fun to find this one comment in particular. I just returned home from the W. Dale Clark library. While walking to my car downtown, I had just looked up at these very buildings. They had the top windows pushed open for the nice breeze in town today. It was so casual. Those buildings continue to serve with pride. I wanted to snap a picture but thought, nah…that’s just too obsessive!
Too obsessive? You say that like it’s a bad thing!
That was meant as a WinkWink! We have long passed Shameful Behavior and are patently Pathological–the closest I might tiptoe into logical.
Hi. I am going through some old papers of my mother’s. It appears by looking a 1946 w-2 that she worked at the Harkert Houses Inc. what type of business was this. I also found the w-2 from Omaha cold storage and C.A. Swanson and Sons. I was wondering if you had just a bit of information on the Harkert house to satisfy my curiosity. Thanks.
It is funny you would ask. I have a huge investigation on Harkerts coming out in my book. Stay tuned.
Leo Kraft, father of Marc Kraft, owned the building in the mid 1970’s. He bought it because he thought it had potential, but was unable to lease it and was told by 3 architects to tear it down. The Paxton offered to purchase it for demolition as it was a detraction to their renovation in progress at the time. Leo eventually as a last resort, hired architect ,Bob Perrin, to see if it could be used, who came up with a plan to develop the upper floors into four apartments using some “creative” application of the current building codes. The exterior was cleaned with a low velocity sand blasting method to remove layers of paint revealing the natural beauty of the stone and brick details,
Frances Kraft used the North half of the top floor with the large arch window as her art studio.
I’m looking for a photo of the Drexel Apartment building and a photo of the building that was located at 618 North 16th. The building has been razed for a parking lot I believe. Any help would be much appreciated.
I am looking for a photo of the Drexel Apartment building and the building at 618 North 16th Street. Thanks!