Before I came to the belated preoccupation of sharing my house sleuthing adventures, my life was largely one of hidden obsession. Left to my own imaginings and amateur stakeouts, I had about worn out the ears of closest companions regarding My Mystery Adventures. At other times I was quite content to deliciously absume in my imaginary window seat, wrapped with moss colored Toile de Jouy wall coverings, reclining on needlepoint pillows of old, favorite dogs I once knew, listening to music from World War II, and set about for an afternoon of architectural wool gathering. I am inventing this fabulous window seat as I type, but it could have happened and it may still, if I have my way. With a good book on my lap or say, a cup of hot chocolate, I might look up every now and then to spy from behind identical mossy Toile drapes, on the high gated Georgian home across the way. Maybe, just maybe, I would name the characters coming in and out of the dwelling and envision their lives as they plodded across that crushed granite. Mr. Cassette and I love this old name game. When you think about it, really, one could and should tear into song at the very thought of possessing such a cozy, moss colored window seat, let alone living within close proximity of a Georgian estate. If you know the intimacies of this toile retreat or this lordly view, know that the rest of us burst into dirges at the thought of such gloriousness. And please know I, Miss Cassette, am truly happy for you although sprinkled with a mossy tinge of envy.
It pleases me to no end to alert you, dear friends, that today, March 2, 2017 My Omaha Obsession is celebrating a one-year birthday online. What started out as fairly quiet investigation into the Arms & Ammo building on 60th and Pacific has ballooned into a full time distraction. And yes, there is no need to point out that the investigations, that is, the stories, themselves, have grown and grown over time to be quite lengthy, because we have all noted that point.
I can’t help but daydream about all of the Wonderful Things that have materialized in this past year and all of the Wonderful Things that did not materialize in this special year. For instance Miss Cassette was not approached with a formal position within Anyone’s Idea of a Pinkerton’s National Architectural Detective Agency. Additionally Miss Cassette received no proposals from the City of Omaha to open up a Much Needed My Omaha Obsession Sleuthing Department. Likewise no one offered this detective a career at the Omaha World Herald writing a monthly piece called My Omaha Obsession: The Column, presumably because they have a space or word limit. Alas the Obsession Continued regardless of those who never called. On the other hand, many other fortuitous offerings did present themselves for which I was most grateful.
For a start you might be surprised to learn that a great deal of Omaha houses, to include ones that I have written about, are haunted. Yes, I am whispering “Haunted” to you in a very dramatic manner right now. Miss Cassette, who is nothing if not a ghost lover, was plainly shocked to learn of these spirited inhabitations. But what was and is even more peculiar was that I am forced to keep these pressing affairs under my hat. As it turns out, No One wants to buy a house that has been deemed Haunted. For the life of me, I don’t know why. Suffice it to say, I have received some unbelievably believable ghost-related emails and I have devoured every single one of them.
Moreover there were some Crimes and Complications within family histories when I got to digging, that I didn’t feel very happy about once discovered. Fascinating, really…. Some things stay in my mind and give shudders to this day. But some early lessons in unearthing of clues taught me to avoid hurting feelings at the risk of becoming My Omaha Tattler. (If I was a different kind of girl that might be fun for a day.) Part of this responsibility meant pledging to not write about the current owner of a home, a personal rule I took on.
For somebody who is as silly as I am on these matters, I will share my DELIGHT that some of my top stories were surprisingly about the old restaurants we loved or in my case, maybe have never been to. One of the most enduring articles was that of Bishop’s Buffet. For the Love of Bishop’s Buffet: Why, Oh Why, Did They Close?. “Good heavens!” I cried as email after email after comment poured in about Bishop’s and that life changing Chocolate Ambrosia Pie. As it turns out, none of us can forget that blessed concoction—the Midwestern response to this story alone has led me to believe to Bishop’s Buffet could make a solid comeback if anyone could track down those desirous recipes. Other big hits were the Hilltop House story I Wish I Could Have Gone To: Hilltop House and the Smashing Swartz’s Delicatessen article New Omaha: Swartz’s Delicatessen. I say smashing because they were everything I imagined they’d be and MORE. Just so you know, I’ve got a big restaurant investigation that I’ve been trailing for a while now but I’m saving it for a special upcoming event.
The Strange Successes
The other shockers for me were the reactions to the Mayberry Mansion story. See the Mysteries of Omaha: 5120 Mayberry Street comments section if you haven’t read through these. The Izard Street Castle article miraculously seemed to have found its own footing within hours of posting. Mysteries of Omaha: 4025 Izard Street. It quickly got up, proclaimed itself to international attention and walked away with a life of its own. I had nothing to do with it. I still don’t even know where that came from.
The Thank Yous
First and foremost: to all of my wonderful Omaha Enthusiasts. Finding people that understood my interest in Omaha, my wanderings, my imaginings, great buildings and detective journeys has really been the most gratifying thing. If you like to stray, then you already understand My Omaha Obsession. The fact that we have found each other—with our collective recreation invested in memories, architecture, Omaha history, fascinating people, photos of the past, ghosts, winding off-the-beaten-path brick paths and queer, little buildings long forgotten is important. We need to talk. For those of you who have taken the time to write me emails, sharing your family histories, photos of houses and loved ones and telling me your stories–This expression has meant the world to me.
I would like to thank Mr. Cassette for enduring all of my stakeouts and running to the computer in the middle of the night when something “clicks” and simply demands to be in a story. My furry friends for sitting on me as I type these lengthy missives. A big thanks you to Mother and Father of Miss Cassette for the customary Morning After Grammar and Punctuation Correction Emails After a Post.
Martha Miller of the Nebraska State Historical Society for her patience and help.
Tim McMahon of Lazy-I music fame http://lazy-i.com/ for his kind nod on his blog. I really appreciate it.
Trina Westman, City Planner – Urban Design Division, Planning Department at City of Omaha for her knowledge and generosity in sharing of the Planning Department archives.
Michelle Gullet of the Omaha World Herald for dealing with my annoying emails and phone calls.
Bill Gonzalez, Keeper of the Durham Museum Archives—someone whom I enjoy very much. Thank you for all of your help, support and laughs.
My contacts at the Omaha Police Department. You know who you are.
Joe Knapp at the City of Omaha Planning Department for spending time to help me dig and dig further into my passion.
The tireless work of Lynn Meyer, now retired Omaha planner, photographer and preservation advocate. His work with the Omaha City Planning Department inspires me. His dark, seemingly direct, photographs speak to me–there is so much more there. Haunting, really.
All of the incredible foresight and collections of Omaha photographers, mostly deceased, who captured the breathtaking images that continue to draw us in. And thanks to the Durham Museum, we have these archives of the past.
My friends who encouraged me to branch out from my personal Facebook posts about Omaha and write a book. Chris Hill and Julie Mornin stand out to me.
My father and grandmother for teaching me about Old Omaha and giving me my love of story telling.
The incredible Omaha W. Dale Clark Downtown Public Library third floor staff: Martha, Lynn, Mark and others. I continue to learn from you. Long Live Public Libraries!!
Kristine Gerber of Restoration Exchange Omaha for her incredible books (a true gift to Omaha), knowledge and generosity.
Kris and Tom Bartel of https://travelpast50.com/ for their sound counsel and direction…and for standing the true family test: I would want to eat lunch at Buvette and run around South O with you two even if we weren’t blood relation.
Omaha staff at the Register of Deeds Office for tolerating my pesty, inquisitive ways.
My tax lady for informing me that this blog isn’t a side job but A Very Expensive Hobby.
Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik for introducing Bill Sitzmann to My Omaha Obsession, which in turn led to my first writing job with Omaha Magazine. Thank you.
Stephen Sheehan, Marq Manner and Amanda Lynch for early guidance regarding blogdom. Drs. Chris Harding Thornton and Maria Buszek for propping me up during a mini detective meltdown. Syd Reinarz for the much needed arcane advice. Jesse Hutmaker, Bruce Karlquist and Jim Hofmann for your encouragement and continued supportive words. Jeremy Eckhart for the mysterious photo tracking. Detective Mundt for ongoing investigations, wisdom and conspiring with my Need for Intrigue. Andrea and Michelle, my Book Club Girls turned Soul Confidantes.
All of the fantastic Omaha mom and pop shops out there that fight the neutral concrete slab franchise landscape. You give Omaha its flavor.
My friend, John Jordan, for his support, encouragement and for his introduction to Mike Kelly of the Omaha World Herald. Likewise Mike Kelly for his early nod in a brief mention in the OWH.
Renee Ratner Corcoran of the National Jewish Historical Society for helping me with my questions and turning me onto some great books.
Sherri Moore and the Joslyn Castle staff for the opportunity to investigate for hire. What fun I had.
The beautiful castles, country cottages and European apartment homes of architect Frederick A. Henninger. Yes, I have a crush.
To all of the beautiful house owners who agreed to meet off the record to share the incredible stories of their homes. I treasure your time, your passion and your interest in preservation.
I want to courier a formal courtesy to Mrs. Katherine “Rusty” Turner, long time owner of the glorious Sherman Apartments on Sixteenth Street. I was approached about writing a story on the Sherman on the auspicious occasion of Mrs. Turner very recently selling the property. I only refrained (dream story) because, as it turns out, the OWH will be doing a full article and I certainly don’t want to be perceived as riding on their coattails or swooping in. Erin Grace will do a fantastic job.
For this next year I’ve got lots of fantastic dream plans. Thanks to Appsky Labs http://appskylabs.com/, at the end of this month, we will present an all new, easy to access My Omaha Obsession website. You will no longer need to be a detective in order to navigate the site. It’s been a long time coming and I am grateful to them. And then, my book. Yes, I am writing a book. Hopefully this VERY LONG tome (wink) will feature some of my favorite investigations combined with brand new mysteries not available online. This will mean taking a bit of a break from the website but I promise to pop in from time to time. Again, dreams…so who really knows for sure. What I do know is that this has been a great year and I have treasured all that you have shared with me. Thank You.
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