I had left the blog for almost a year to get some research and writing done but during that time those of you who follow the Facebook page were privy to some fun, shorter posts. Mother of Miss Cassette called these the Little Stories and she quite liked them. I will be working to get these uploaded onto the website, as most people don’t follow My Omaha Obsession on FB. A fellow just commented on the blog about a rollerskate case he had found at a thrift store, which reminded me of this story, originally posted on October 30, 2017.
3716 Leavenworth gives the semblance of being a simple Mid Century Modern flat-roofed business, perhaps a vague shadowy blur to many who pass. By design, methinks. I’m obsessed with it and its covert, industrial façade, hiding what looked to be an elongated brick planter. Had all windows been neutralized? One would never know it from the strip but this property extends a good ways to the north into the Gold Coast neighborhood bordering Leavenworth. This wide-appearing Leavenworth elevation is actually the shorter side of a large rectangle. The 3716 building slyly conceals almost 11,000 sqft of a hidden work space-storage warehouse for its current owner. A well-known monumental sculpture artist in town has worked in this perfectly nebulous charcoal building since 2008. But even more irresistible is that 3716 Leavenworth was built as a neighborhood Art Moderne roller rink: The Roller Bowl Skating Rink opened in September of 1953. This building’s original address was registered on the books as 3718 Leavenworth. In their day the Roller Bowl sported the “Midwest’s Finest Maplewood Roller Rink” axiom.
The roller business was introduced by Mr. Jack Gelfand. Gelfand was also involved in our The Secret of the Muse Theater and Mysteries of Omaha: 6617 Cuming Street investigations. A huge roller skating craze had hit the country by the early 1940s and by 1950 a local roller rink manager was quoted as saying, “Hardly a week goes by that one of our skaters doesn’t marry another.” According to manager Bob Horacek, Leavenworth Roller Bowl’s focus was on family fun in the late 60s, not as much romance. Was it really true that the Roller Bowl was Omaha’s only skating rink by 1968? I found evidence that the rink was still going strong in 1974 but by 1980 it had closed. I am not sure of the exact date. Sad to think that Roller Bowl had missed yet another big resurgence in skating, the likes of the 70s–complete with roller disco and the early hip hop rink antics found out at the Skateland in Irvington, my home away from home in childhood. So good to see 3716 Leavenworth is still going strong, though, and serving such a noble purpose. Added bonus—check out the new shamrocks adhered to the new Marylebone Tavern front, directly to the east. Fantastic!
1953 brand new Roller Bowl. Designed by Stuart P. Knutson, architect. Notice the brick Leavenworth street and the superb doors. Kind of like the doors waiters were always swinging out of in 1950s cartoons. New skating rink at 3718 Leavenworth Street. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum. September 27, 1953.
Here it is fully outfitted for business ten years later in August of 1963. Fantastic sign. Check out the barrel roof! Roller Bowl skating rink at 3718 Leavenworth Street. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum.
3716 as it looks today. Barrel roof hidden by the new roof addition/facade? Garage and entrance added to the west side?
Omaha World Herald 1968. The Gordon Heflin family gives the Roller Bowl a go. Fluid Grace, indeed!
A friend sent me this photo about two years ago and I love it. A banged up, well-loved roller skate case. The address makes a lot more sense now.
I welcome your feedback and comments on this treasured Omaha building and the historic Roller Bowl. Please share your additional clues to the story in the comments, as we know more together. Everyone would love to read what you have to say and it makes the sharing of Omaha history more fun. I want to hear from you. You can keep up with my latest investigations by joining my email group. Click on “Contact” then look for “Sign me up for the Newsletter!” Enter your email address. You will get sent email updates every time I have written a new article. Also feel free to join My Omaha Obsession on Facebook. Thank you, Omaha friends. Miss Cassette
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Can you believe I lived right around the corner at 718 S 37th to the north? The Pusch Family owned the house. I lived in the attic. I loved that neighborhood and Little Bohemia. I always noticed the old gas station building on the corner and the Marlybone, but never the Roller Bowl. Thanks for posting this. I always wondered about that building
In the early 60’s, my friends and I went here every Saturday afternoon to skate and check out the girls. I was great fun, the Four Seasons on the music system. I still think of this place when I hear the Four Seasons. We rode the bus all the way from Benson and rented our skates. The number 4 took us downtown and we transferred to another which went west on Leavenworth. Cost us about a dime to get there but took 45 minutes or an hour. Thanks for the memories.
My friends and I would walk on Friday nights from our neighborhood near 35th and Center Street for Teen Night even though most of us were not quite teens yet! We were always in hopes some cute boy would ask us to skate with them to our favorite pop songs. At the end of the night one of our fathers would pick us up to go home. This was in the mid 1960’s.
Coincidence: “I lived right around the corner at 718 S 37th to the north?”
I checked the Google Streetview of that address, and I am very confident it is the same house I lived at for about a month between moving from one place to another. A friend of mine, also named Mark, lived there. He is older than Mark D. Budka, so not the same. The Marylebone was a short distance to walk to.
I used to skate at the skating rink in the early 70s. Later on, the same place was the home of Castro Printing, a nice company to do business with. As a graphics artist, I had Mr. Castro do all my print work.
This was my Dad’s version of the corner bar. I remember my brother and I going in to find him after he left us in the car “for five minutes”.
I went skating every Saturday when I was a kid with my sister. My highlight was being asked to skate by Monty Southman. I remember skating to Dreamin and Only The Lonely, among others
My father, Marshall Kushner, who owned Commercial Lithographing Company, purchased the building at 3716 Leavenworth in 1981, and ran his business from there until he retired in 2005. (He changed the name of the business to “Commercial Printing Company,” possibly in the late 1990s.) He later sold the building to my brother-in-law, Matthew Placzek, who uses it as his art studio. And although the space has been renovated (and is lovely, by the way), the original wood floor used by the roller rink remains intact!