There is a part of town that someday might be the death of me. If not wholly consumed by its beauty, hopefully of pleasant equivalence. On this Mr. Cassette and I agree: the wandering country lanes in and around Westside High School possess us. He grew up not far from today’s preoccupation and very dear, older friends are right down the lane. I hold very warm, childhood memories of a summer spent swimming in a nearby private garden. Confirmed Countryside Devotees, prepare for a new bee in our collective bonnet. May I introduce 8459 Woolworth Avenue?
If you have been running with our gang a while, you might know that I am obsessed with triangle lots as well as properties near streets that curiously create triangles. My 8459 Woolworth Avenue fixation sits on the southeastern corner point of a cunning triangle composed of 85th Avenue, Woolworth Avenue and 87th Street. Loveland Drive somehow involved itself at the northern angle, creating a triangle within the larger triangle. I’ll stop saying triangle now.
My idea was to start a My Omaha Obsession short series on great real estate. I’m already up at three am hunting for these dream places anyway, so why not share? This particular chapter on 8459 Woolworth has a wee bit of history thrown in because…well, it’s fun. I wanted to serve up only the pure, unadulterated properties that I’ve come across and some semi-pure as well. 8459 Woolworth fits the latter category as it has an Interesting Addition that incorporates many current appointments. These plans are not my particular favorites but they are well done for those who embrace New Ideas. If I was lucky enough to luxuriate in such accommodations as 8459 Woolworth, I have very nearly convinced myself I could suffer through these modern amenities! Or I might just simply close off that wing. But let’s not get off on a snooty foot. This home could very easily meet My Every Demand. True, there are some minimal remuddled features but overall, the original parts of the home were kept in A++ standard.
Disclaimer: My Omaha Obsession is not a real estate company and does not represent any home or property you will ever see here. Miss Cassette certainly is not in the business of selling real estate, although I should be. I am always staking out homes and tipping friends off to marvelous Omaha locales. And Lord knows the majority of summaries on these real estate sites are lacking. Just know that I am not working for someone and no realtors will be sending me “ideas” for my articles. Please contact the real estate agent or company for status, condition and more information. Miss Cassette offers no guarantee to the accuracy or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for errors, omissions or any losses arising from its display or use. Comments from fellow readers should be viewed as opinions and may not reflect the accuracy of the listing details, condition or status of the home. Homes and buildings shown on My Omaha Obsession may no longer be for sale and is up to interested parties to investigate the current status. Once again, Miss Cassette is not the agent, owner or photographer. If a realtor, owner or photographer want credit for these images or is upset that My Omaha Obsession is promoting the sale of your property (head scratcher), please email me directly. If this property has sold and you no longer want the address posted for personal reasons, please email me directly.
Make no mistake about it. I am obsessed with houses. I believe that my love for 8459 Woolworth Avenue has its secret in this neurosis…if one may dignify or degrade the condition by such a word. I will neither humiliate myself nor my fellow detectives with a further recital of my architectural addiction. Let us descend to facts.
LOCATION: 8459 Woolworth Avenue Omaha, NE 68124
SUBDIVISION: Longview Addition
PROPERTY TYPE: Single family residence
Frame and brick exterior, wood shake gable roof (update**now a Da Vinci roof, which I believe are those plastic, graham cracker, “vintage look” roofs), 2 stories, 5 bedrooms, 6 baths, 3 car garage
YEAR BUILT: 1954
SQUARE FEET: 6,163 sq ft
LOT SIZE: 0.63 acres
SUMMARY: found at Realtor.com
“Alluring Two Story in Westside, District 66. Charming first floor living areas w/beamed ceilings. Formal dining room has a built-in hutch & custom stained glass doors accessing the patio area w/pool & stunning mature landscaping. New Kitchen w/modern custom finishes & fixtures. Main level laundry area. Master bedroom boasts a barrel vaulted ceiling, immense closet space, built-ins & 2 bathrooms. Fifth bedroom located in finished space above garage, featuring an elevator & en-suite bathroom. 5 beds, 6 baths, 6,163 sq ft, 0.63 acres lot.”
Supplemental SUMMARY: from the Douglas County Assessor site
Longview Addition LOT 3 BLOCK 8
Parcel Number: 1635940000
Fairly vague floor plan borrowed from the Douglas County Assessor site.
Now you might be saying, “This doesn’t seem like a home that Miss Cassette would like. This looks like something found in the Richie Cunningham neighborhood on the set of Happy Days.” And if so, I say to you, detective friends, “Just wait ‘til you get a gander.” Let us delay no longer. I can’t wait to show you what I have found. (Photos borrowed from the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Group.)
Dorothy Draper style vibrant wallcoverings and 1950s flagstone flooring.
Their furnishings and down to earth, old school, preppy decorating sense tipped me off that these were not newcomers to the block. I thought to myself, now these people Get It. Every detail…including 1980s and 1990 attempts at modernizing. So I got to rooting around and did you know what I found? These People have Gotten It for a very long time. I can not wait to tell you their brief family story.
It was not hard to see by the photographs that this gracious, well laid out home really socialized well—as evidenced by its various groupings and vignettes for family and guests. What a hostess!
For the love of Pete, someone tell me that Society Bridge was played at this table.
Fascinating diamond panes of English style colored glass with a walnut-paneled wall. The dining room floor has its original cream-colored flagstones. A long, light brown marble-topped buffet extends along one wall. And the light fixture!!
An Olde English Tudor style upper bedroom with an amazing light fixture.
Another upper room displaying parquet wood floor…and the nautical meets Spanish(?) bathroom through the doorway. I could very easily see myself writing away in this little nook with Nina Simone’s music naturally wafting from some other room.
As I live and breathe for this wallpaper…
The Pool Room of a bygone era complete with partyroom carpeting and paneling. Like so many grandparents’ homes in District 66, this is now the Excessive Chair Storage Room.
Prepare yourself for the expansive addition.
The back area and bricked patio sends Mr. Cassette wild with desire. Once again he has commented it might take him a whole year to understand what these gardens might be whispering for if he was to suddenly become entrusted with its care. Get ready to sigh…
The Style, the Architect, the Builder and the Neighborhood: a Brief History
I believe 8459 Woolworth Avenue is the perfect example of a second-story overhang Colonial Revival. The second story extends ever so slightly outward. An eclectic mix with nods to Georgian and Federal styles make up the Mid-Century Colonial Revival. According to Virginia Savage McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses, this subtype was relatively rare until the 1930s. This style was popular into the 1950s. What sets this girl apart, to my eyes, is the gable and wing seen on the eastern most side of the home. Because of this wing, a becoming corner angle, almost a canopy, country style entrance is created. It all seemedvery English country. Or was it French cottage? Because of recessed, beguiling entrance, the front door is nestled into the shaded corner, with the casualness of a back door.
To enter a home under a shroud of green and enchanting vines. I ask, has life anything better to offer than this?
The posts of this porch are Very French cottage, almost countrified Fleur de Lis. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Little Bo Peep walking out in the morning for an expressive stretch and loud yawn before calling her flock. **Keen Detectives, take note of the Pale Ranch across the street.
The western side of the front park-like garden of 8459 Woolworth Avenue. Divine. Once the selection site of a 1980s Omaha Garden Walk, this lovely, unpretentious home must have won many new admirers on those tours. Her fishpond was featured prominently. However I believe it must have been her hibiscus vine, wrapped around the front porch that crept into many a longing heart. “The rhododendrons and boxwood surround a nearby magnolia.” The front garden flirted, offering a zumi crab and a redbud. “In the back yard, a fountain surrounded by roses, ajuga and petunias is the focal point. Unusual for this area is the Chinese dogwood tree.”
The three-car garage, found on the western elevation.
Harold Peterson was the original builder, under the direction of John Hyde, Jr., the architect. From my research it would appear that these two often teamed up and later had a business together. This group built a number of homes in the surrounding area.
OWH. 1955 advertisement for the Peterson group.
The Longview Addition was developed in 1945 by the Maenner Company, between 84th and 87th, south of Pacific Street and Loveland Drive. The locals sometimes refer to it as the Loveland West area—as opposed to Old Loveland and Loveland. The large lots and rolling country lanes were a well suited host to the new Mid-Century Modern Rancho style of post World War II. 8454 Woolworth Avenue, across the street from our Colonial Revival was one such Ranch—constructed in 1952.
Here she is in better times. 8454 Woolworth Avenue. Like many Ranches and original homes in this area, 8454 Woolworth became a Sad Scraper Statistic.
Lest we forget what many attributes 8454 Woolworth Avenue offered up—feast your eyes on the Brady Bunch Kitchen. Knotty Pine = So fabulous.
And her icy, pale flagstone enclosed porch.
Now presenting– the new house at 8454 Woolworth Avenue. New owners have been buying into this neighborhood, scraping the original architecture from the land, and then filling in with the vertical, multi-high pitched roofs of the Millennium Mansions. Mr. Cassette’s grandparent’s fine Loveland Ranch became an early victim to this now established pattern. A perusal of real estate sites will find local realtors promoting the removal of “outdated” or “aging” homes in order to create “whatever the new owner desires.” The Millennium Mansion look continues to be very popular.
85th Avenue, looking south.
It is understandable why these newcomers would Want In on this established area. The mature trees and lush foliage are lovely. The air is simply better over there. It is the center of town. It still maintains a carefree country feel, the whiff of old money nonchalance. There are no silly suburban gates and New Money entrance placards. Everyone knows where they are and quite simply, not many can afford to live this carefree, (in some portions) sidewalk-less existence.
A Brief History of the Homeowners
As this is intended to be a short piece, I will confide in you, dear sleuths, I did not visit the Douglas County Deeds Office to dig up who owned this farmland to begin with. In fact I did not plummet so far as to even find the very first owner/s. William “Bill” and Sarah Ginn were a well-known society couple in Omaha. Mr. and Mrs. were featured frequently in the newspapers—with my personal interest in Mrs. Ginn having hosted many special luncheons, teas and gathering for her various social circles. As of this date, the home remains in the William Ginn Trust.
William “Bill” Franklin Ginn was born the only child of Ray and Alice Ginn. Sole heir to the Ginn Oil fortune, young Bill quickly began growing the family oil company through his own initiative and perseverance. Upon graduation from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1950, family lore held that the day after Bill took the bar exam, he drove to Rockport, Missouri and opened his first Ginn Oil Company gas station.
145 North Elmwood Road, as it looks today.
I traveled back to May of 1950 when William Ginn was a single man, aged 26, post military service, living with his parents at 145 North Elmwood Road. The glorious Ginn mansion, in Fairacres proper, was the unfortunate site of a strange robbery. Young William would return home to find his mother held captive for more than an hour, bound by the senior Ginn’s neckties, while two ex-convicts ransacked the family residence for money. The prisoners nominated the Ray Ginn home, in hopes that the oil business profits were piled high in the private family coffers. For the record the two were caught handily and everyone lived to tell.
William and his father, Ray, appeared to share more investments than the oil business, holding a good deal of real estate around Omaha. It was their 15 acres of Carter Lake property that a Mr. J. Robert Hoff would refashion into the Airport Drive-In Theater at 11th and Locust streets.
OWH. 1954. Airport Drive-In Theater at 11th and Locust streets.
As William began to take the reins of Ginn Oil Company, ultimately creating 17 gas stations during his tenure, he would marry Miss Sarah Corliss Fulton of Lincoln in December of 1954. The couple began their married life moving into the Ginn family residence in Fairacres, while the senior Ginns wintered in Florida. By July of 1955 William and Sarah had moved into 5312 Izard.
This Happy Hollow Slice of Heaven Home was built in 1923 and is simply astounding. 90% of the Americans would agree: This is No Starter Home. Before clicking this link, remember, I warned you. https://www.trulia.com/p/ne/omaha/5312-izard-st-omaha-ne-68132–2061772108
In the summer of 1962, the Ginns would move again, this time to The Patently Unconcerned Patrician Neighborhood at 8459 Woolworth Avenue. Their Forever Home.
OWH. 1962. In Good Form. Society Announcement of Arrival to the new home.
Mrs. Sarah Ginn was a very busy, young society woman with two children and places she was expected to be. By 1963 she had not surprisingly found need to advertise for “Mother’s Helper.” This “17 or over” female would live in the family home nannying each evening and all day Saturday, in exchange for room, board and transportation. “Private room, bath, TV.” TV! A third baby was born in 1963.
An incredible article by David Sadler in the “Midwest Home Section” outlined the Ginn’s new décor and gave some desirous hints of what once was. In approximately 1957, “the house was remodeled by Harry Peterson, the original builder, under the direction of John Hyde, Jr., who was the architect during construction. Decoration was planned by Charles Cooper and Ray Lavender.” His name, not lost on me.
“The major structural change was lengthening of the dining room by about four feet. Opening on the patio through an arched doorway are a pair of heavy folding doors that extend the width of the room. Their massiveness is relieved by diamond panes of clear glass, with green, blue and red panes interspersed. A long, light brown marble-topped buffet extends along one wall, in space taken from the kitchen. It is against a walnut-paneled wall and has cabinets of the same material. The floor is cream-colored flagstones.”
“The enclosed porch, back of the library, has walls of grayed knotty pine and a black floor topped by a purple rug. Draperies are in brown, yellow, blue and purple stripes, with a valance of the same material.”
“The dining room adjoins a family room-library with a large fireplace of used brick, with a heavy beam as a mantel. The carpet is an olive green. The same plaid fabric used on a sofa is in draperies. (Let us just pretend he used the word couch and curtains, instead) Black chairs surround an octagonal table. The green carpet continues into the living room where there is a walnut-paneled wall flanked by windows. Another wall, beside the door to the library and also in walnut, contains cabinets. Green appears in a soft shade in the kitchen, where a large hood has been installed over an island range. Even the kitchen chalkboard is green. Blue is used as a relieving color.”
“The patio paved in red brick and blue-gray slate, has a brick bordered pool with fountain behind an enclosed porch. A pair of terra cotta lions flank a gateway to the rear yard. Wrought iron chairs with plaid cushions, large cushioned chairs and matching tables of weathered redwood.”
Very Nearly The End
Oct 1975. When I was young, there were GINN signs and stations all over town. Here is Mark Moraec at the Ginn Station at 3510 S 84th Street during the gas war of the 1970s. I remember there was a Ginn Station we stopped at frequently, I think on Northwest Radial or Cuming or was it along Military Avenue. Just a tiny place, to my memory bank. It was William Ginn’s idea to create the Ginn Oil Company stickers, which, if displayed on one’s bumper, guaranteed a 2% discount on Ginn gasoline. Over the years many of the stations were converted into convenient stores called Goodies.
A Ginn Gas Station. Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. 1970.
The Ginn family would complete residential remodels over the years on their lovely home at 8459 Woolworth, with the brilliance and vision to leave her original characteristics intact. I found additions completed in 2010 and again in 2018: the contemporary kitchen, the office, master bedroom and bath, and accompanying deck. The family really seemed to love this house and the area. Sometimes we are able to find that perfect fit. Sadly I found Mr. William Ginn passed away in 2016.
I would allow myself to dream about 8459 Woolworth Avenue, now and then and to stand back and say, “Look at this magnificent gal.” During the research and writing of this investigation, 8459 Woolworth Avenue sold! I do hope the new owners treasure her and can see her value. I wouldn’t want to see her become just another District 66 Scraper.
This is only a small part of the story. All of us would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a memory you have of the Countryside Village-Westside High School area in Comments. Thank you, friends.
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I live in the Loveland neighborhood and have probably walked past this lovely home dozens of time on my afternoon walk. Thank you for another wonderful article. Loved it.
I will look for you. I’m the one driving in circles through the neighborhood, singing “Wishing (Will Make It So)” by Vera Lynn!
Couple of small corrections: The builder/real estate agent was Harold Peterson (not Harry Peterson) and his company, as listed in the ad, is Peterson Brothers Realty Co. (not Peterson Brothers Construction). Harold Peterson passed away in 2014 at the age of 95, the last surviving of the original Peterson Brothers. Peterson Bros. Realty is still in business, although it has not been owned by the Peterson family since the 1980’s.
As a child, due to a family/business connection to the Peterson family, I had the opportunity to go into a John Hyde Jr. home a couple of times – I’ve never forgot the amazing flagstone floors – it made such an impression on me along with the mid-century woodwork and paneling.
Hello Wendy, The journalist of the historic OWH article called him Harry Peterson. I didn’t mean to offend or be informal. The journalist must have known him socially or perhaps just plain got it wrong. Also other articles mentioned Mr. Peterson in construction, not noting the real estate aspect–so that is where I made that connection. Thanks for the corrections.
My late Grandparents (H.P. and Florence Smith) lived diagonally across the corner. Bob Ginn (the youngster in the pic) and I were friends, and I spent time in that house. Bob has since passed away. The real estate coverage probably downplayed what an insane corner that can be after an ice storm. There’s a substantial dip coming South on 85th as it crosses Woolworth. I’m pretty sure the Ginn’s lost some corner shrubbery before snow tires and more aggressive road salting became more of a thing.
There’s an odd connection, which perhaps you have more insight into, between the architecture of the houses to the West of 85th (and in a few other nearby pockets that were built at about the same time) and the style of California architecture that Sunset magazine promoted. I wasn’t uncommon in the 60’s to see Sunset magazine in friends’ houses who lived nearby, and more than a few had covered outdoor barbecue areas that were straight out of Sunset. Looking back on it now, I wonder whether the naming of the Sunset Hills neighborhood was related.
I look forward to more of your investigations!
I had the pleasure of working on this home when it was remodeled in 2010. I was the lead cabinet installer for the modern kitchen addition designed by Steven Ginn. It was great to happen upon this write up. I always enjoy reading your new investigations.
I have been living in the Westside area for about 7 years now and my wife and I are currently remodeling a home built by a former builder and Omaha City Councilman Janis ‘John’ Ritums. We kept it from getting ‘scraped’ and we are working to bring our mid century home back to life