It may come as no surprise to many that 1219 Pacific Street was torn down a few days ago. To those making the rounds, she might have served only as a corner cue in a Last-Minute-Louie to the Downtown Post Office. Certainly when the Sexy Dwell Magazine Model (1103 South Thirteenth Street) swept in and took up position, one parcel to her west, some questioned if the worker’s cottage days were numbered. Admittedly it would be hard for a late 1800s building to strike a pose after being put in the shade like that.
Images from GoogleMap. Camera faces south across Pacific. 1219 Pacific on the left, 1103 South Thirteenth Street to the right. This new residence with two rooftop decks sits on the southeast corner of Thirteenth and Pacific Streets. It is a single-family dwelling and I’ve heard whisper the owner is also the architect.
We had all seen 1219 Pacific for sale off and on through the years. For myself I had always hoped there was a rejuvenating light on the horizon for the ol’ gal—something of a comeback in the works, akin to the Tiny House bar on Thirteenth or Watie White Studio on William Street. Exhilarating, clean, simple. Or a large-scale renovation, involving contemporary additions, as I had observed other cities reimagine their workers’ cottages. My daydreaming had seen That Sort of Spruce Up in her future. After all, the historic, eccentric and sturdy structures of the Dahlman Neighborhood’s Little Bohemia have a great deal to offer, with an even greater price tag. ‘Twas not to be in her case.
An example of a late 19th Century Worker’s Cottage with a minimalist renovation, meanwhile preserving the original structure. New Ideas Omaha, take heed.
1219 Pacific in better days.
The fact that 1219 Pacific was positioned at her stoop on Thirteenth and Pacific for so long was maybe a marvel in itself. I had known many punk rock, music and art scene kids to take up quarters in her double-decker duplex over the years. Did you live there as well? In my mind, her post, just south of Downtown Omaha, had likely assured her favor for generations long before I was born. “Handy to Downtown” was the phrasing used in one of her 1940s rental advertisements. Pleasingly Walkable, without a doubt. Her uncomplicated manner, an upright, front-facing gable offered two covered porches, something of a lookout and a hideaway, all rolled into one. I had thought of her as a twenty-something cow-punk clubhouse. And the price was always right. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Prison House where little Eddie Cudahy was held for a hefty ransom back in 1900. I am working on a related investigation now and my mind tends to swirl in that glorious constellation…the framed, two-story, raised worker’s cottage.
Fantastic illustration from the OWH Prison House story, December of 1900.
Razing Daze. Friday, November 1, 2019.
Upon seeing the excavator take clumsy whacks at 1219 Pacific, my hands got to wringing. An impromptu rainy photo shoot ensued, followed by obsessive pacing up and down Pacific in a transparent, 60s mod slicker. The air smelled of wet, sad wood. Like an exhausted parent, Mr. Cassette sent me to the detective’s office in order to stop my childlike, incessant questions and squawking in the car on that day. He always seems to sense when I have Work to Do.
Once in the office, I discovered 1219 Pacific was supposedly built in 1895, according to the Douglas County Assessor’s site. But back in February of 1889, I uncovered a special ordinance (Number 1304, for folks who are tracking these important matters) levied a tax and assessment on the real estate owners to the area in order to cover the costs of paving Pacific Street from Tenth Street to Thirteenth. Jacob Darst was then owner of the duplex lot and forked out a good portion for the paving done, compared to properties surrounding him. Was the lot larger at one time to justify the bigger payment? Was there a previous home on the 1219 site or had the worker’s cottage been built earlier still? By 1896 Nicholas Fredericksen and wife sold the land (and potential house) to J. S. Gilbert. Then New England Loan and Trust company sold to Mr. M. H. Howes, E. L. Hall then sold to Atlantic Realty Association and on and on. I had determined this wouldn’t be that kind of sleuthing mission so I’ll spare you the blow by blow.
Pacific Street at Thirteenth, facing east. Way Down Deep, underneath the current Pacific Street might be a wee sliver of a clue to the road that Mr. Jacob Darst and his neighbors paid for back in 1889. Image from Googlemap, June 2019.
Shootings, throat cuttings, assaults and pickpockets, much like all of Old Omaha, were regular occurrences on the corner of Thirteenth and Pacific back in the late 1800s. It was all fascinating! Multi-family dwellings, boarding houses and workers’ cottages were wedged into the ungraded hills southeast of the popular corner.
1920. Behind 1219 Pacific Street was once a sharp hill, the likes of the Ol’ West. Facing northwest angle from about Eleventh and Pierce Street. The large brick building in the center was the Omaha Medical College on Pacific Street. This is where the present day main Downtown Post Office is now at 1124 Pacific Street. The old Pacific Street Grade School is to the right of it. You can see the ungraded neighborhood, which I’ve written about elsewhere on this site. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum.
I apologize for the horrible photo; this is my interpretation of the previous image. This is how Twelfth and Pierce looks today. I am facing northwest. You must drive up here and investigate this fascinating little neighborhood with a great view of Downtown Omaha! The large visible building at the base of Twelfth and Pierce is the current Downtown Post Office.
**Addendum of November 5, 2019*** Great news. My Omaha Obsession friend, Larry Lundquist, shared to Facebook: “My company, back in 1987 to 1988, built the newer houses to the south on Pierce and 12th street. Great neighborhood. Was really what you would say is the first new housing in the downtown area. It was called Townview Terrace. Back in the 80’s my attorney and I did the new housing to the west of 13th street. It was on the north and south sides of Pierce and had great views of the downtown.” I included some photos of the Twelfth and Pierce Street homes to the south of 1219 Pacific that Larry mentioned. Images from the Douglas County Assessor site. Thanks for the clues, Larry.
Frank Monvetzke and W. B. Londa emerged from a saloon at Thirteenth and Pacific streets early one evening back in the summer of 1890. After “pouring forth on the streets a vileness of obscenity and profanity,” the two spotted Mrs. Morisky sitting at her window. They directed insulting remarks to her and she surprisingly ran out of her flat to notify the bar keep of his unruly clientele. The toughs began pelting ol’ Mrs. Morisky with “old cans and brickbats. One brickbat struck her in the eye, knocking her down and tearing the flesh.” The fellows then ran but were soon overtaken by an officer and sent to jail. Meyer’s Musical Union also resided on the block where Omaha’s professional musicians held their meetings. Omaha Medical College at 1202 Pacific, about where the Downtown Post Office is now located, was built in 1889. I might be wrong but I think this building later became the City Mission. By 1900 the Industrial Sewing School opened their doors within a few doors of the 1219 Pacific worker’s cottage. The early Twenties attracted a pool hall and barbershop to the corner of Thirteenth and Pacific.
Up the street from our 1219 worker’s cottage was the Old Omaha Medical College, located on the northwest corner of Twelfth and Pacific Streets. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum. 1917.
Photographic detail of the old Omaha Medical College–but zero in on the similar homes once across the street from 1219 Pacific, on the north side. The photographer is standing on Pacific facing northwest angle. This is the present site of the United States Main Post Office. Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. 1943.
My view of the previous photographer’s angle today. Northwestern on Pacific. Thirteenth Street seen in the distance. Downtown Post Office and employee parking lot now extend down to Thirteenth.
A view of Old Omaha from Twelfth and Pacific Streets. A million frame houses and workers’ cottages in the distance. In the foreground on Thirteenth Street is construction of the ‘Linten Block’, Chicago Lumber Company is on the other side of the railroad tracks, the domed building at the far right is the 1885 Courthouse, left of the courthouse is Omaha High School. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum.
It wasn’t all Edith Wharton and Henry James down in the Dahlman District and 1219 Pacific was neither frail nor halting. None of her neighborhood contemporaries were either. From aerial photos it appears that other modest but strong frame houses were built on the blocks surrounding, similar to the footprint of our focus. A survey of Durham photos revealed the same. Virginia Savage McAlester described this gable-front folk home in her tome A Field Guide to American Houses, as being perfectly suited to narrow urban lots in the rapidly expanding cities throughout the Victorian Age. The Greek Revival movement used the front-gabled shape “to echo the pedimented façade of typical Greek temples.” Narrow, two-story houses, sometimes a shotgun house (one room width), with entry porches served a massed-plan construction well or even a single owner-built project.
Example of a plain gable-front folk cottage. Typical urban two-story with spindlework porch detailing. Cuba, New York. Image scanned from A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia Savage McAlester.
Image of 1219 Pacific, east side, borrowed from the Douglas County Assessor site. You can catch a peek at 1217 Pacific, the parcel to the east—already razed. The same LLC that bought 1219 recently also owns 1217. Two long, slim parcels conjoined equals new opportunity.
**Addendum of November 6, 2019*** Detective Hoyt shared this photo from Adam Fletcher Sasse of North Omaha History fame. It gives us a better view of sweet, lil’ 1217 Pacific (the lot to the east of 1219). Thank you both for this clue!
I questioned if 1219 Pacific was built as a two-flat or if it had originated as a single-family home? The 1/2 address (as in “1219 1/2 Pacific”) was created by at least the 1940s. Was the double porch added later? I also dreamt there were more distinctive style elements in her early days—such as spindlework porch detailing, patterned shingles, pedimented doors or windows. These Victorian decorative details, even in simple folk homes, were common throughout the country, with focused application to the porches and cornice lines. It was nice to imagine the double-decker duplex adorned in a bit of finery, although I had always enjoyed the cowboy clubhouse feel of recent decades. A jaunt around the Little Italy, Sheely Town and Little Bohemia Neighborhoods will find many of these great workers’ homes still holding strong. Get out there and have a looksee.
Illustration of the Worker’s Cottage by Cape Horn Illustration.
One character I was quite smitten with was the Meehan Girl. Sam Meehan and his family had resided in the 1219 Pacific home at time of his death in 1928. A few months later in the wee morning hours Miss Hazel Meehan, (sometimes listed as Mrs. Hazel Meehan), had driven a large sedan into a car traveling north on Farnam Street. As weird Omaha entanglements would have it, one F. B. Kennard of 1045 Elmwood Boulevard drove the car she collided into. This is a name I had come across as an early posh pioneer to the Buena Vista Place-Elmwood Boulevard-Fairacres district in my Mysteries of Omaha: 312 South 70th Avenue investigation. Miss Hazel’s car continued obliquely across the intersection to damage a car parked at the northeast corner of the intersection, owned by Mr. James Sirpless of 4536 Bedford Avenue. A small blaze resulted after the wiring in the Meehan vehicle shorted-circuited at her Fifteenth and Farnam halt. Everyone was fine. A few years later Miss Meehan and her miniature-something-or-other puppy, Shrimp, were called into court when the pup bit newsboy, John Gomberg. “Miss Nehan” as it was spelled in this article, refused to comply with Judge Holmes, who ordered Shrimp to be put to death. The “pretty owner” put on quite a show, garnering crowd approval when she dramatically clutched her doggie tight and exclaimed, “You can send me to jail but I’m not going to let them kill my Shrimp!” This activated the courtroom spectators to “work on” young Gomberg until he dropped the charges out of peer pressure. “Then the spectators went to work on Judge Holmes,” no doubt for suggesting such a cruel punishment. As a rookie detective, even I can attest, sometimes pretty gals like Hazel Meehan, with adorable pups like Shrimp, have been known to cause a vigilante stirring even in passive Omaha.
OWH headline from September of 1931.
There were other colorful tenants through the years, involved in fringe operations, intuitively positioned on the fringe of Downtown Omaha. A quick getaway on foot, close to trains and streetcars. It all made sense. Jif Said, a 1219 Pacific flat renter was arrested on charges of illegal transportation of liquor in the Prohibition years. Miss Cassette, clearly a suspiciously named detective, instinctively found the rum runner’s name suspect. Fred Sales, another occupant with a dubious name, was arrested and charged with operating “a disorderly house” one early Sunday morning in 1940, following a Morals Squad raid. They say Sales was conducting dice games, along with six of his best henchmen, out of our covert 1219 Pacific locale. And then there was Alex Woods, 35, of 1219 Pacific, who suffered a “powder burn” on the left leg in a shooting affray one Saturday night back in 1944, following an argument with Clarence Gatewood. Gatewood was booked for investigation but the tale later changed, as it often does. Gatewood told Judge Wheeler he was merely twirling a revolver in his forefinger when it “went off accidentally.” The bullet nicked “his friend,” Alex Woods. The judge fined Gatewood one dollar and costs for possessing an unregistered gun and dismissed the assault and battery charges. In 1947 good pals, Amos Preuit, 62 and Theodore Romero, 26 of 1219 Pacific went on a wild joy ride, ramming unsuspecting, parked cars, no doubt to the fellows’ hoots, hollers and shoulder slaps. But I may wrongly be inferring characteristics of the stationwagon-carousing boys I knew back in the 80s. Of notoriety, the Lee Terry political team had rented out our worker’s cottage as Terry Campaign Headquarters back in 1976. In April of that year, the home received the uninvited spotlight when a thief broke in and stole the meager campaign contributions.
OWH article from April 11, 1976: Thief at the Lee Terry Headquarters.
So what will happen with 1219 Pacific Street now? Another incredible Dwell cubist home? I hope! A three-story Box-in-a-Box Apartment, built out to the edges, with a house-made, hand-churned butter shop at street level? Inconceivable! I can’t wait to see. I will, however, truly miss the raised Worker’s Cottage clubhouse at 1219 Pacific Street. Countless Omahans lived and even died within her walls–over 120 years of service she devoted. It is not every day we lose a home from 1895. Detectives, our fingerprints were all over it.
**Addendum of November 5, 2019*** Updated news! Detective Mack wrote in with important info on the plans for 1219 Pacific. “13th & Pacific was torn down by the company that built our house. It is scheduled to be a three-story, maybe 4 story condo project similar to what was built by the same company, in Dundee.” Site Construction built the Vue on 4629 Capitol Avenue. I’m sure you’ve all seen it.
Here it is. Image from the Site Construction website. The Vue in Dundee, sometimes called Vue at Saddlecreek, at 4629 Capitol Avenue, offers three residences at 1,800 sf per unit.
Site Construction also co-designed and built what the company’s calling their “Little Italy” plan at 1423 South Sixth Street, which happens to be Detective Mack’s new home. That’s how she’s privy to such scoops.
Drumroll…According to their website, “Pacific Vue,” what Detective Mack points to as the new project going into 1219 Pacific, will be multi-family, penthouse lofts at 1,550 sq-2,000 sq. A boy and a girl might wonder how Site will wedge this seemingly expansive plan into the 1217 and 1219 Pacific Street lots but we’ve seen tighter fits in this town. With this much height, someone’s new rooftop decks might get a good peeking at now and again. Who’s throwing shade? Check them out at: https://sitecnstn.com/project/the-vue/
And much thanks to the work of Detective Mack for spilling the tea.
Addendum of July 31, 2023: They are building the building, after all this time. Stay tuned.
Photos from July 31, 2023.
Dedicated to Mister Mark Mercer
This is only a small part of the story. I welcome your feedback and comments on 1219 Pacific Street, the Dahlman Neighborhood, Little Bohemia, new building, old buildings. Please feel free to leave a thought in Comments. I welcome you to poke around with your flashlight. Investigate. Hide in the shrubbery. Look under these rocks and down those alleyways. I am more than pleased to have you tiptoe about. By the time you head for home, I hope you have been fully Sherlocked and Satiated. Thank you, detective friends.
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