To flute or to coupe one’s champagne? These are the contemplations on the Eve of the Eve. I do love these eves of the eve–always with the hope and excitement of an innocent. This year I woefully secured our New Year’s reservations months early but, evidently, Much Too Late. An advanced dinner booking at 4:45pm is no noir detective’s idea of the witching hour, I am sure of it. Who has ever heard of such a thing?
It is hard to fathom sashaying into a falsely darkened den in the four o’clock hour in heels and black vintage Persian Lamb without looking overengineered. A determined chin, festive music and row of men in tuxedos will calm my doubts, I convince myself. We’re a couple a real swells and if we must ride up the avenue in the afternoon sun, we must… but my 1940s heart lingers over candlelight dinner at eight.
A favorite postcard from my collection that always reminds me of New Year’s—mailed to Jerome Paulk of Wood River, Nebraska in 1908 from an unknown sender.
But before all of this end of year bubbly and knowing, merry gleams gets underway, we detectives have a bit of 2019 casework to tidy up. The last time we gathered for a study of faux home detection, I had asked if anyone could spot additional tucked-in-utilities houses in town. Yes, I am something of an archival magpie, I realize. For those new to this case, please review https://myomahaobsession.com/2019/12/16/the-invisible-house-next-door/ and join us later down the road. Happily, I did receive hints from a few local detectives and I found another trick structure quite unexpectedly. So let us get to the folly at hand.
More Invisible Houses Next Door
I know I have occasionally complained to you about Mr. Cassette’s avoidance of our investigations but surprisingly he skimmed the transformer house study. There is light. Upon casual glide through the photos, he exclaimed, “Why didn’t you include the Leavenworth building?” How, exactly, did I miss it? This was one enshrouded structure I had fallen for years ago and properly forgot about when the time came to investigate these utilities’ buildings. Thank you, Mr. Cassette. Better late than never. May I present, 5012 Leavenworth Street?
2018 photo borrowed from Google Map. 5012 Leavenworth Street was reputedly built in 1930, hidden within the Richmond Addition of south Dundee. The 874.00 sq ft, one-story brick building sits cunningly, far back from the Leavenworth thoroughfare. The small but ultra cool 5012 Leavenworth has its very own alley on the north side. My favorite. I imagine there was once a building or two abutting Leavenworth that this little gem sat nestled behind. At the time it was erected, the Nebraska Power Company, predecessor to the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) owned it.
5012 Leavenworth Street. Loopnet site image from 2008, displaying finer embellishments. Love the original door and nondescript windows.
I discovered that in May of 2007, OPPD sold off six of these neighborhood properties, mostly empty lots. But 5012 Leavenworth and 133 South 41st Street offered these elusive, tiny buildings included in the parcels. The 133 South 41st Street parcel is included in an area now taken over by the UNO Board of Regents and is within the Blackstone development area—hard tellin’ what was there. Maybe one of you knows! 5012 Leavenworth Street, our focus, sold in October of 2007 to a Mr. Iksu Shin. He owned a hardware business and this was possibly storage.
5012 Leavenworth Street. 2015 photo borrowed from Douglas County Assessor site.
5012 Leavenworth is currently owned by R&M Properties but Barnes Construction has taken the keys—setting up a fence and filling the now paved lot with their work vehicles. The Assessor’s site let on there is an additional 800+ sq ft in the basement of 5012 Leavenworth. Good to see it being used and loved.
My Omaha Obsession Adjunct Detective Nick Hoesing sussed out a little house mystery of his own. He wrote: “We walk by one often near 66th & Western. There is some natural gas pipeline signage nearby that had me wondering if the structure was an MUD property.” Thank you, Detective Hoesing.
After digging, I found a woman, who evidently lives elsewhere, privately owns the little house. Neighbors have noted construction occurring at the 6608 Western Avenue site, although it is not understood what is going on in the tiny structure. Whatever it is, it is on the small scale. An Imposter House in our midst? I believe so.
Eastern most elevation of 6608 Western Avenue.
The Assessor’s site vague floor plan tips that this wee structure previously existed as a power substation house.
6608 Western Avenue was supposedly built in 1950 and stands at a proud 650.00 sq ft in the Bowling Green Addition. As you will remember, it resembles the other 1950 MUD buildings exhibited in the first article, to include wrought iron work and the pedimented “triangle” entryway. Same fabulous industrial windows. The backyard is also telltale. The Metropolitan Utilities District has stationed a distinct solar panel, which is powering the content of these elusive white boxes. I am beyond intrigued. Mystery Abounds!
On my way to sniff out 66th and Western, I tripped across the sneaky 801 North 72nd Street. You must know by now my love of triangle lots. How had I not detected this transformer house plopped into a triangle? Very cleverly cloaked. Round of applause for 801 North 72nd Street. And here, I thought I had tiptoed all over this district in my https://myomahaobsession.com/2017/07/10/mysteries-omaha-1002-north-72nd-street/ investigation.
Northern elevation of 801 North 72nd Street. Situated in the southern most tip of the Izard Street (north), Mayfield Avenue (eastern angle), 72nd Street (western side) is 801 North 72nd Street. Child’s Play Day Care Center is directly to the north of 801 and carries the incongruent address of 820 Mayfield Avenue. I adore weird inconsistencies such as this.
Child’s Play Day Care Center at 820 Mayfield Avenue, one parcel to the north. Photo borrowed from Google Map because I didn’t want to be a weirdo taking photos of day care, even if they were closed.
801 North 72nd Street. North-eastern angle with 72nd Street on the western side. 801 North 72nd Street was apparently built in 1950 in the Calkins Subdivision. At only 710.0 sq ft, 801 North 72nd Street served the Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha in its former life. The little house was sold in April of 2006 for $20,000.00. Today it appears as daycare storage for the center to its north. I might be wrong. It definitely has had substation “guts” removed.
1982 aerial borrowed from the DOGIS site, revealing 801’s positioning but more interestingly that Burt Street used to cut directly through to 72nd Street. You amaze me, Omaha! Keep up your wacky ways.
There was one such well conceived plan that continues to befuddle even the slyest among us. My Omaha Obsession Detective Carmen Raur pointed us to the breadcrumbs from her youth. She wrote: “There is one on 37th Street, down from Christie Heights & growing up we were always mesmerized by it & strict instructions to stay away! Ever seen that one? Between P & O streets. Half way down the block on west side. Big brick.” Thank you, Detective Raur.
Behold, 5030 South 37th Street. 2015 photo borrowed from the Douglas County Assessor site. I have got to say, I had forgotten all about this glorious structure at 5030 South 37th Street. When we went snooping along Detective Raur’s trail, Mr. Cassette reminded me that I had sworn I would live in this building one day. That was many years ago! Honestly detectives, I have exclaimed these blazoned magnifications so many times that even I get confused. But the moment we drove by, it all came flooding at me. Was this tight-lipped secret a once City Sham? Today it is privately owned. There are fascinating signs in the lawn and a security camera, commanding “privé” to the Nosey-Nadias and Lookey-Lous in Omaha. Does this hint that the once intentionally hidden is now a magnet?
Well you can see why. 5030 South 37th Street is the largest of our buildings today, sitting comfortably at 3692.0 sq ft. It very much resembled a school, proper office or assembly hall of some sort. The county assessor site registered it originally built in 1925 in the Christie Heights Subdivision, as a “Storage Warehouse.” It was so exhalted that I had to question its substation possibilities. I wasn’t sure.
Not only were there confounding, architectural bells and whistles, (that tiled roof! the style of brick!) there was a lovely, carved medallion on the front. On closer inspection I made out the best tip-off: “N P. Co.” I set off on the cool path to find N P Co.
Founded in 1917, Nebraska Power Company was the precursor to Omaha Public Power District. OPPD was later formed in 1946, “as a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska.” I secured proof of 5030 South 37th Street’s early function, when I discovered an article from April of 1936. This article outlined the plight of Mr. W. D. Raumaker, a power company employee, who suffered a broken leg after falling from a stepladder when throwing “switches at the substation near Thirty-seventh and O streets.” Alone at the station, the poor man crawled to a telephone and called for help.
Famous photographer, John Vachon, would capture this image of the main Nebraska Power Company in Omaha back in 1938 on his tour through America. Of course not as beautiful as the neighborhood substations. I believe this was at 17th and Harney or 20th and Vinton, although I am not 100%. It looks more like the early structures down by the river.
Have you found a hidden utility building or neighborhood substation we need to know about? Let us hear from you.
I thank you all for this very special year. I have treasured our shared discoveries, your generous stories and family memories. I continue to learn from you. Let us continue to look, connect and enjoy the mysteries that surround us. I leave you and yours with well wishes for 2020. A favorite Judy quote as a goodbye to 2019: “Well, we have a whole new year ahead of us. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be a little more gentle with each other, and a little more loving, have a little more empathy and maybe next year at this time we’d like each other a little more…”
This is only a small part of the story. I welcome your feedback and comments on the little houses, the Big Pretties and secret structures. I have featured only a few. Help us find more. 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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