The Omaha wrecking ball was in full swing last week. As we, lovers of the long purview, intone our well-worn phrases, light our little candles and murmur the custom platitudes of pities, I will admit I can’t really keep up with this pace. The fervent demolition most likely has something to do with this mild winter. Meanwhile I certainly did not intend to make My Omaha Obsession a diary of tragic demise and tears, although there is so much evidence to chronicle. Admittedly we’ve done a lot of collective hand-wringing around these parts. (Some of which I am to blame, for as an Irish lass, I tend toward the melancholy.) I promise you, I have many case files in the works that are chock full of the living, pretty things of grandeur and mystery and the long history of their humans fighting the good fight to keep them upright. When I spied 9955 Bloomfield Drive on the city’s demolition list earlier in the week, I knew I’d have to reverse course, pay her another visit and say my goodbyes.
This will not be a comprehensive piece but rather a yellow ribbon ‘round the ole oak tree or stick a pin in it for later, as this, with all of our investigations, is still developing.
9955 Bloomfield Drive as she appeared in 2018.
I came to know 9955 Bloomfield Drive when I was working on the 9301 West Dodge Road investigation back in 2018.
9301 West Dodge Road, Omaha’s Manderley, as she stood in 2018.
The two enigmatic properties were owned by the same woman until very recently. In keeping her privacy at the time, I shared one photograph of 9955 Bloomfield in that earlier investigation but kept the postal address secret, my other photos from the stakeout and my personal analysis on the hush. This last December the World-Herald did an exposé on 9955 Bloomfield Drive, unbeknownst to me, announcing that it was under demolition orders by the city and that some neighbors (past and present) came forward to buy the property. Since the tea was spilled, I can now connect the clues back to our 9301 West Dodge obsession. Mysteries of Omaha: 9301 West Dodge Road. If you have not taken the time to read that case, please probe at your leisure as I will not be doing a thorough review into the whole inquiry today. We simply do not have time what with all of these piling up investigations. Plus Mr. Cassette has mentioned that he’ll be making a fire tonight and you must know by now, I don’t want to miss that.
A fascinating house, I had three photo sessions with 9955 Bloomfield Drive in all these years, the last was this morning…and a proper goodbye. Oddly, somehow, most all of my 9955 Bloomfield Drive photos and 9301 West Dodge Road photos have disappeared. Much like the mystery surrounding 9301 West Dodge Road, 9955 Bloomfield is enshrouded in layered upon veiled layers. As to why it is being torn down and a neighborhood catharsis, this OWH article makes plain…or does it?
What I had found in my research of 9301 West Dodge Road was that the owner had actually lived at 9955 Bloomfield for three decades. The evidence would point to the family never living in the West Dodge mansion. A real estate transfer showed they purchased the Bloomfield home in 1985. Curiously 9301 West Dodge Road is held under the Cullan Kids Foundation and had very recently continued to show Cullan Kids Foundation Headquarters located from the 9955 Bloomfield house. Although the recent OWH article said 9955 Bloomfield had come under the city’s housing department scrutiny back in 2019, from what I had observed back in 2018, the Bloomfield house already showed significant signs of abandonment. I would suspect the homeowner was long gone–at times I thought she moved out of state. Apparently the neighborhood complained with regularity to the city, about 9955’s dilapidated state. A demolition order was entered in 2021. The homeowner agreed to sell it for $550,000 to a developer group with ties to the neighborhood. The developer stated the 9955 Bloomfield house was not worth salvaging (not surprising, coming from someone who builds custom homes) and that it would be torn down this spring. But this razing of 9955 Bloomfield came earlier than anticipated.
The demolition of the Bloomfield Drive home began Friday, March 4. The shake roof, prominent MCM chimney, side wings and back of house are now gone. Cast iron railings and bricks tumbled into the dust or salvaged, I’m not sure. The desecration and sacrilege I see today probably pales in comparison to what the neighbors and the former owner have endured emotionally. And we thought we were consumed with hand-wringing? I mention both sides of this conflict because who feels good about this kind of contention between longtime neighbors? I think it is a sad situation all the way around and one that has caused a series of flinches, although I am in touch with the reality of why this has happened. Unlike other parts of town where a home can grow moss for years or sit boarded up, some neighborhoods are better connected to the powers that be or might even be the powers that be and no doubt know how to get problems removed from view. Why languish on when it’s inevitable, I suppose? Much as I wish it could have turned out differently, the homeowner found her bearing, the Bloomfield home fixed and beautified again or sold to someone who wanted to restore it to its former glory, I also do not reside in this neighborhood. I do not have to look at the new Millennium Mansion to come. I can recollect myself and assume a brave smile.
Much like the 9955 Bloomfield Drive front-of-house left propped up for weekend appearance’s sake by the demo crew, there is a whole back story that we might never know. Talk about a movie set. The drama…Those in the know don’t want to go on record for understandable reasons. I, too, have small pieces of the puzzle and a whole lot of speculation, which I’ll refrain from divulging until a later date. I will drop these breadcrumbs here.
Oh and I started making videos…finally! I feel like it can help elaborate the stories for our out of town friends, not able to stroll by on a whim. This one also doubles as an ASMR video for those who like those sorts of things.
Sloshing along with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
A Short History
The story of 9955 Bloomfield Drive begins with a young couple. Back in 1919 Naomi Everts Towle married Frederick Herman Bucholz.
Mrs. Naomi Towle Bucholz and her husband, Mr. Fred Bucholz in the garden of the home 3602 Pacific Street. Creator: Bostwick, Louis (1868-1943) and Frohardt, Homer (1885-1972). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: September of 1919.
3602 Pacific Street is one of my all-time favorite Omaha homes. I know I say that all the time but I about fainted to read that the Bucholzes had lived there or had family who did.
A World War I Navy veteran, Frederick Bucholz was also President of Omaha Steel Works. I would discover that Bucholz was a prominent, outspoken community leader and the well-heeled couple were socially active. They had three children: John Wilhelm Bucholz, Frederick Towle Bucholz and Naomi Francis Bucholz Farquhar.
By the early 1940s, the Bucholz family home lived at 310 South 55th Street. Perfectly American– tidy, high style and conventional.
Fuchs M&S Company Banquet. F.T. Bucholz (left) and Jack Fuchs (right) at “social hour.” Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1954. I might be wrong but doesn’t that look like the Blackstone Hotel’s ballroom? I think it just might be. Anyhoo—this fellow with the cigarette is the Bucholz son, Fred Jr. on the left.
On March 16, 1955 there was public talk of the new Bloomfield Hills addition in the 102nd and Blondo area. Bloomfield Hills is a small city—a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Now no one linked this up for me and I’m presuming and all but that Bloomfield Hills was forever a fashionable district, with its mansions and country homes to some of the wealthiest, well known families in America. To this day, I would discover, the Bloomfield Hills of Michigan continues as one of the wealthiest cities in U.S. “39% of owner-occupied homes had a value of over $1,000,000, and 32.1% with a value between $500,000 to $999,999.” So it would make sense that Omaha would want to riff on their good name, fortune and taste.
By March 22 of 1955, with 75 thousand dollars, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick H. Bucholz had incorporated the Bloomfield Hills Company “to develop land for housing on One Hundred Second Street between Dodge and Blondo Streets.” That June they were selling their one acre lots, nestled out in the country. In time there would be a replat and second addition. The original addition were the large parcels one can see along the Bloomfield Drive. The smaller lots to the north came later.
As one can see by the below map, Bloomfield Hills is not a large addition but it is of quality. Very nice, as we say here in Omaha, very nice. Not posh or ostentatious by any means, but the streets wind in a lovely manner, the homes are set far back on the gracious lots (on the main drive), there are mature trees throughout and it is quiet. The homes offer a large square footage but are not showy. Conservative is the key.
The Bloomfield Hills map of parcels within the first and second plats. Image borrowed from the Douglas County Assessor site.
On September 11, 1956 the World-Herald announced that the newly built Bucholz home would be included as part of the Brownell Hall’s annual tour of house. Brownell Hall and Talbot School for Boys would later become Brownell Talbot, as we now know it. In describing Mr. and Mrs. Frederick H. Bucholz’ residence: “The recently completed home at 9955 Bloomfield Drive ‘gives the impression of contemporary design with all the graciousness of the traditional’ according to the tour chairmen. The home features an impressive view too.” This view would ultimately be something that the Bucholzes and other neighbors wanted to protect and fought for.
9955 Bloomfield Drive floor plan. Image borrowed from the Douglas County site.
I would find that the all-brick ranch was situated on 1.35 acres, offered 3,891 sqft, featured three bedrooms and four baths and a paneled study. And we know how someone loves a good paneled study. “Built to last with concrete and steel first floor.” Not surprising, considering the owner’s business. I have long loved the exterior MCM ironwork as well. 9955 Bloomfield Drive, under the Bucholz’s name became a society place and hosted more than a few Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation Ball parties; it was once site of the court princesses’ luncheon.
In better times. Images of 9955 Bloomfield from 2014.
By October of 1959, the Bucholzes, among other West Omaha neighbors, were vocal in their opposition of the proposed Westroads Shopping Center. Hard to imagine that Westroads wasn’t even built yet. By 1962, four families in the Bloomfield Hills Addition had sued the city and developer of Westroads Shopping center, John Wiebe. Obviously the Westroads was built but those Bloomfield Hills neighbors sure gave Wiebe a truckload.
The eighth lot in Bloomfield Hills, is actually the first house on the north when one drives in the addition. Home constructed with bricks that were, apparently, salvaged in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The bashful “Bloomfield Hills ” neighborhood entrance sign. The same cautious announcement of today. I love it. Especially with the Dead End sign nearby. Mysterious Mixed Messaging possibly helped keep lookey-lou-ers at bay. “Come Hither…Go Away!” Creator: Savage, John (1903-1989). Publisher: The Durham Museum. Date: 1963.
Sadly in 1968, Naomi Bucholz died at the age of 71. In January of 1970, her husband, Frederick, died at age 74. Later that May the Berchel Harpers moved in to 9955 Bloomfield–but by 1978, they had sold and moved on. Next up was Mr. Myron Hesse who moved in in late 1979 or early 1980. Myron Hesse was founder of Automatic Equipment Manufacturing Co. and was credited with pioneering the development of roller mills, cattle oilers, mist sprayers and livestock equipment. Hesse would pass away in the 9955 Bloomfield house. In 1985 the Cullan couple would buy the home.
At the loss of 9955 Bloomfield Drive, they have announced a new, modern house will be built on the 1.35 acres. I don’t blame the neighbors for being relieved or crying with joy even. I don’t blame the developers. Who wouldn’t want to see that happen in their neighborhood, should a house meet an early demise? I have heard from people in the Westside and Midtown neighborhoods who would have liked to have a developer be so thoughtful about their single-family properties and the integrity of their communities when they came in with the wrecking ball. (I understand that there are covenants and zoning and all sorts of things involved in suburban neighborhoods that I am not privy to that may be protecting Bloomfield Hills’ interests.) All too often we hear of developers buying up swaths of parcels, tearing down and wedging these mega-plex box apartments into tiny, older neighborhoods. In the Westside Neighborhood they are being treated to tract housing and smushed-in townhomes from 96th Street to the east along Pacific and off-shoot streets. We are often told that surveys reveal people want to live in these areas and we must have more housing in Dundee and Elmwood. Why are you people so selfish about your historic neighborhoods? This trend or the public’s gaze has not set its sights north of the Westroads, apparently, or these neighborhoods are better positioned to keep out the box apartments. A very interesting portion of the Cindy Gonzalez’ OWH piece was an interview with Anna Bespoyasny, the city’s building superintendent for permits and inspections. In talking about demolition, Bespoyasny said, “’The Bloomfield Drive home is extraordinary because of its neighborhood,’ she said. ‘About 96% of Omaha properties under demolition orders are in older and less affluent areas east of 72nd Street.”
Okay…enough of my whining. My real concern in this whole thing: what does this mean for the future of our 9301 West Dodge Road mystery mansion?
So that was that. I cannot imagine where it was all going to end. Discuss amongst yourself. I leave you with Chetty B.
Thank You, Detectives.
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Hate to say it, but the house at 310 South 55th Street was more esteemed and regal. I know that house well as we grew up 3 blocks south of there, and knew the residents one house south. That 55th St. Bucholz house would later be a stone’s throw from the Buffets, which is the only ‘newer’ home in that area. I know you’re lamenting the Bloomfield address, and it does look nice, however I know for a fact, and I think you know too, that all those homes in and around 55th and Elmwood Park area are large, spacious, and beautiful. Maybe it was the excitement m of having something built brand new for them!? Just a personal preference, I guess. 310 South 55th stands to this day. The Bloomfield address does seem to have a colorful history, though.
Oh I agree 100%. But I can understand how exciting and spacious the ‘burbs must have felt in the 1950s. An acre and an open floor plan must have seemed so moderne! Personally I would die for a chance to live in 310 or anything remotely close to it. Plus I like living on the grid, love sidewalks and like closeness.
Good point. We moved 3 blocks south of 310 in 1961, as that was my birthyear and we needed a bigger house. We had a great childhood growing up in that area and many great friends! I moved from Omaha years ago, but every time I go back to visit, I am always in awe of the homes in the neighborhood we grew up in, particularly on Happy Hollow Blvd! Wow. As a kid, it was all we knew and wasn’t a big deal. NOW I understand just how fortunate we were to live in that area, with Elmwood Park and Pool a 10 minute walk away. My older sisters went to Central with the Buffett kids. We knew everyone in that neighborhood! Everyone’s gone now.
You were so lucky! What beautiful memories. Thanks for sharing.
Hey…that’s my dad!! This is even better than seeing my favorite neighborhoods and homes featured in your excellent architectural history of Omaha. Thanks
I thought it might be your dad! What a handsome fellow. I am so glad you saw this.
I love your stories! I have an interesting tale to tell you about 9301 West Dodge. I do not want to write it down. If you will call me I will tell it to you and I know you will be interested. Reuline Nightingale. 402. 651. 0567
I always cringe when I hear someone say “It’s not worth salvaging ” – that’s rarely true. I’m afraid that if I comment further, I’ll have to pull out my soapbox, so I will (sadly) leave it at that. Like the addition of your videos 🙂