Early Omaha: Gateway to the West
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This postcard shows the American Smelting and Refining Company looking toward a more northerly direction. American Smelting and Refining Co., better known by the acronym “Asarco”, consolidated several plants on April 4, 1899. Twenty-five years later, the Asarco plant at the corner of 5th and Douglas streets was the largest lead refinery in the world.
An image of Asarco, circa 1900-1909, shows the refinery looking northwest from the Union Pacific Bridge over the Missouri river. Smog from the plant obscures most of the view as emission standards did not exist at this time. In 1972, University of Nebraska Medical Center scientists said Asarco was releasing too much lead into Omaha’s air. Asarco submitted a demolition and site cleanup plan in December of 1995 to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. They were fined $3.6 million in 1996 for discharging lead and other pollutants into the Missouri. Asarco was closed in July of 1997. After extensive site cleanup, the land was turned over to the City of Omaha as a 23-acre park. The site was named “Lewis and Clark Landing” in April 2001 honoring the early explorers.
Text written by Lynn Sullivan, October 2003
Anderson, Julie. “Capping Under Way at Asarco Site Cleanup Is Rolling on the River; Transformation in Progress.” Omaha World Herald, Metro Edition, 01 November 1999. Page 1.
Anderson, Julie. “Whom should Park Immortalize? Got a Name?” Omaha World Herald, Sunrise Edition, 06 April 2001. Page 1.
Savage, James. History of the City of Omaha and South Omaha. Chicago: Munsell & Company, 1894. Page 496.
Standard Blue Presents: Buildings of the 80’s in Omaha. Omaha: Standard Blue, 1976. Page 76.