Early Omaha: Gateway to the West
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Elmwood Park was the second largest of the system designed by Horace (H.W.S.) Cleveland. It is located about 3 Ľ miles west of city hall. Currently, it is bounded by Dodge, Happy Hollow Blvd, 60th, Pacific and 67th streets.
Cleveland recommended that Omaha acquire a park large enough to shut out city sights and sounds in order to refresh the senses. In 1889, Lyman Richardson, John T. Bell, and Leopold Doll donated the original 55 acres .The tract was described as a romantic spot with many beautiful Elm trees. Hence the name “Elmwood Park”. Between 1889 and 1892, additional land was purchased, donated or taken through condemnation. The city spent $135,110 for acquisitions . By 1917, the park had grown to 208.13 acres (Wakeley, p. 158).
By 1892, architect H.W.S. Cleveland had made extensive changes to the park. Scenic roadways had been created which made it a popular driving spot. A seven acre lake had also been added. Elmwood park is locally famous for its mineral spring which contains magnesia, soda and various other minerals (Wakeley, ibid). The city sealed off or chlorinated outlets from the spring amid public outcry for health reasons in 1947. One irate housewife blamed the City Health Department for ruining 34 quarts of pickles when she accidentally used chlorinated spring water (Frisbie, p. 1).
The Moorish Castle style pavilion was erected in 1890 for $5,586. Originally an open air structure, it was condemned in 1939 as unsafe and closed to the public. Commissioner Towl directed that it be repaired and enclosed (Frisbie, ibid). The pavilion received a facelift in 1987. Omaha spent $100,000 from a bond issue to replace windows and repair restrooms (Omaha World Herald, 31 January 1987).
The Elmwood Park Golf Course was opened in 1916. Nearly 30,000 rounds of golf were sold per year in the 1960’s. Irrigation pipes were installed in 1966. The primary reason for the irrigation system was the Elmwood Park Pool. Apparently when the kids were showering, the golf course had only a trickle of water!
The terrain in Elmwood park contains many ravines. Bridges were constructed over ravines on scenic walking trails. One of the most heavily used was the Jones Street Bridge. The old bridge was torn down and a new one built in December 1980 for $73,200. The new bridge has the same “inverted truss” as the old but is made from a type of steel that needs no paint and little maintenance (Omaha World Herald, 9 December 1980).
Text written by Lynn Sullivan, September 2003
Frisbie, Al. Omaha World Herald, 1 July 1962. Page 1.
Omaha World Herald, 9 December 1980. Page ?.
Omaha World Herald, 31 January 1987. Page ?.
Wakeley, Arthur. Omaha: the Gate City. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1917. Page 158.