A Day in the Life of Downtown Omaha

Downtown Omaha, 1920s. Looking west on Douglas Street from the intersection of Sixteenth Street. The Brandeis Building, which still stands, is on the left. NSHS RG2341-58

Downtown Omaha, 1920s. Looking west on Douglas Street from the intersection of Sixteenth Street. The Brandeis Building, which still stands, is on the left. NSHS RG2341-58

For many years, Sixteenth Street was downtown Omaha’s main street. In recent years Tenth Street and the riverfront have become more prominent. (The riverfront used to be an industrial zone, as shown in this 1934 photo.)

In her article “Creating an ‘Image Center’: Reimagining Omaha’s Downtown and Riverfront, 1986-2003,” (Nebraska History 90, No. 4, Winter 2009), Janet R. Daly Bednarek explains what happened and why. Click here and scroll down the page to read an excerpt.

Across the nation, the role of downtowns changed dramatically in the twentieth century. The above photo shows one big difference: look at all the pedestrian traffic (not to mention the chaotic traffic control). In the 1920s downtown was still the city’s main retail center.

Details from the photo provide vignettes of city life:

RG2341-58 SFN91747_cop

RG2341-58 SFN91747_boys

RG2341-58 SFN91747_girls

—David Bristow, Associate Director for Research and Publications

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