The Blog


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Photos by @EastOf72nd

In Omaha’s most recent round of civic nearsightedness, the Public Works department intends to tear down the 111-year-old Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company streetcar barn at 26th and Lake Streets. For the past 60 years, Public Works has used the site as a base of operations and now it intends to tear down the building for surface parking. In addition to being an architecturally significant structure, it’s an anchor of a vibrant stretch of Lake Street in a neighborhood that has otherwise been wantonly neglected by city services for decades.

With interested buyers, there’s no sense in tearing down yet another community asset to clear land for yet another open lot in North Omaha. So, it’s time again to call city council members, Mayor Stothert and Mayoral Candidate Heath Mello (who, with any luck, will be elected next year and will help put an end to the Stothert demolition drive) to show your support for saving the complex.

More information: Omaha World-Herald story and Restoration Exchange post.

As with the successful campaigns to save the Specht Building and Yates Elementary, I’ve created a logo for use in the effort. As always, it’s free to use in any way that advances the effort to preserve the building.

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Here’s a full suite of logos in various formats, including vector: Logos.zip

Councilmembers
District 1: Pete Festersen Phone: 402-444-5527, Pete.Festersen@cityofomaha.org
District 2: Ben Gray Phone: 402-444-5524, Ben.Gray@cityofomaha.org
District 3: Chris Jerram Phone: 402-444-5525, Chris.Jerram@cityofomaha.org
District 4: Garry Gernandt Phone: 402-444-5522, Garry.Gernandt@cityofomaha.org
District 5: Rich Pahls Phone: 402-444-5528, Rich.Pahls@cityofomaha.org
District 6: Franklin Thompson Phone: 402-444-5523, Franklin.Thompson@cityofomaha.org
District 7: Aimee Melton Phone: 402-444-5526, Aimee.Melton@cityofomaha.org

Mayor Stothert: 402-444-5000, mayorstothert@cityofomaha.org

Heath Mello: info@heathmello.com

Last week, Admiral District released a months-long photo project in the form of a book I was lucky enough to design. Photographer Brad Iwen spent much of the past year bringing about a dozen Omaha chefs into his studio to cook his or her favorite recipe and tell the story behind it. In addition to short documentaries on each dish and cook, he compiled the stories into a book and hosted a gallery opening of a bunch of his prints at his studio last week. Check out the documentaries and pick up a book over at MidwestFoodStories.com.

Midwest Food Stories

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Hail Varsity poster design

With three weeks left until the start of the college football season, it’s time again for the release of Hail Varsity’s annual schedule poster. This year I illustrated the facade of West Stadium. You can find your copied at select retailers around Lincoln and Omaha, but the best and easiest way to get your hands on one is to plunk down a buck here (seriously, ONE dollar). While you’re there, check out the other other sweet merchandise before the season starts.

Hail Varsity cover

Last week, the annual Hail Varsity football yearbook, previewing the 2016 season, hit newsstands. It’s the biggest one yet at 196 pages, features a two stunning gatefold covers and dozens of amazing portraits and photos of the team by ESPN Magazine staffer Bill Frakes and Montana photographer Paul Bellinger.

Designing it is always one of the highlights of the year.

As always, it’s chock-full of the insight and analysis of each Husker opponent readers have come to expect and breakdowns of every position, plus features on Tommy Armstrong Jr., Mike Riley‘s sophomore season, the geography of recruiting and the Husker receiving corps. It’s on newsstands now. But it’s cheaper, easier and better for everyone to just subscribe here.

Hail Varsity cover

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I spent most of last winter gutting and remodeling the main bathroom in my 1890 Victorian home. It appeared to have been modestly redone in the early 1990s with linoleum flooring, a pressed-steel tub insert and small vanity. I wanted to take it back to the early days of indoor plumbing: hex tile floor, cast iron tub, subway tile walls, etc.

Getting it there involved removing half the drywall, and the entire floor, which revealed two surprises: a layer of asbestos tiles and a 10-square-foot area that was completely unsupported. The only thing holding up the previous bathtub was a 1/8-inch sheet of plywood.

After adding some joists and hiring a crew to remove the tainted tile, I was able to get the whole thing done in a little under four months.

The tub (with all its hardware) was a Craigslist find from a Bemis Park foursquare. Kay Dee custom milled the door and window casings to precisely match the rest of the house’s trim. Friends from Des Moines graciously gave me the console sink from their 1950s ranch after they updated their own bathroom.

I built the medicine cabinet around a mirror I found at an antique shop, and built the toiletries shelf out of brass fittings in a style matching the living room bookshelves I built last year. I rebuilt the transom based on one of the originals in the house.

The sconce came from Conner’s in Lincoln, and the 1913 stool is original to the house.

The light fixture with built-in exhaust fan is new, and before setting the floor tile, I installed radiant floor heating.

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specht building
Photo by @eastof72nd

Last night was a victory party for saving the Christian Specht building. A few months ago, I posted the logos I designed for the campaign, but since then the project has grown a little.

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Around the time the threat against the Specht was emerging, the amazing Yates School in the Gifford Park neighborhood was also being threatened, by Creighton University, one of the more aggressive predators of historic properties in Omaha. The effort to save the school didn’t have as much immediate momentum as the Specht, though. Looking back at the past five or six years, each time a historic building has been unduly threatened, there’s been a backlash against the threat. Most have been led by members of the neighborhood with an assist by Restoration Exchange Omaha. Since the efforts have often been more localized than the Specht campaign, they’ve ended up having desperate marketing campaigns, each with varying levels of success. Each of the responses to these demolitions — The Clarinda-Page, the Johnston Funeral Home, etc. — looked like their own local effort. One way to, I hope, increase the success rate of these preservation efforts is to make their visual identities part of a larger campaign. So, when I heard Yates was threaten shortly after I did the work on the Specht building, I broke out my pixel grid, my contrasting san-serif type and drew up a logo for the Save Yates group. They’ve taken the image and run with it and now hundreds of people around Gifford Park and the city have signs in their front yard showing their support, and it sounds like promising news may be coming out of that battle as well.

With a little luck, tying the visual identity of all of the threatened buildings in Omaha together will help us save more of them. The fact that the inaugural campaign to use this look was successful can’t hurt the cause, either.

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I designed a series of logos in support of the four century-plus-year-old buildings on the corner of 11th and Douglas Streets that Omaha Performing Arts is increasingly poised to raze in order to build what everyone recognizes as a parking garage, but they’re calling a “mixed use” building. Here’s a link to download a .zip file of the logos in various formats: ReSpecht logos

If you’re of the mindset that city leaders need to adjust their myopic, greedy, ego-driven, land-grab view of city planning, feel free to use these images in any way to voice your support. Avatars, Instagrams, Tweets, projections on the side of the Specht building, do with them what you want.

But even more important than posting pictures to social media and liking Facebook posts, call the Mayor’s hotline and tell Jean Stothert she’ll lose your vote if the city loses these buildings. Omaha Mayor’s Hotline.

Call all of the city council members and tell them they’ll lose your support if they remove the Christian Specht Building from Omaha’s list of protected structures. Omaha City Council contact information.

Call the city planning department and tell them this doesn’t fit the needs and desires of the city or its residents. Omaha Planning Board contact form

Write letters to the Omaha World-Herald voicing your love of the buildings and disgust of OPA and the city’s power play.

Call Omaha Performing Arts at 402.345.0202 and let them know how you feel.

Don’t stay silent. Don’t preach to the choir. Preach to the devils destroying the few remaining buildings of historical value in our town.

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Kaley House Logo

The owners of the Kaley House Bed and Breakfast at Red Cloud spent nearly two decades meticulously restoring the 1885 Victorian home before opening it as a bed and breakfast two years ago. We designed a logo for the historic home, which was originally owned by a family with a notable business law practice in south central Nebraska. If you find yourself needing a place to stay in the Republican River Valley (perhaps for one of Red Cloud’s Willa Cather conferences), be sure to look them up. The home is beautiful.

We wanted to show a little bit of the process behind the mark. After a bunch of sketching, we reduced the logo to a simplified version of the home based on historic and contemporary photographs, carefully drawn on a tight grid.

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Hail Varsity Firmly Rooted cover

On short notice a few weeks ago, we were tasked with coming up with a plan B cover option for in issue of Hail Varsity whose deadline was rapidly approaching. Such is the nature of magazine publishing. While stressful, it’s at the same time one of the most fun situations to be in. Time ticking down, you have to come up with and execute a killer idea. Out came the glue, construction paper and Xacto blades, and we went to work. The story was about the families of brothers who have passed through the Huskers’ football locker room, so we went with a family tree approach. It took all of the twelve hours available, but was fun to work on for every one of those hours. Big thanks to the guys at Admiral District for photographing the image on 20 minutes notice nearing midnight on a Sunday.

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The Blackstone Farnam Festival asked us to be one of this year’s sponsors and to design a poster and a logo for them. They screen printed up nice on some French Speckletone Madero Beach paper.

It was a riot drawing up simplified, gridded versions of every the building on Farnam St. between 35th and 41st Sts.

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

A video posted by @hanscomparkstudio on

Blackstone Farnam Festival logo

The logo mark is based on Omaha Street signs used in the 1940s, when The Blackstone District, then called West Farnam, was still accessible by streetcar.

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