Category: Personal


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.


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

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

Mayor Stothert: 402-444-5000,

Heath Mello:

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.



















Our lady of Lourdes blueprints

Omaha’s Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission has been updating its expansive site this summer. In addition to hundreds of fairly recent (but still historical) photos of homes and buildings, they’ve added more than 500 building plans filed with the city between 1907 and 1926. It’s easy to get lost in the archive, but it’s worth it.

Among the highlights are a dozen or so churches (including Our Lady of Lourdes, above), dozens of schools (including Omaha Central), tons of old theaters (only a few of which remain standing today) and even a handful of residences.

The site is a magical combination of all the things I love: good design, local history and hopelessly giant archival databases. Go dive in here.

Dundee theater Omaha blueprints
The Dundee Theatre.

Washington Elementary blueprints
Washington Elementary

Union Pacific Headquarters facade
Former Union Pacific Headquarters facade. This amazing building was torn down in 2008 and has remained an empty lot since.

Union Pacific Headquarters lights
Former Union Pacific Headquarters lighting.

Union Pacific Headquarters door blueprints
Former Union Pacific Headquarters door details.

I sold an old china hutch and secretary on Craigslist Sunday. While cleaning out the drawers, I came across the previous owner’s stamp collection (along with her Social Security card). It seems most of them date to the 1940s and ’50s, and nearly all of them are awesome designs. I had to scan them in to get a closer look.

Earlier this week, I (mostly) finished a ten-week-long renovation of the first floor of the house. There are still some more things on the long-term to-do list (strip and refinish the mantle, the pocket and interior doors; build transoms for above the interior doors; finish hanging the crown molding; buy new couches, etc.), but the bulk of the work is done.

Improvements shown in the slideshow above include: New paint on all the walls and trim, addition of picture rail and crown molding, rebuilding of the window seat under they bay window with oak flooring, two custom-built bookcases with lighting using black pipe and 1×12 wood salvaged from a barn near Wisner, Iowa, rewiring and adding decorative switches and plates to every light switch and power outlet, rewiring and rehanging the original chandelier that for the dining room, rewiring and hanging a chandelier purchased from the Johnston Funeral Home auction in the living room, new art work (including a collage of original plaster from the home) and the addition of a hand-painted “3060” on the transom above the front door.

These three rooms (the foyer, living room and dining room) mark the fourth in six months I’ve managed to refinish. Still, there’s a bathroom, a kitchen, a stairway and a couple of bedrooms that need attention. Plus a basement. And outside I need to build the front porch, realign/rebuild the garage and redo the roof and exterior paint. It’s never-ending, but worth the effort.

For a peek at how it looked before, click here.

I couple weeks ago, Vox published a few sets of aerial photos showing Rust Belt cities before the interstate system cut through them compared to now. The University of Oklahoma has some more here. But without Omaha represented, I decided to compile a few myself.

An original plan for Omaha’s freeway system had I-480 cutting through Hanscom Park on a path a few blocks west of its final location. The park (and my home) were save when the plan was nixed because Andrew J. Hanscom and James Megeath stipulated the land could never be used for anything other than a city park when they donated it to the city in 1872.

The Omaha Public Library has a 1958 aerial plat atlas on their site. Using its images, I set them next to contemporary aerial imagery.

Ames to FortHighway 75 between Fort St. and Ames Ave.

Howard to CassI-480 and Highway 75 between Cass and Howard Sts.

Pacific to DeweyI-480 between Dewey Ave. and Pacific St.

Shirley to PacificI-480 between Pacific and Shirley Sts.

Bancroft to ShirleyI-480 between Bancroft and Shirley Sts.

Grover to BancroftI-80/I-480/Highway 75 interchange between Bancroft and Grover Sts.

F to ValleyI-80/I-480/Highway 75 interchange between Valley and F Sts.

Q to LHighway 75 and the Union Stockyards between L and Q Sts.

Hanscom Place Plat

I love finding great design in everyday places. While traveling down an internet wormhole while researching Omaha history, I came across the Douglas County Engineer’s site. It hosts plats and surveys of the whole city. This gem is the original plat George Smith submitted to the city in 1873 after surveying my house’s subdivision. This thing looks like it should have an “X” marking where Red Beard buried his treasure and a notation over the Hanscom Park lagoon reading “HERE BE MONSTERS.” Let me tell you, the plats of west Omaha suburbs have nothing on this.

here be monsters

City of Omaha

place lettering

compass rose

I’ve always been a big fan of old maps (especially Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps) for the history and detail they show. But this one is gorgeous. The lettering is fantastic. I love the detail of the compass rose. I also get a kick out of seeing the old names for the numbered streets (Liberty instead of 33rd St.; Madison instead of 32nd Ave.; Delaware instead of 32nd St.; Duane instead of 31st St.; Catherine instead of 30th Ave.; Georgia instead of 29th St.; Virginia instead of what used to be 28th and is now I-480; Mt. Pleasant instead of Pacific St. and Baltimore instead of Hickory St.).

This map may not match contemporary tastes (though there’s certainly a revival in the precise hand lettering Smith used on his map), but it’s interesting to see a very utilitarian object created carefully and in a visually pleasing way. There’s a notion that professional graphic design as we know it originated with the Vignellis, Glasers, Basses and Fletchers of the world. But while they were all in short pants, artists created amazing WPA posters, and before that ethereal lithographs advertising liquor and theaters and bicycles. And before that, craftsmen like George Smith took care care and pride in drafting clerical maps that were unlikely to be seen by more than a handful of real estate and engineering insiders. Today draftsmen digitally export shiny new clerical maps from AutoCAD that are far from anything that anyone would want to hang on a wall, which is exactly what I plan to do with the Hanscom Place plat (perhaps with my addition of a sea serpent in the lagoon).

omaha graphic design



After a few weeks of work, the my new home office is ready to use. Fresh paint, new drywall (in some spots), new crown molding, new picture rail, new light fixture, new switches and plates, new shades. I added an old door on rails to close off the bedroom. Liz found a sweet typewriting desk for a few dollars at a thrift shop and helped me pick out a couple new rugs. I picked up a new (to me) desk chair from The Humble Home to complete the look. There are still a few finishing touches that need to be completed: refinish the white door, build a transom above it and install molding on the curved part of the wall above the bay windows. But it’s pretty close.

Look at the middle of this post to see some pictures of the office at move-in a few years ago.

3060 Woolworth Ave. Omaha, NE 68105 | 402-517-1228 | © 2012-2019 Hanscom Park Studio
Featured graphic design and illustration © 2002-2019 Hanscom Park Studio and/or our clients