What factors can make a thriving walking neighborhood  decline?

The Central Park Neighborhood

Research combined by Venicia M., Robin S., and Nolan M. 

The Central Park neighborhood stretches from North 33rd to North 48th and Ames Avenue to Sorenson Parkway. This area, which was considered an early suburb, was settled in the 1870s and originally named West Saratoga. It was comprised of a schoolhouse, a mercantile store, and several houses occupied by white working-class families. West Saratoga school was built in 1885 and the area was then known as the Cherry Hill neighborhood. After the school was rebuilt in 1912 it was called by its current name, Central Park. The Central Park Improvement Club became active in the 1890s and advocated for positive changes in the neighborhood, like graded streets, streetlights, and the extension of the streetcar line to the neighborhood in 1920. The intersection of 42nd and Grand was a line of businesses that included Central Park Pharmacy, a doctor’s office, Central Park Congregational Church, a Jewish cemetery, and a long history of grocery stores like Hinky Dinky and Hadley’s. Over time, car culture increasingly displaced the public transportation system. Starting in the 1970s, many of the traditional white ethnic residents began to move from the neighborhood to outlying suburban areas, following a national trend of white flight from central cities and first-ring suburbs like Central Park. As white residents left, tax revenues and economic development declined and political power shifted toward the expanding, more affluent edges of the city. This left the new, largely working-class African American residents of Central Park facing a host of difficult challenges, from higher rates of unemployment to struggling schools, absentee landlords, pollution, and social instability.

4130 Grand Avenue

This is a current picture of 4130 Grand Avenue. It is currently vacant but full of possibilities for the future. Photo courtesy of Dr. Patrick Jones.

The building at 4130 Grand Avenue was built in 1924 and owned by A.C. Bingel who was a relator who owned many investment properties in the area. The 40 x 46 ½ foot red brick building is a simple square-shaped design with a flat roof, metal awning and small parking lot next door. The Central Park Grocery Store opened in this space in 1927, one of several grocers in the area that served the neighborhood in its hey-day. In 1940, the Hinky Dinky Grocery Store that had been located around the corner moved into the space. In 1959, the building was converted into a recreational center for area seniors, another important community-oriented function. In its best years, this space was also connected to the Central Park Pharmacy, which was very popular and known for its convenience. More recently, as the Central Park neighborhood has declined, the building became vacant, a symbol of the struggling circumstances of the once-vibrant community around it. The large, old display windows are now boarded up and the front metal door rusted.

This was an advertisement that was found in the Omaha World-Herald of January 3,1931. This shows the majority of grocery stores in Omaha, Nebraska and Central Park Grocery Store happened to be one.

This is a list of thriving neighborhood stores in Omaha. This artifact was found in the Omaha World Herald, on January 3, 1931. It was created to advertise the many neighborhood grocery stores, Central Park Grocery Store happened to be one. I conclude that the items being advertised, such as butter and Omar Flour, were essential to many neighborhoods. Because many families didn’t own auto mobiles, street cars were used and many people walked, so it was important that there were supplies nearby; Stores and other needs were built in neighborhoods, this constructed them into a walking neighborhood.

4907 N. 42nd Street

This is a current picture of 4907 42nd Street. The shop windows are boarded up, cracked, and in dire need of restoration. Photograph courtesy of Dr. Patrick Jones.

Over the decades, the building at 4907 N. 42nd Street has served the surrounding Central Park neighborhood in a variety of ways. When it was built in 1927, the structure housed a Spic and Span Grocery Store, which was replaced by a Hinky Dinky Grocery Store in 1930. These stores served what was, at the time, a growing white ethnic, working-class walking neighborhood. In the mid-1940s, the building became a Hadassah Group meeting point. (Hadassahs are Jewish Womens Zionist organizations that are involved in empowering women in the community) Because there was a Hadassah that means that there was a Jewish population in Central Park in the mid 1940’s. By 1950 it returned to its previous function as a Robert J Hadley Grocery. As super markets became more popular, the space became Clary Construction Company in 1970, and finally, the Foyer Barber shop during the 1980s.

Today, 4907 N 42nd St., is empty, but is full of possibilities for the future. The tan wood and stone building is a dreary remnant of what it once was. Where big, open windows used to display groceries, now wooden panels block off the street view of the inside, completely closing off the building to the public. The door emanates old, vintage vibes, but also makes it feel a bit forbidding. It will take some work to return the building to its former glory, but there are signs of hope. Currently, it is reported that the building will soon be renovated as a daycare, which will create a completely different feel to the structure, adding vitality to the area and again serving a need in the community.

This is an advertisement found in the Omaha World-Herald of all the Hinky Dinky stores in Omaha, NE, in 1932. The building being researched is listed tenth on the first column. Artifact courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald.

This is an advertisement found in the Omaha World Herald of all the Hinky Dinky stores in Omaha, NE, in 1932. Using artifacts like these can help us as to locate where old shops were, and, from there, literally map out old cities. For example, this artifact not only shows you that 4907 N 42nd St. used to be a Hinky Dinky, but where all of Omaha’s other Hinky Dinky’s as well. This artifact inadvertently tells us how many Hinky Dinky stores there were, and from that we can conclude the franchise’s popularity. It can also help us to understand how much people relied on this grocery store for their every-day needs.

4135 Grand Avenue

This is a current picture of 4135 Grand Avenue. It is currently one large business, but originally was four separate businesses. Photo courtesy of Dr. Patrick Jones.

4135 Grand Avenue was originally a part of a single structure divided into four separate addresses. It is a simple, one-story rectangular building that has had many lives of its own, highlighting the changing needs and wants in the area as the people of the neighborhood have changed. The red, brown and white brick building with large show windows was constructed in 1923 and initially home to the J.P. Morris grocery store. In 1942, the Grand Avenue Grocery occupied the space, one of several grocers serving the neighborhood at its height. In 1947, a new grocery store called, O.P. Skaggs, was the third business that inhabited this building. A national chain grocer, IGA, replaced O.P. Skaggs in 1949. It is unclear how long the IGA operated in this space, but news reports indicate that another grocery store, Sharon’s Market, held a closing auction on August 16, 1964. By April 2, 1966, a pizza shop called Pinkeys Palace was open in the building. By early 1970, J and J Furniture was publishing ads in the local newspaper, followed by June 24,1972, Steve’s Furniture, which closed in 1972. Bricks Bike shop moved into the space on December 23, 1972. They later moved from the neighborhood in June of 1972. Little Angels Day Care Center held an open house in November of 1980 and the building remains a daycare today, currently occupied by Kashay’s Childcare Learning Center. A large, multi-colored mural on the east side of the building represents unity, pride among all races and the importance of education. This space is one of the few buildings in the area that has been refurbished in recent years, with the old large show windows now bricked up in a way to compliment the original look and structure of the building. It stands tall and proud among the other struggling buildings in the neighborhood.

The ad below is from the Omaha World-Herald on December 17, 1941. During the midst of World War Two Grand Avenue Grocery was lacking the preferred male employees that they wanted to hire due to the war. There was only one option if the store wanted to keep itself in business. The store needed to start hiring women baggers and clerks to work in the grocery store. M.F. Witthauer the owner of the store, placed an ad in the local newspaper. The ad got a big response. A statement from M.F. said “and I thought there was a shortage!” the response to this ad was so big the story carried to the Omaha World Herald which placed this ad above. This was the beginning of the women in the workplace movement. Unfortunately, once soldiers returned they took back their jobs that the women had. But this was a very important time in Omaha that made history.

Advertisement in the Omaha World-Herald published December 17, 1942, that shows an example of women’s contribution during WWII in the Central Park Neighborhood.

Youth-driven visions for the future

Business Plan for Building A (4130 Grand Ave.) by Venicia M.

I propose that 4130 Grand Ave should be a social hall called Venicia’s Venue. It will be a social hall that would provide a place for people to get together, celebrate life events, have meetings, hangout, and more. Businesses could come here to discuss agendas over catered luncheons. I will have a great customer base because many of the people in the Central Park Neighborhood have high school diplomas, have young families and Venicia’s Venue would provide them a place to have their celebrations. I believe that this could also bring the community together because I could propose neighborhood meetings, clubs, and activities. My business will add to the fabric of the Central Park Community in a way that will improve the feeling of community between people of the neighborhood.

Business Plan for Building B (4207 N. 42nd Street) by Robin S.

Basement Books’ mission is to provide affordable books about minorities and under-represented groups to the people of the Central Park neighborhood, as well as the rest of Omaha. We will be located at 4907 N 42nd St., across from a diverse elementary (Central Park Elementary) with low reading scores comparative to other OPS schools. Adding a bookstore in this area will hopefully raise reading scores by donating books to the school and encouraging our youth to learn, read, and grow. The Central Park neighborhood is also home to large amounts of people in their 20’s and 30’s, people at that college level and in need of a variant of brain stimulators, and what better way to do that than read a book? Books are something that everyone can enjoy, but not everyone has access to them. So why not provide that wonderous opportunity?

Business Plan for Building C (4135 Grand Ave.) by Nolan M.

My building is on 4135 Grand Avenue. My business is The Grand Central Thrift Shop. This business plan includes a thrift stop inside the building along with a mini food pantry. This building will provide the community a cheap way to buy second hand necessities and other desired second hand items. We will also have a mini food pantry that is ran by donation that customers can visit once a month as they have a need. My community has a large percentage low income families that would benefit from my business. My thrift shop will also be able to give back to the community in attempt to revitalize the neighborhood and make it better place for all the community. Some examples of this will be donating money for community projects like new bus benches, school supplies for Central Park Elementary, and new parks. Our mission statement says we care about our community and the people in it. We strive to give back and make our community a safer place for all for all religions, races, gender identities and sexualities. My business matters because it has meaning. It is something that is important because we are not here to just make money, we are here to change our world and community.

group picture


Students who worked on the project will attend high school at Northwest High School and Bryan High School.

Lesson Plan

Coming soon.  Lesson plan is being developed.
Download Lesson Plan

Student Reflections

How I have changed during this program is that I have a lot more respect for different areas of Omaha then I had before.

- Nolan M.

I enjoyed learning what my building used to be and how my neighborhood changed over time. My understanding of North Omaha changed from thinking of it as run down to understanding how it was once a suburb that had a strong community.

- Venicia M.

I used to think Omaha was very bland and dull. Never have I been so wrong. The people who grew up here love this place and the culture is rich and vibrant. I can also now see the sense of togetherness in my own community.

- Robin S.