“It feels good to be lost in the right direction.” Unknown
Carol writes: It took us 6 days to complete our journey east across Nebraska. Now, we were looking forward to relaxing for a couple of weeks in Omaha and checking out what the city had to offer. We had read about its world-class zoo; other than that, we thought we would have a lot of down-time. Then, we got to talking to a guy at the Omaha Visitor Center, and our whole perspective changed…
Just a short walk from the Visitor Center was a section of downtown called the “Old Market,” the epicenter of Omaha’s commercial activity at the end of the 19th century. A several-block area of historic brick warehouses has been preserved
and repurposed for new use… like the former firehouse where we had lunch outdoors at the “Upstream Brewing Company.” We chuckled at the irony that Omaha’s finest fire station was originally three stories high… until the third floor burned down in 1917.
In the history books, Omaha is famous as the site of the 1804 Missouri River landing of explorers Lewis and Clark, who were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Missouri River and to find a water route across North America to the Pacific Ocean. An additional objective of their mission was trade expansion through diplomatic engagement with the numerous Native American tribes they encountered along the way.'
The present-day landing site is dominated by the serpentine, architecturally pleasing Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, a 3000-foot span across the Missouri River.
Seemed like a good opportunity to take our bikes and ride on a bridge across a river, and into another state.
At the Lewis and Clark landing site was an impressive bronze statue display titled “Labor,” which was dedicated to the various building trades who built this proud city.
Omaha residents must have been heartbroken when the Missouri River flood of 2011 rose to cover the blacksmith, leaving only a few inches of his hammer and hand above the water line.
From a philanthropic point of view, the pride of Omaha is Boys Town, the Nebraska home for needy and troubled boys founded nearly a century ago by Father Edward J. Flanagan. The original Overlook Farm purchased by Father Flanagan now comprises over 900 acres and presently houses over 400 boys and girls (girls admitted since 1979) on a beautiful school campus which constitutes its own village, complete with police department and elected city officials. We spent time in a first-rate museum that documented the history of Boys Town and its much loved founder.
One of the museum’s prize possessions was the Oscar statue won by Spencer Tracy for his portrayal of Father Flanagan in the 1941 movie titled “Men of Boys Town,” also starring Mickey Rooney.
On the Boys Town campus, we had incredibly free access to Father Flanagan’s house, beautifully furnished with period furniture from the time Father Flanagan lived there…
the living room, furnished with a much-prized piece of Father Flanagan’s personal art collection,
and the simple bed on the sleeping porch Father Flanagan preferred to his bedroom.
We paid our respects to the Boys Town founder in graceful Dowd Chapel where Father Flanagan’s tomb was lovingly enshrined.
Representative of all that Boys Town stands for was best illustrated by the famous “Two Brothers” statue and the motto, “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother.”
In light of all that the Boys Town organization has accomplished over nearly a century, it seemed fitting that the Archbishop of Omaha has submitted documentation to the Vatican requesting that a tribunal be opened in the cause of beatification and eventual canonization of Father Flanagan.
One of our most enjoyable days in Omaha was spent at the premier Joselyn Art Museum. The museum building itself was a dazzling Art Deco masterpiece constructed in 1931 out of Georgia Pink marble.
Each end of the atrium was dominated by massive, world-renowned Chihuly glass sculptures. The effect was outstanding!
At every turn, we found the museum to be filled with art treasures created by some of our favorite masters.
Just as interesting was the American art collection, especially the works done by artists whose works on canvas captured unspoiled western scenery, along with events in Native American life that they encountered in their travels with early American explorers.
|Alfred Jacob Miller|
another of a family
and some lighthearted children.
The bronze statues continue to tell the story of a group of bison that have been disturbed by the wagon train and have stampeded two blocks down the street,
creating a ghostlike image through the corner of a building,
the bison in turn disturbing a flock of geese on a pond.
The transition of these sculptures through both time and space of modern-day Omaha was brilliantly executed!
Omaha’s top attraction, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, has been rated by Trip Advisor as the “world’s best zoo.” There are many standards by which such an accolade is bestowed, and I would say the Omaha Zoo was deserving on several fronts.
Under Desert Dome, the world’s largest geodesic dome, was an amazing display of desert plant and animal life. Normally, I’m not one to linger over snake exhibits, but the artistic rattlesnake habitat was the best I have ever seen.
Penguin feeding time at the Scott Aquarium was entertaining,
as were the monkeys and bats in Lied Jungle.
A visit to Crook House
on the grounds of historic Fort Omaha was fascinating to this lover of historic homes that tell the story of their day.
Crook House was the home of General George Crook, an early commanding officer at Fort Omaha. In the later decades of the 19th century, Fort Omaha served as housing for the military garrison required to protect supply lines and provide security for frontier settlements.
Besides being beautifully furnished with period antiques, the historically accurate reproductions of wallpaper found in every room (and even on the ceilings) was the home’s most outstanding feature.
Fort Omaha is now the home of Metropolitan Community College with the provision that they preserve the over two dozen historic buildings that were a key part of Fort Omaha’s heyday.
The historic Mormon Pioneer Trail west from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake in Utah passed through Omaha. During the winter of 1846-1847 several thousand Mormon pioneers wintered in what is now North Omaha while they replenished provisions and waited out more favorable weather.
The only remaining recognizable feature of this historic Winter Quarters era is the cemetery on the hill,
where the remains of some of those who perished are thoughtfully commemorated. Along with a husband and wife who were just returning home from missionary work in Harlan, Kentucky, a Mormon elder at the Visitor Center gave us a tour of the museum along with a most thorough presentation of what motivated the Mormon pioneers at this pivotal time in Mormon church history. I came away with a new respect for the tremendous pioneer spirit of the thousands of Mormons who were instrumental in our country’s westward expansion.
Whew! Omaha sure had a lot to keep us busy! To round out our stay, base sirens even went off one evening around suppertime and we had to evacuate to the campground’s designated tornado shelter. Our newest favorite app for the phone is Weather Bug…
“If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain. Dolly Parton