Still Shining a Century On
Aug 23, 2019 11:21AM
By James Vnuk
Tucked in neatly between Florence and Miller Park, coming into the historic Minne Lusa neighborhood for the first time is like discovering a hidden compartment in your grandmother’s vanity, secreting away gems and mementos of a world known only to her. Bungalows of every flavor—Craftsman, Dutch Revival, Neo-Tudor—fill the kaleidoscopic avenues, while the namesake boulevard and its arboreal median meander sleepily through the center.
The past and present presidents of the Miller Park Minne Lusa Neighborhood Association, Rosalind Moore and Michelle Jackson-Triplett, chat over coffee and breakfast at Harold’s in Florence. They share their history and connections to the community, as well as its legacy in Omaha history.
First developed in the 20th century’s teen years, Minne Lusa was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. The neighborhood began life as an aspirational suburb to accommodate the city’s burgeoning middle class. Through local architect Everett Dodd, the development offered families unique designs with old-world class, reprieve from the city center, and the hottest luxury of the day: garages.
“I like to call it Urburbia,” Jackson-Triplett says, a label that connects the placidity of a suburb with the close-knit communities of urban life—and it’s that sense of community that makes Minne Lusa a true gem."It's got porch life," she says, alluding to the visible, approachable lives of its inhabitants.
Because of the architectural designs, the neighborhood lends itself well to socializing and keeping up with neighbors. “When I first moved here, I was looking all over town to buy a home. But I kept coming back to the house here because it had a porch…people will offer you help if you’re out working on something, or if they don’t see you out when they expect to, somebody will come by and check in.” She says she couldn’t imagine leaving the neighborhood or her neighbors.
Moore agrees. “When I moved here in 1968,” she says, “we were the only black family on the block. Things weren’t always easy, but the climate got better over the years.” After Moore retired, she became the neighborhood association president—a title she recently passed on to Jackson-Triplett. For her, community is the most important thing, and the two of them hold a near-endless supply of anecdotes about theirs, ranging from bizarre to heartwarming. “My neighbor shovels my snow every morning at 3 a.m.” Moore says, “And in return, I make him dinner every Sunday.”
“We’ve even got someone in the neighborhood who walks their dog at 4 in the morning,” Jackson-Triplett says as the two share a laugh. The lasting impression of their gab is a community uncommon in its bonds.
“We have had solid differences,” Jackson-Triplett points out, “but we get over it and move on together.” The two recall a recent house fire and how the community held a spaghetti dinner to raise money for the impacted family, as well as the funeral of an elderly neighbor where the entire community shared in mourning, regardless of differences. “It gives me great joy,” she says.
Minne Lusa is thriving today, but it shares the painful history of Florence and its surrounding neighborhoods. “We had some rough years, when a lot of older neighbors died or they couldn’t live by themselves, so their children would sell their houses off for cash to slumlords,” Jackson-Triplett says. “We had a long period where a lot of new people wouldn’t touch us, or people were only interested in us when something bad happened,” she adds, recalling the fatal shooting death of Officer Kerrie Orozco in 2015, now memorialized by the baseball field in Miller Park.
Jackson-Triplett and Moore both have been committed to spreading the good word of Minne Lusa, and together their neighborhood association has made incredible strides in strengthening the community. “There’s always something going on,” Jackson-Triplett says. Every year, the community puts on a neighborhood barbecue in August, a golf tournament fundraiser, organized Halloween trick-or-treating for families, park events with the police, fire, and rescue departments—even the Omaha Marathon stops through. Miller Park, too, has undergone full-scale revitalization. Both women want to show people that the community is welcoming and neighbors are looking out for each other. “We’ve got volunteers with the elementary school, and there’s always a police officer at every neighborhood meeting,” Jackson-Triplett says.
Right now, the association is focused on budgeting, organization, and attracting new visitors. “You want to have young ideas,” Moore muses. Jackson-Triplett agrees that it’s necessary to meet people where they’re at, swapping out mailers for Facebook invites. Perhaps the most exciting development has been the Saturday Morning Brew, where the public is invited to stop by a local home for coffee and conversation, and Jackson-Triplett has observed that it only takes one visit to Minne Lusa for many to get hooked. Her hope is that the activities continue to draw positive attention and keep the historic district’s luster glimmering.
“There’s no one type of person here,” she says fondly, “we aren’t all one age, class, or race…and weird doesn’t bother us.”
This article was printed in the September 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.