Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Architecture: The Thomas Kilpatrick House

Apr 28, 2022 01:55PM ● By Tamsen Butler
exterior of historic Omaha Thomas Kilpatrick House

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Some mystery surrounds the Thomas Kilpatrick House in the historic Gifford Park neighborhood in Omaha.

The history of the home’s ownership is well-documented, yet it’s unknown who the architect was, or what contractor built the home in 1890.

Joseph Garneau Jr., proprietor of Garneau Cracker Co., was the first owner of the residence at 3100 Chicago St. He eventually sold the home and moved to New York to start a wine importing business in 1903. Harriet Kilpatrick purchased the house from Garneau, though it’s her husband’s name—department store magnate Thomas Kilpatrick—that is most commonly attributed to the residence.

The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Garneau-Kilpatrick House in 1982. The registry describes the structure as featuring an “irregular plan.”  Zillow lists the house as having 15 bedrooms and seven bathrooms, which made it an ideal property to divide into several apartments in later years. The residence also served as a fraternity house from the late 1900s into the early 2000s, and housed a nonprofit organization for a time. 

“The Joseph Garneau Jr./Kilpatrick [House] exemplifies the Richardsonian Romanesque Style, named after the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson,” explained Steven Ginn, founding principal of Steven Ginn Architects in Omaha. “Richardson advocated using Roman and medieval architectural elements and proportions in ways, using stone construction to emphasize the solidity and permanence of his work.”

Ginn further explained that Richardson’s work, “though classically inspired, was very influential throughout the U.S. from 1880-1900.” The arched front door and windows are telltale indicators of this home’s Richardonian style.

“The rusticated stone shown at the doors, windows, and gables provide ornamentation, contributing the expression of structure,” Ginn continued. “It is not frivolous decoration demonstrated in other styles of the day, but an honest expression of how the stone works in the arches and lintels at the openings.”

It’s a home that certainly stands out, not only because of its impressive size, but because of its interesting look. Ginn said the house also “demonstrates an acute study of scale and proportion with a heavy base and subtle shifts in scale of the windows as your eye proceeds up the building from the main floor to the attic.”  

“Overall, the composition of the front façade is quite successful,” Ginn said. “The bay window is not small and delicate but wide and squat, and it is balanced with the embellished gable acting as a cap to the simple, planar façade. These elements come together to create an asymmetrical composition that is well-balanced, cohesive, and pleasing to the eye.”

Zillow lists the 10,000-square-foot home as currently for lease, with the monthly rent listed at just under $5,000. Renters get the main house along with the four-bedroom, two-bath house located on the north side of the property.

This Romanesque style home boasts an interesting past, even if the name of the person who designed it has long been lost to history. The legacy of the home with the “irregular plan” continues on as an Omaha landmark. 

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.