Architecture: Una Casa BonitaAug 29, 2022 03:43PM ● By Lisa Lukecart
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
It's 1919. A nearly new residence is on the market in a flourishing neighborhood replete with rolling vistas and comfort-giving shade trees. The small, mission-style residence, reminiscent of Spanish colonial architecture, stands out among the block of cubes, bungalows, and craftsman-style dwellings. An arched door and windows, a smooth stucco exterior, and a screened-in porch greet passersby. French doors lead inside where oak hardwood floors and cement stucco rafters await an eager buyer. A simple, but sufficient, fireplace occupies the living room, and casement windows look out over the small yard. The construction, designed and supervised by a St. Louis architect, ensures only the very best supplies and expertise produced the corner-lot residence. A matching garage promises shelter for a prospective new automobile.
Just a few years earlier, a “swipe of a magic wand” had turned the enormous 126-acre cornfield into a “district of contented homeowners” in the Minne Lusa neighborhood.
The Omaha Bee newspaper advertised the sale of the house on July 6th, 1919. The first owner, T.O. Warfield of Warfield Enterprises, stayed in the residence for nine years, according to public records. The house, constructed in 1917, is not on the market today. Zillow estimates it's now worth $175,000. It’s clear that the home, listed in the Minne Lusa Residential Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, still adds charm and character to the North Omaha neighborhood. The wall gables in the attic dormer, and wide, overhanging eaves supported by decorative brackets, remain as a hallmark of its mission style, sometimes referred to as the “craftsman home of the west.” The darker window trim, free of ornamental modern-day shutters, displays a bold aesthetic around boxy openings. The windows in the home’s rear are less symmetrical, but still eye-catching. The arched hood over the entry door adds some depth to the textured tan exterior.
“If I were the owner, I’d be pretty house proud. This is really a standout,” said historic architect Jennifer Honebrink of Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture.
Honebrink isn’t sure if local developer Charles W. Martin or architect Everett S. Dodds can be credited with the design and construction, although most of the houses in the Minne Lusa neighborhood were developed under their ambitious, exacting eyes. Martin pioneered the movement to introduce affordable construction, concrete sidewalks, and scale street lighting. Improvements with gas and sewer increased the neighborhood appeal. Most of his homes sold for $3,000 to $5,000, and usually measured less than 1,200 square feet. Martin wanted to dig deep to fashion a beautiful suburban landscape near Miller Park. Dodds, a Minnesota native who moved to Omaha in 1910, created a cookie-cutter guide called Build a Dodds Home: Comfort, Beauty, Durability. However, the style of this particular mission house isn’t listed in his guide. The Omaha Bee mentions a St. Louis architect for the home, while another record refers to “private plans” by the owner.
“It is possible that Martin developed some of these house plans himself, feeling like he knew his market best, as his ad implies. I’d say the attribution…is still open to interpretation,” Honebrink said.
Either way, a drive through Minne Lusa provides a look back into the early 20th century, when attractive houses like these could be built fast and bought cheap. If someone had spotted you a few “clams,” or you had some “voot,” you could have had this cute Spanish mission-style house back in the day and lived la vida buena.
This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.