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Omaha, Nebraska
City
City of Omaha
View of Downtown Omaha from Heartland of America Park
View of Downtown Omaha from Heartland of America Park
Flag of Omaha, Nebraska
Flag
Official seal of Omaha, Nebraska
Seal
Nickname(s): Gateway to the West
Motto: Fortiter in Re  (Latin)
"Courageously in every enterprise"
Location in Nebraska and Douglas County.
Location in Nebraska and Douglas County.
Country United States
State Nebraska
County Douglas
Founded 1854
Incorporated 1857
Area
 • City 130.58 sq mi (338.20 km2)
 • Land 127.09 sq mi (329.16 km2)
 • Water 3.49 sq mi (9.04 km2)
Elevation 1,090 ft (332 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 408,958
 • Estimate (2014) 446,599
 • Rank US: 43rd
 • Density 3,217.9/sq mi (1,242.4/km2)
 • Urban 725,008 (US: 58th)
 • Metro 915,312 (US: 59th)
 • CSA 931,666 (US: 57th)
Time zone CST (UTC−6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−5)
ZIP codes 68022, 68101–68164
Area code 402, 531
FIPS code 31-37000
GNIS feature ID 0835483
Website www.cityofomaha.org

Omaha (/ˈməhɑː/ OH-mə-hah) is the largest city in the state of Nebraska and the county seat of Douglas County. Omaha is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 10 miles (15 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. Omaha is the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, which includes Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River from Omaha. According to the 2010 census, Omaha's population was 408,958, making it the nation's 43rd-largest city. According to the 2014 Population Estimates, Omaha's population was 446,599. Including its suburbs, Omaha formed the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2013, with an estimated population of 895,151 residing in eight counties. The Omaha-Council Bluffs-Fremont, Nebraska-IA Combined Statistical Area is 931,667, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 estimate. There are nearly 1.3 million residents within the Greater Omaha area, comprising a 50-mile (80 km) radius of Downtown Omaha, the city's center.

Omaha's pioneer period began in 1854, when the city was founded by speculators from neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city was founded along the Missouri River, and a crossing called Lone Tree Ferry earned the city its nickname, the "Gateway to the West". Omaha introduced this new West to the world in 1898, when it played host to the World's Fair, dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. During the 19th century, Omaha's central location in the United States spurred the city to become an important national transportation hub. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the transportation and jobbing sectors were important in the city, along with its railroads and breweries. In the 20th century, the Omaha Stockyards, once the world's largest, and its meatpacking plants gained international prominence.

Today, Omaha is the home to the headquarters of four Fortune 500 companies: mega-conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway; one of the world's largest construction companies, Kiewit Corporation; insurance and financial firm Mutual of Omaha; and the United States' largest railroad operator, Union Pacific Corporation. Berkshire Hathaway is headed by local investor Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, according to a decade's worth of Forbes Magazine rankings, some of which have ranked him as high as No. 1. Omaha is also the home to five Fortune 1000 headquarters: Green Plains Renewable Energy, TD Ameritrade, Valmont Industries, Werner Enterprises, and West Corporation. Also headquartered in Omaha are First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately held bank in the United States; three of the nation's largest 10 architecture/engineering firms: DLR Group, HDR, Inc., and Leo A Daly; the Gallup Organization, of Gallup Poll fame; and its riverfront Gallup University. Enron began in Omaha as Northern Natural Gas in 1930, before taking over a smaller Houston company in 1985 to form InterNorth, which Kenneth Lay moved permanently to Houston, in 1987.

The modern economy of Omaha is diverse and built on skilled knowledge jobs. In 2009, Forbes identified Omaha as the nation's number one "Best Bang-For-The Buck City" and ranked it number one on "America's Fastest-Recovering Cities" list. Tourism in Omaha benefits the city's economy greatly, with the annual College World Series providing important revenue and the city's Henry Doorly Zoo serving as the top attraction in Nebraska as well as being named the best zoo in the world by Trip Advisor in 2014. Also, Omaha hosted the U.S. Olympic swim trials in 2008, 2012 and 2016. There is speculation that the swim trials, which serve as a major tourist attraction, will take place in Omaha again in 2020

Notable modern Omaha inventions include: the bobby pin and the "pink hair curler", at Omaha's Tip Top; Butter Brickle Ice Cream and the Reuben sandwich, conceived by a chef at the then-Blackstone Hotel on 36th and Farnam Streets; cake mix, developed by Duncan Hines, then a division of Omaha's Nebraska Consolidated Mills, the forerunner to today's ConAgra Foods; center-pivot irrigation by the Omaha company now known as Valmont Corporation; Raisin Bran, developed by Omaha's Skinner Macaroni Co.; the ski lift, in 1936, by Omaha's Union Pacific Corp; the "Top 40" radio format, pioneered by Todd Storz, scion of Omaha's Storz Brewing Co., and head of Storz Broadcasting, which was the first in the U.S. to use the "Top 40" format at Omaha's KOWH Radio; and the TV dinner, developed by Omaha's Carl Swanson Co.

History

See also: History of North Omaha, Nebraska
Logan fontenelle
Logan Fontenelle, an interpreter for the Omaha Tribe when it ceded the land that became the city of Omaha to the U.S. government

Various Native American tribes had lived in the land that became Omaha, including since the 17th century, the Omaha and Ponca, Dhegian-Siouan-language people who had originated in the lower Ohio River valley and migrated west by the early 17th century; Pawnee, Otoe, Missouri, and Ioway. The word Omaha (actually Umoⁿhoⁿ or Umaⁿhaⁿ) means "Dwellers on the bluff".

In 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by the riverbanks where the city of Omaha would be built. Between July 30 and August 3, 1804, members of the expedition, including Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, met with Oto and Missouria tribal leaders at the Council Bluff at a point about 20 miles (30 km) north of present-day Omaha. Immediately south of that area, Americans built several fur trading outposts in succeeding years, including Fort Lisa in 1812; Fort Atkinson in 1819; Cabanné's Trading Post, built in 1822, and Fontenelle's Post in 1823, in what became Bellevue. There was fierce competition among fur traders until John Jacob Astor created the monopoly of the American Fur Company. The Mormons built a town called Cutler's Park in the area in 1846. While it was temporary, the settlement provided the basis for further development in the future.

Through 26 separate treaties with the United States federal government, Native American tribes in Nebraska gradually ceded the lands currently comprising the state. The treaty and cession involving the Omaha area occurred in 1854 when the Omaha Tribe ceded most of east-central Nebraska. Logan Fontenelle, an interpreter for the Omaha and signatory to the 1854 treaty, played an essential role in those proceedings.

Pioneer Omaha

USA, Nebraska Territory, $1 City of Omaha 1857 Banknote II, obverse
Nebraska Territory, $1 City of Omaha 1857 uniface banknote. The note is signed by Jesse Lowe, in his function as first Mayor of Omaha City. It was issued as scrip in 1857 to help fund the erection of the Territorial capitol building.

Before it was legal to claim land in Indian Country, William D. Brown was operating the Lone Tree Ferry to bring settlers from Council Bluffs, Iowa to the area that became Omaha. Brown is generally credited as having the first vision for a city where Omaha now sits. The passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 was presaged by the staking out of claims around the area to become Omaha by residents from neighboring Council Bluffs. On July 4, 1854, the city was informally established at a picnic on Capital Hill, current site of Omaha Central High School. Soon after, the Omaha Claim Club was formed to provide vigilante justice for claim jumpers and others who infringed on the land of many of the city's founding fathers. Some of this land, which now wraps around Downtown Omaha, was later used to entice Nebraska Territorial legislators to an area called Scriptown. The Territorial capitol was located in Omaha, but when Nebraska became a state in 1867, the capital was relocated to Lincoln, 53 miles (85 km) south-west of Omaha. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled against numerous landowners whose violent actions were condemned in Baker v. Morton.

Many of Omaha's founding figures stayed at the Douglas House or the Cozzens House Hotel. Dodge Street was important early in the city's early commercial history; North 24th Street and South 24th Street developed independently as business districts, as well. Early pioneers were buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery and Cedar Hill Cemetery. Cedar Hill closed in the 1860s and its graves were moved to Prospect Hill, where pioneers were later joined by soldiers from Fort Omaha, African Americans and early European immigrants. There are several other historical cemeteries in Omaha, historical Jewish synagogues and historical Christian churches dating from the pioneer era, as well. The city's pioneering history is celebrated at two sculpture parks, Pioneer Courage and Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness and The Transcontinental Railroad.

19th century

Hotelfontenelle
The Hotel Fontenelle, formerly located in downtown Omaha

The economy of Omaha boomed and busted through its early years. Omaha was a stopping point for settlers and prospectors heading west, either overland or via the Missouri River. The steamboat Bertrand sank north of Omaha on its way to the goldfields in 1865. Its massive collection of artifacts is on display at the nearby Desoto National Wildlife Refuge. The jobbing and wholesaling district brought new jobs, followed by the railroads and the stockyards. Groundbreaking for the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1863, provided an essential developmental boom for the city. The Union Pacific Railroad was authorized by the U.S. Congress to begin building westward railways in 1862; in January 1866 it commenced construction out of Omaha.

Equally as important, the Union Stockyards were founded in 1883. Within twenty years of the founding of the Union Stockyards in South Omaha, four of the five major meatpacking companies in the United States were located in Omaha. By the 1950s, half the city's workforce was employed in meatpacking and processing. Meatpacking, jobbing and railroads were responsible for most of the growth in the city from the late 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century.

Immigrants soon created ethnic enclaves throughout the city, including Irish in Sheelytown in South Omaha; Germans in the Near North Side, joined by the European Jews and black migrants from the South; Little Italy and Little Bohemia in South Omaha. Beginning in the late 19th century, Omaha's upper class lived in posh enclaves throughout the city, including the south and north Gold Coast neighborhoods, Bemis Park, Kountze Place, Field Club and throughout Midtown Omaha. They traveled the city's sprawling park system on boulevards designed by renowned landscape architect Horace Cleveland. The Omaha Horse Railway first carried passengers throughout the city, as did the later Omaha Cable Tramway Company and several similar companies. In 1888, the Omaha and Council Bluffs Railway and Bridge Company built the Douglas Street Bridge, the first pedestrian and wagon bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs. The Governor of Nebraska had to call in U.S. Army troops from nearby Fort Omaha to protect strikebreakers for the Burlington Railroad, bringing along Gatling guns and a cannon for defense. When the event ended, one man was dead and several were wounded. There were several other riots and civil unrest events in Omaha during this period as well.

In 1898, Omaha's leaders, under the guidance of Gurdon Wattles, held the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, touted as a celebration of agricultural and industrial growth throughout the Midwest. The Indian Congress, which drew more than 500 American Indians from across the country, was held simultaneously. More than 2 million visitors attended these events, located at Kountze Park and the Omaha Driving Park in the Kountze Place neighborhood.

20th century

With dramatically increasing population in the 20th century, there was major civil unrest in Omaha, resulting from competition and fierce labor struggles. In 1900, Omaha was the center of a national uproar over the kidnapping of Edward Cudahy, Jr., the son of a local meatpacking magnate.

The city's labor and management clashed in bitter strikes, racial tension escalated as blacks were hired as strikebreakers, and ethnic strife broke out. A major riot by ethnic whites in South Omaha destroyed the city's Greek Town in 1909, completely driving out the Greek population.

The civil rights movement in Omaha has roots that extend back to 1912, when the first chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People west of the Mississippi River was founded in the city.

The Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913 destroyed much of the city's African-American community, in addition to much of Midtown Omaha.

The culture of North Omaha thrived throughout the 1920s through 1950s, with several creative figures, including Tillie Olsen, Wallace Thurman, Lloyd Hunter, and Anna Mae Winburn emerging from the vibrant Near North Side.

Musicians created their own world in Omaha, and also joined national bands and groups that toured and appeared in the city.

Tibbets-wave
The first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb, the Enola Gay was built at Offutt Air Force Base, located south of Omaha.

After the tumultuous Great Depression of the 1930s, Omaha rebounded with the development of Offutt Air Force Base just south of the city. The Glenn L. Martin Company operated a factory there in the 1940s that produced 521 B-29 Superfortresses, including the Enola Gay and Bockscar used in the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.

The construction of Interstates 80, 480 and 680, along with the North Omaha Freeway, spurred development. There was also controversy, particularly in North Omaha, where several neighborhoods were bisected by new routes. Creighton University hosted the DePorres Club, an early civil rights group whose sit-in strategies for integration of public facilities predated the national movement, starting in 1947.

Following the development of the Glenn L. Martin Company bomber manufacturing plant in Bellevue at the beginning of World War II, the relocation of the Strategic Air Command to the Omaha suburb in 1948 provided a major economic boost to the area.

From the 1950s through the 1960s, more than 40 insurance companies were headquartered in Omaha, including Woodmen of the World and Mutual of Omaha. By the late 1960s, the city rivaled, but never surpassed, the United States insurance centers of Hartford, Connecticut, New York City and Boston.

After surpassing Chicago in meat processing by the late 1950s, Omaha suffered the loss of 10,000 jobs as both the railroad and meatpacking industries restructured. The city struggled for decades to shift its economy as workers suffered. Poverty became more entrenched among families who remained in North Omaha.

In the 1960s, three major race riots along North 24th Street destroyed the Near North Side's economic base, with recovery slow for decades. In 1969, Woodmen Tower was completed and became Omaha's tallest building and first major skyscraper at 478 feet (146 m), a sign of renewal.

OmahaKiewitPlaza
Kiewit Tower, the location of Berkshire Hathaway's corporate offices

Since the 1970s, Omaha has continued expanding and growing, mostly to available land to the west. West Omaha has become home to the majority of the city's population. North and South Omaha's populations continue to be centers of new immigrants, with economic and racial diversity. In 1975 a major tornado, along with a major blizzard, caused more than $100 million in damages in 1975 dollars.

Downtown Omaha has since been rejuvenated in numerous ways, starting with the development of Gene Leahy Mall and W. Dale Clark Library in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, Omaha's fruit warehouses were converted into a shopping area called the Old Market.

The demolition of Jobber's Canyon in 1989 led to the creation of the ConAgra Foods campus. Several nearby buildings, including the Nash Block, have been converted into condominiums. The stockyards were taken down; the only surviving building is the Livestock Exchange Building, which was converted to multi-use and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A historic preservation movement in Omaha has led to a number of historic structures and districts being designated Omaha Landmarks or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the push toward preservation came after Omaha gained the notorious designation of having, in 1989, demolished the largest-ever National Register historic district in the United States, a record that still stands as of 2013. The Jobbers Canyon Historic District, along the Missouri River, was felled for a new headquarters campus for ConAgra Foods, a company which threatened to relocate if Omaha did not allow them to raze the city's historic district. The Jobber's Canyon warehouses had before then been allowed to deteriorate and were the scene of several fires set by the homeless population that had come to live in the abandoned buildings. At the time, there were no plans in place for revitalizing the buildings.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Omaha also saw major company headquarters leave the city, including Enron, founded in the city in 1930 and taken to Houston in 1987 by the now-notorious Kenneth Lay. First Data Corporation, a large credit-card processor, also was founded in Omaha in 1969; as of 2009, its headquarters are in Atlanta.

Inacom, founded in Omaha in 1991, was a technology company that customized computer systems for large businesses, and was on the Fortune 500 list from 1997 until 2000, when it filed for bankruptcy. Northwestern Bell, the Bell System affiliate for Northwestern states, had its headquarters in Omaha from its founding in 1896 until it moved to Denver in 1991 as US West. Level 3 Communications, a large Tier 1 network provider, was founded in Omaha in 1985 as Kiewit Diversified Group, a division of Kiewit Corporation, a Fortune 500 construction and mining company still headquartered in Omaha; Level 3 moved to Denver in 1998. World Com was founded by a merger with Omaha's MFS Communications, started as Metropolitan Fiber Systems in 1993. MFS, backed by Kiewit Corporation CEO Walter Scott and Warren Buffett, purchased UUNET, one of the largest Internet backbones in the world, for $2 billion in 1996. The now-infamous Bernie Ebbers purchased the much larger MFS for $14.3 billion in 1997 under his World Com. He moved headquarters of the merged company from Omaha to Mississippi.

21st century

First National Tower
From the bottom of First National Tower in Omaha

Around the start of the 21st century, several new downtown skyscrapers and cultural institutions were built. One First National Center was completed in 2002, surpassing the Woodmen Tower as the tallest building in Omaha as well as in the state at 634 feet (193 m). The creation of the city's new North Downtown included the construction of the CenturyLink Center and the Slowdown/Film Streams development at North 14th and Webster Streets. Construction of the new TD Ameritrade Park began in 2009 and was completed in 2011, also in the North Downtown area, near the CenturyLink Center. TD Ameritrade Park is now the home of the College World Series, an event tourists flock to each year.

New construction has occurred throughout the city since the start of the 21st century. Important retail and office developments have occurred in West Omaha such as the Village Pointe shopping center and several business parks including First National Business Park and parks for Bank of the West and C&A Industries, Inc and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and several others. Downtown and Midtown Omaha have both seen the development of a significant number of condominiums in recent years. In Midtown Omaha significant mixed-use projects are underway. The site of the former Ak-Sar-Ben arena has been redeveloped into a mixed-use development Aksarben Village. In January 2009 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska announced plans to build a new 10 story, $98 million headquarters, in the Aksarben Village, completed in Spring 2011. Gordmans is also currently building their new corporate headquarters in Aksarben. The other major mixed-use development is Midtown Crossing at Turner Park. Developed by Mutual of Omaha, the development includes several condominium towers and retail businesses built around Omaha's Turner Park.

The Holland Performing Arts Center opened in 2005 near the Gene Leahy Mall and the Union Pacific Center opened in 2004.

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Photo of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

There have also been several developments along the Missouri River waterfront in downtown. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge was opened to foot and bicycle traffic on September 28, 2008. Started in 2003, RiverFront Place Condos first phase was completed in 2006 and is fully occupied and the second phase was opened in 2011. The development along Omaha's riverfront is attributed with prompting the City of Council Bluffs to move their own riverfront development time line forward.

In the summers of 2008, 2012 and 2016 the United States Olympic Team swimming trials were held in Omaha, at the Qwest/Century Link Center. The event was a highlight in the city's sports community, as well as a showcase for redevelopment in the downtown area.

Geography

See also: Geography of Omaha and Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area

Omaha is located at . According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 130.58 square miles (338.20 km2), of which 127.09 square miles (329.16 km2) is land and 3.49 square miles (9.04 km2) is water. Situated in the Midwestern United States on the bank of the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska, much of Omaha is built in the Missouri River Valley. Other significant bodies of water in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area include Lake Manawa, Papillion Creek, Carter Lake, Platte River and the Glenn Cunningham Lake. The city's land has been altered considerably with substantial land grading throughout Downtown Omaha and scattered across the city. East Omaha sits on a flood plain west of the Missouri River. The area is the location of Carter Lake, an oxbow lake. The lake was once the site of East Omaha Island and Florence Lake, which dried up in the 1920s.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area consists of eight counties; five in Nebraska and three in Iowa. The metropolitan area now includes Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills Counties in Iowa and Washington, Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, and Saunders Counties in Nebraska. This area was formerly referred to only as the Omaha Metropolitan Statistical Area and consisted of only five counties: Pottawattamie in Iowa, and Washington, Douglas, Cass, and Sarpy in Nebraska. The Omaha-Council Bluffs combined statistical area comprises the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan statistical area and the Fremont Micropolitan statistical area; the CSA has a population of 858,720 (2005 Census Bureau estimate). Omaha ranks as the 42nd-largest city in the United States, and is the core city of its 60th-largest metropolitan area. There are currently no consolidated city-counties in the area; the City of Omaha studied the possibility extensively through 2003 and concluded, "The City of Omaha and Douglas County should merge into a municipal county, work to commence immediately, and that functional consolidations begin immediately in as many departments as possible, including but not limited to parks, fleet management, facilities management, local planning, purchasing and personnel."

Geographically, Omaha is considered as being located in the "Heartland" of the United States. Important environmental impacts on the natural habitat in the area include the spread of invasive plant species, restoring prairies and bur oak savanna habitats, and managing the whitetail deer population.

Omaha is home to several hospitals, located mostly along Dodge St (US6). Being the county seat, it is also the location of the county courthouse.

Neighborhoods

Omaha neighborhoods
Downtown-lime, Midtown-blue-gray, North-red, South-pink, West-lavender
Above West Omaha
View from above West Omaha

Omaha is generally divided into six geographic areas: Downtown, Midtown, North Omaha, South Omaha, West Omaha, and East Omaha. West Omaha includes the Miracle Hills, Boys Town, Regency, and Gateway areas. East Omaha includes the Elmwood Park (Omaha) Neighborhood., Dundee The city has a wide range of historical and new neighborhoods and suburbs that reflect its socioeconomic diversity. Early neighborhood development happened in ethnic enclaves, including Little Italy, Little Bohemia, Little Mexico and Greek Town. According to U.S. Census data, five European ethnic enclaves existed in Omaha in 1880, expanding to nine in 1900.

Around the start of the 20th century. the City of Omaha annexed several surrounding communities, including Florence, Dundee and Benson. At the same time, the city annexed all of South Omaha, including the Dahlman and Burlington Road neighborhoods. From its first annexation in 1857 (of East Omaha) to its recent and controversial annexation of Elkhorn, Omaha has continually had an eye towards growth.

Starting in the 1950s, development of highways and new housing led to movement of middle class to suburbs in West Omaha. Some of the movement was designated as white flight from racial unrest in the 1960s. Newer and poorer migrants lived in older housing close to downtown; those residents who were more established moved west into newer housing. Some suburbs are gated communities or have become edge cities. Recently, Omahans have made strides to revitalize the downtown and Midtown areas with the redevelopment of the Old Market, Turner Park, Gifford Park, and the designation of the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District.

Landmark preservation

091407-JoslynCastle
The Joslyn Castle is home to a nonprofit environmental organization.

Omaha is home to dozens of nationally, regionally and locally significant landmarks. The city has more than a dozen historic districts, including Fort Omaha Historic District, Gold Coast Historic District, Omaha Quartermaster Depot Historic District, Field Club Historic District, Bemis Park Historic District, and the South Omaha Main Street Historic District. Omaha is notorious for its 1989 demolition of 24 buildings in the Jobbers Canyon Historic District, which represents to date the largest loss of buildings on the National Register. The only original building surviving of that complex is the Nash Block.

Omaha has almost one hundred individual properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Bank of Florence, Holy Family Church, the Christian Specht Building and the Joslyn Castle. There are also three properties designated as National Historic Landmarks.

Locally designated landmarks, including residential, commercial, religious, educational, agricultural and socially significant locations across the city, honor Omaha's cultural legacy and important history. The City of Omaha Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission is the government body that works with the mayor of Omaha and the Omaha City Council to protect historic places. Important history organizations in the community include the Douglas County Historical Society.

Climate

Omaha sunset in 2008
The Saint Cecilia Cathedral against an Omaha summer sunset.

Omaha, due to its latitude of 41.26˚ N and location far from moderating bodies of water or mountain ranges, displays a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa). July averages 76.7 °F (24.8 °C), with average relative humidity around 70% which then leads to relatively frequent thunderstorms. Temperatures reach 90 °F (32 °C) on 29 days and 100 °F (38 °C) on 1.7 days annually. The January daily average is 23.5 °F (−4.7 °C), with lows reaching 0 °F (−18 °C) on 11 days annually. The lowest temperature recorded in the city was −32 °F (−36 °C) on January 5, 1884, and the highest 114 °F (46 °C) on July 25, 1936. Average yearly precipitation is 30.6 inches (777 mm), falling mostly in the warmer months. What precipitation that does fall in winter usually takes the form of snow, with average seasonal snowfall being 28.7 inches (73 cm).

Based on 30-year averages obtained from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center for the months of December, January and February, Weather Channel ranked Omaha the 5th coldest major U.S. city as of 2014.


Demographics

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 1,883
1870 16,083 754.1%
1880 30,518 89.8%
1890 140,452 360.2%
1900 102,555 −27.0%
1910 124,096 21.0%
1920 191,061 54.0%
1930 214,006 12.0%
1940 223,844 4.6%
1950 251,117 12.2%
1960 301,598 20.1%
1970 346,929 15.0%
1980 313,939 −9.5%
1990 335,795 7.0%
2000 390,007 16.1%
2010 408,958 4.9%
Est. 2015 443,885 13.8%
source:
U.S. Decennial Census
2013 Estimate
Racial composition 2010 1990 1970 1940
White 73.1% 83.9% 89.4% 94.5%
—Non-Hispanic 68.0% 82.3% 87.5% n/a
Black or African American 13.7% 13.1% 9.9% 5.4%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 13.1% 3.1% 1.9% n/a
Asian 2.4% 1.0% 0.2% 0.1%
Race and ethnicity 2010- Omaha (5560454122)
Map of racial distribution in Omaha, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 408,958 people, 162,627 households, and 96,477 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,217.9 inhabitants per square mile (1,242.4/km2). There were 177,518 housing units at an average density of 1,396.8 per square mile (539.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 73.1% White, 13.7% African American, 0.8% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.9% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.1% of the population. Non-Hispanic Whites were 68.0% of the population.

There were 162,627 households of which 31.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.6% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.7% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.14.

The median age in the city was 33.5 years. 25.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.9% were from 25 to 44; 24.4% were from 45 to 64; and 11.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.2% male and 50.8% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 390,007 people, 156,738 households, and 94,983 families residing within city limits. The population density was 3,370.7 people per square mile (1,301.5/km2). There were 165,731 housing units at an average density of 1,432.4 per square mile (553.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.4% White, 13.3% African American, 0.7% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. 7.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The median income for a household in the city was US$40,006, and the median income for a family was $50,821. Males had a median income of $34,301 versus $26,652 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,756. 11.3% of the population and 7.8% of families lived below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.6% of those under the age of 18 and 7.4% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

People

SE Corner of 24th & Lake Streets; North Omaha
View of 24th and Lake Streets in North Omaha, site of many notable events in Omaha's African American community

Native Americans were the first residents of the Omaha area. The city of Omaha was established by European Americans from neighboring Council Bluffs who arrived from the Northeast United States a few years earlier. While much of the early population was of Yankee stock, over the next 100 years numerous ethnic groups moved to the city. In 1910, the Census Bureau reported Omaha's population as 96.4% White and 3.6% Black. Irish immigrants in Omaha originally moved to an area in present-day North Omaha called "Gophertown", as they lived in dirt dugouts. That population was followed by Polish immigrants in the Sheelytown neighborhood, and many immigrants were recruited for jobs in South Omaha's stockyards and meatpacking industry. The German community in Omaha was largely responsible for founding its once-thriving beer industry, including the Metz, Krug, Falstaff and the Storz breweries.

Since its founding, ethnic groups in the city have clustered in enclaves in north, south and downtown Omaha. In its early days, the sometimes lawless nature of a new frontier city included crime, such as illicit gambling and riots.

In the early 20th century, Jewish immigrants set up numerous businesses along the North 24th Street commercial area. It suffered with the loss of industrial jobs in the 1960s and later, the shifting of population west of the city. The commercial area is now the center of the African American community, concentrated in North Omaha. The African-American community has maintained its social and religious base, while it is currently experiencing an economic revitalization.

The Little Italy neighborhood grew south of downtown, as many Italian immigrants came to the city to work in the Union Pacific shops. Scandinavians first came to Omaha as Mormon settlers in the Florence neighborhood. Czechs had a strong political and cultural voice in Omaha, and were involved in a variety of trades and businesses, including banks, wholesale houses, and funeral homes. The Notre Dame Academy and Convent and Czechoslovak Museum are legacies of their residence. Today the legacy of the city's early European immigrant populations is evident in many social and cultural institutions in Downtown and South Omaha.

Mexicans originally immigrated to Omaha to work in the rail yards. Today they compose the majority of South Omaha's Hispanic population and many have taken jobs in meat processing. Other significant early ethnic populations in Omaha included Danes, Poles, and Swedes.

A growing number of African immigrants have made their homes in Omaha in the last twenty years. There are approximately 8,500 Sudanese living in Omaha, comprising the largest population of Sudanese refugees in the United States. Most have immigrated since 1995 because of warfare in their nation. Ten different tribes are represented, including the Nuer, Dinka, Equatorians, Maubans and Nubians. Most Sudanese people in Omaha speak the Nuer language. Other Africans have immigrated to Omaha as well, with one-third from Nigeria, and significant populations from Kenya, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.

With the expansion of railroad and industrial jobs in meatpacking, Omaha attracted many new immigrants and migrants. As the major city in Nebraska, it has historically been more racially and ethnically diverse than the rest of the state. At times rapid population change, overcrowded housing and job competition have aroused racial and ethnic tensions. Around the start of the 20th century, violence towards new immigrants in Omaha often erupted out of suspicions and fears.

The Greek Town Riot in 1909 flared after increased Greek immigration, Greeks' working as strikebreakers, and the killing of an Irish policeman provoked violence among earlier immigrants such as ethnic Irish. That mob violence forced the Greek immigrant population to flee from the city. By 1910, 53.7% of Omaha's residents and 64.2% of South Omaha's residents were foreign born or had at least one parent born outside of America. Six years after the Greek Town Riot, in 1915, a Mexican immigrant named Juan Gonzalez was killed by a mob near Scribner, a town in the Greater Omaha metropolitan area. The event occurred after an Omaha Police Department officer was investigating a criminal operation selling goods stolen from the nearby railroad yards. Racial profiling targeted Gonzalez as the culprit. After escaping the city, he was trapped along the Elkhorn River, where the mob, including several policemen from Omaha, shot him more than twenty times. Afterward it was discovered that Gonzalez was unarmed, and that he had a reliable alibi for the time of the murder. Nobody was ever indicted for his killing. In the fall of 1919, following Red Summer, postwar social and economic tensions, the earlier hiring of blacks as strikebreakers, and job uncertainty contributed to a mob from South Omaha lynching Willy Brown and the ensuing Omaha Race Riot. Trying to defend Brown, the city's mayor, Edward Parsons Smith, was lynched also, surviving only after a quick rescue.

Similar to other industrial cities in the U.S., Omaha suffered severe job losses in the 1950s, more than 10,000 in total, as both the railroad and meatpacking industries restructured. Stockyards and packing plants were located closer to ranches, and union achievements were lost as wages declined in surviving jobs. Many workers left the area if they could get to other jobs. Poverty deepened in areas of the city whose residents had depended on those jobs, specifically North and South Omaha. At the same time, with reduced revenues, the city had less financial ability to respond to longstanding problems. Despair after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968 contributed to riots in North Omaha, including one at the Logan Fontenelle Housing Project. For some, the Civil Rights Movement in Omaha, Nebraska evolved towards black nationalism, as the Black Panther Party was involved in tensions in the late 1960s. Organizations such as the Black Association for Nationalism Through Unity became popular among the city's African-American youth. This tension culminated in the cause célèbre trial of the Rice/Poindexter Case, in which an Omaha Police Department officer was killed by a bomb while answering an emergency call.

Whites in Omaha have followed the white flight pattern, suburbanizing to West Omaha over time. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, gang violence and incidents between the Omaha Police and black residents undermined relations between groups in North and South Omaha. More recent Hispanic immigrants, concentrated in South Omaha, have struggled to earn living wages in meatpacking, adapt to a new society, and deal with discrimination.

Culture

Joslyn Art Museum
Joslyn Art Museum

The city's historical and cultural attractions have been lauded by numerous national newspapers, including the Boston Globe and The New York Times. Omaha is home to the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the United States. The Omaha Symphony Orchestra and its modern Holland Performing Arts Center, the Opera Omaha at the Orpheum theater, the Blue Barn Theatre, and The Rose Theater form the backbone of Omaha's performing arts community. Opened in 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum has significant art collections. Since its inception in 1976, Omaha Children's Museum has been a place where children can challenge themselves, discover how the world works and learn through play. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, one of the nation's premier urban artist colonies, was founded in Omaha in 1981, and the Durham Museum is accredited with the Smithsonian Institution for traveling exhibits. The city is also home to the largest singly funded mural in the nation, "Fertile Ground", by Meg Saligman. The annual Omaha Blues, Jazz, & Gospel Festival celebrates local music along with the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.

In 1955 Omaha's Union Stockyards overtook Chicago's stockyards as the United States' meat packing center. This legacy is reflected in the cuisine of Omaha, with renowned steakhouses such as Gorat's and the recently closed Mister C's, as well as the retail chain Omaha Steaks.

Henry Doorly Zoo

Desert Dome Omaha Zoo
Desert Dome at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

The Henry Doorly Zoo is widely considered one of the premier zoos in the world. The zoo is home to the world's largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp; the world's largest indoor rainforest, the world's largest indoor desert, and the largest geodesic dome in the world (13 stories tall). The Zoo is Nebraska's number one paid attendance attraction and has welcomed more than 25 million visitors over the past 40 years.

Old Market

The Old Market is a major historic district in Downtown Omaha listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Today, its warehouses and other buildings house shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and art galleries. Downtown is also the location of the Omaha Rail and Commerce Historic District, which has several art galleries and restaurants as well. The Omaha Botanical Gardens features 100 acres (40 ha) with a variety of landscaping, and the new Kenefick Park recognizes Union Pacific Railroad's long history in Omaha. North Omaha has several historical cultural attractions including the Dreamland Historical Project, Love's Jazz and Art Center, and the John Beasley Theater. The annual River City Roundup is celebrated at Fort Omaha, and the neighborhood of Florence celebrates its history during "Florence Days". Native Omaha Days is a biennial event celebrating Near North Side heritage.

Religious institutions reflect the city's heritage. The city's Christian community has several historical churches dating from the founding of the city. There are also all sizes of congregations, including small, medium and megachurches. Omaha hosts the only Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Nebraska, along with a significant Jewish community. There are 152 parishes in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, and several Orthodox Christian congregations throughout the city.

Music

CenturyLink Center Omaha
CenturyLink Center Omaha

Omaha's rich history in rhythm and blues, and jazz gave rise to a number of influential bands, including Anna Mae Winburn's Cotton Club Boys and Lloyd Hunter's Seranaders. Rock and roll pioneer Wynonie Harris; jazz great Preston Love; drummer Buddy Miles; and Luigi Waites are among the city's homegrown talent. Doug Ingle from the late 1960s band Iron Butterfly was born in Omaha as was indie folk singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, though both were raised elsewhere.

Today, the diverse culture of Omaha includes a variety of performance venues, museums, and musical heritage, including the historically significant jazz scene in North Omaha and the modern and influential "Omaha Sound".

Contemporary music groups either located in or originally from Omaha include Mannheim Steamroller, Bright Eyes, The Faint, Cursive, Azure Ray, Tilly and the Wall and 311. During the late 1990s, Omaha became nationally known as the birthplace of Saddle Creek Records, and the subsequent "Omaha Sound" was born from their bands' collective style.

Omaha also has a fledgling hip hop scene. Long-time bastion Houston Alexander, a one-time graffiti artist and professional Mixed Martial Arts competitor, is currently a local hip-hop radio show host. Cerone Thompson, known as "Scrybe", has had a number one single on college radio stations across the United States. He has also had several number one hits on the local hip hop station respectively titled, "Lose Control" and "Do What U Do". More recently, in 2009 Eric Scheid, also known as "Titus", released a single called "What Do You Believe" featuring Bizzy Bone from the nationally known hip hop group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The single was produced by Omaha producer J Keez. The record was released by Smashmode Publishing and Timeless Keys Music Publishing which are two Omaha-based music publishing companies. South Omaha's OTR Familia, consisting of MOC and Xpreshin aka XP, have worked with Fat Joes Terror Squad on several songs and have participated in summer concerts with Pitbull, Nicky Jam, and Aventura.

A long heritage of ethnic and cultural bands have come from Omaha. The Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame celebrates the city's long history of African-American music and the Strathdon Caledonia Pipe Band carries on a Scottish legacy. Internationally renowned composer Antonín Dvořák wrote his Ninth ("New World") Symphony in 1893 based on his impressions of the region after visiting Omaha's robust Czech community. In the period surrounding World War I Valentin J. Peter encouraged Germans in Omaha to celebrate their rich musical heritage, too. Frederick Metz, Gottlieb Storz and Frederick Krug were influential brewers whose beer gardens kept many German bands active.

Popular culture

In 1939, the world premiere of the film Union Pacific was held in Omaha, Nebraska and the accompanying three-day celebration drew 250,000 people. A special train from Hollywood carried director Cecil B. DeMille and stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. Omaha's Boys Town was made famous by the Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney movie Boys Town. Omaha has been featured in recent years by a handful of relatively big budget motion pictures. The city's most extensive exposure can be accredited to Omaha native Alexander Payne, the Oscar-nominated director who shot parts of About Schmidt, Citizen Ruth and Election in the city and suburbs of Papillion and La Vista.

Built in 1962, Omaha's Cinerama was called Indian Hills Theater. Its demolition in 2001 by the Nebraska Methodist Health System was unpopular, with objections from local historical and cultural groups and luminaries from around the world. The Dundee Theatre is the lone surviving single-screen movie theater in Omaha and still shows films. A recent development to the Omaha film scene was the addition of Film Streams's Ruth Sokolof Theater in North Downtown. The two-screen theater is part of the Slowdown facility. It features new American independents, foreign films, documentaries, classics, themed series, and director retrospectives. There are many new theaters opening in Omaha. In addition to the five Douglas Theatres venues in Omaha, two more are opening, including Midtown Crossing Theatres, located on 32nd and Farnam Streets by the Mutual of Omaha Building. Westroads Mall has opened a new multiplex movie theater with 14 screens, operated by Rave Motion Pictures.

Songs about Omaha include "Omaha" by Moby Grape, "Omaha", by the indie rock band Tapes 'n Tapes, "Omaha" by Counting Crows, "Omaha Celebration" by Pat Metheny, "Omaha" sung by Waylon Jennings, "Greater Omaha" by Desaparecidos, "Omaha Stylee" by 311 and "(Ready Or Not) Omaha Nebraska" by Bowling for Soup.

Popular young adult novel "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Press, 2013) takes place in Omaha.

The 1935 winner of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing was named Omaha, and after traveling the world the horse eventually retired to a farm south of the city. The horse made promotional appearances at Ak-Sar-Ben during the 1950s and following his death in 1959 was buried at the racetrack's Circle of Champions.

Sports and recreation

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Main entrance to the Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium

Sports have been important in Omaha for more than a century, and the city currently plays host to three minor-league professional sports teams.

It is perhaps more known as the home of the annual June NCAA College World Series men's baseball tournament, to which it has played host since 1950. The CWS has been played at the downtown TD Ameritrade Park since 2011.

The Omaha Sports Commission is a quasi-governmental nonprofit organization that coordinates much of the professional and amateur athletic activity in the city, including the 2008, 2012 and 2016 US Olympic Swimming Team Trials and the building of a new stadium in North Downtown. The University of Nebraska and the Commission co-hosted the 2008 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One Women's Volleyball Championship in December of that year. The 2016 Big 10 Baseball Championship was also played at the College World Series Stadium. Another quasi-governmental board, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA), was created by city voters in 2000, and is responsible for maintaining the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Sports teams in Omaha
Team Sport League Venue (capacity) Attendance
Creighton Bluejays men's basketball Basketball NCAA CenturyLink Center (18,560) 17,048
Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball Pacific Coast League Werner Park (9,000) 5,315
Omaha Lancers Ice hockey U.S. Hockey League Ralston Arena (4,600) 3,302
Creighton Bluejays men's soccer Soccer NCAA Morrison Stadium (6,000) 3,297
Omaha Pioneers Soccer USASA TBD
Inside TD Ameritrade Park Omaha
TD Ameritrade Park Omaha

The Omaha Storm Chasers play at Werner Park. They won seven championships (in 1969, 1970, 1978, 1990, 2011, 2013, and 2014). Omaha is also home to the Omaha Diamond Spirit, a collegiate summer baseball team that plays in the MINK league.

The Creighton University Bluejays compete in a number of NCAA Division I sports as members of the Big East Conference. Baseball is played at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, soccer is played at Morrison Stadium, and basketball is played at the 18,000 seat CenturyLink Center. The Jays annually rank in the top 15 in attendance each year, averaging more than 16,000 people per game. The Omaha Mavericks, representing the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO), also play Basketball, Baseball and Soccer in NCAA Division I as members of The Summit League. The UNO men's ice hockey team plays in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Ice hockey is a popular spectator sport in Omaha and there are two Omaha-area teams. The Omaha Lancers, a United States Hockey League team play at the Ralston Arena. The Omaha Mavericks play in the on-campus Baxter Arena.

Omaha was home to a new expansion team in the United Football League that play from 2010 to 2011. The Omaha Beef indoor football team played at the Omaha Civic Auditorium until 2012 when they moved to the new Ralston Arena.

The Kansas City-Omaha Kings, an NBA franchise, played in both cities from 1972 to 1978, before decamping solely to Kansas City until 1985, when the team moved to its current home of Sacramento.

Recreation

Omaha has a thriving running community and many miles of paved running and biking trails throughout the city and surrounding communities. The Omaha Marathon involves a half-marathon and a 10-kilometer (6.2 mi) race that take place annually in September. Omaha also has a history of curling, including multiple junior national champions. The city's historic boulevards were originally designed by Horace Cleveland in 1889 to work with the parks to create a seamless flow of trees, grass and flowers throughout the city. Florence Boulevard and Fontenelle Boulevard are among the remnants of this system. Omaha boasts more than 80 miles (129 km) of trails for pedestrians, bicyclists and hikers. They include the American Discovery Trail, which traverses the entire United States, and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail passes through Omaha as it travels 3,700 miles (5,950 km) westward from Illinois to Oregon. Trails throughout the area are included in comprehensive plans for the city of Omaha, the Omaha metropolitan area, Douglas County, and long-distance coordinated plans between the municipalities of southeast Nebraska.

Sister cities

Omaha has six sister cities:

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