Early Omaha: Gateway to the West
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This building, located on the northeast corner of 17th and Farnam, was the first skyscraper in Omaha. It was built in the late 1880s by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White at the behest of the New York Life Insurance Company. In 1909 the Omaha National Bank purchased the New York Life Building from the New York Life Insurance company for $750,000 and renamed it the Omaha Building. In 1972 the Omaha Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Sometimes things really do go full circle: in 1887 the New York Life Insurance Company bought the land on which the building is located from businessman and former Mayor of Omaha Joseph H. Millard, and in 1909 New York Life sold the land and the building to the Omaha National Bank, of which Joseph H. Millard (now also a former Senator from Nebraska) was at that time the president.
At the same time that it built this building McKim, Mead, and White also built a nearly identical building in Kansas City, Missouri. For more information about that building, the architectural style of both buildings, and the firm that built them, go to the Kansas City Public Library's page about Kansas City's New York Life Building.
In 1920 an eleventh floor was added to both of the building's towers. In 1972 the Omaha Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Text written by Jason Kaspar, Summer 2003
Here are a few more images of the New York Life Building:
Dustin, Dorothy Devereux. Omaha & Douglas County: A Panoramic History. Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, 1980. Pages 172-175.
An Inventory of Historic Omaha Buildings. Prepared by Landmarks, Inc. under a grant from the City of Omaha and in cooperation with the Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission, 1980. Page 18.
Sorenson, Alfred. The Story of Omaha. Omaha: National Printing Company, 1923. Page 508.