Streetcar-Era Commercial Development

Omaha’s commercial development and transportation infrastructure are closely tied. When the streetcar system was introduced in 1868, it revolutionized travel within the city limits and beyond. Over the system’s eighty-seven-year history, technological advancements, fierce competition, and an ever-growing populace pushed the limits of streetcar transportation and left an indelible mark on Omaha’s commercial development. As the streetcar increased transportation speed and efficiency, new residential developments were established outside the downtown commercial core. Small commercial clusters emerged to serve these neighborhoods and were located on prominent streets along the streetcar route. Simultaneously, commercial districts in outlying municipalities such as Benson and Dundee enjoyed increased growth brought by streetcar traffic and their improved connections to Omaha. Eventually, these connections would lead to the annexation of four separate cities in the early twentieth century and the formation of Omaha as it is known today.

The City of Omaha contracted Rosin Preservation to complete a Multiple Property Submission to document this rich history. Rosin Preservation conducted archival research and field study to document the history of the streetcar system in Omaha and commercial development along its routes. In addition to the development context, Rosin Preservation identified the property types associated with the historic streetcar system and defined their significance and character-defining features. Rosin Preservation prepared two National Register of Historic Places district nominations to support the Multiple Property Documentation Form. This Multiple Property Submission will help communities and stakeholders identify commercial districts associated with this fascinating system and provide access to economic development incentives, specifically state and federal historic tax credits for substantial rehabilitation projects.


Orchard Hill Commercial Historic District Benson Commercial Historic District Omaha, NE


National Register, Multiple Property Documentation Form