A clear pixel

Morn. Twilight: 6:45 A.M.
Sunrise: 7:13 A.M.
Sunset: 7:18 P.M.
Duration: 12h, 5m
Eve. Twilight: 7:46 A.M.
Visible Light: 13h

"Florence Futures"

Gateway to the Old West

Omaha & Oto/Missouria Tribes
Lewis & Clark Trail
Fur Trading Posts
Winter Quarters Historical Site
Mormon Trail Outfitting Town
Gold Rush to California & Colorado
Territorial Speculative Town 1854-1867
Capital of Nebraska Territory
(for one Glorious Week)

Incorporated After the
1854 Kansas/Nebraska Act



Build On & Enhance Florence's Assets With Cultural Historical Interpretation, Education, and Community Development While Overcoming Florence's Challenges

Florence Assets:

  1. Location: Next to the Missouri River and 1-680
  2. History: Oto/Missouria & Omaha presence, Lewis & Clark in Dodge Park, Fur Trade sites, proximity to Old West military forts of Fort Omaha & Fort Atkinson, The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, ‘49er Gold Rush & California Trail, 1856-1860 Hand-cart Companies, Official LDS "Down & Back" outfitting town from 1861 to 1863, Alternate Oregon Trail, the Bank, Depot, Mill, and town-builders of Territorial Nebraska
  3. Water: Missouri River, Mill Creek, Water Treatment Plant
  4. Parks: Hummel Park, Dodge Park, Neale Woods, Miller Park, Florence Park~
  5. Recreation: Back-to-the-River Hiking/Biking Trail along the Missouri River, (Yr k~. golf in Miller Park (Omaha's oldest golf course), horseback riding in Ponca Hills, annual May Florence Days Celebration, Melodrama & Parade
  6. Public Art: Bronze sculptures at Mormon Trail Center & Pioneer Cemetery, Totem Pole and J. Doe sculpture at the Florence Library & Recreation Center
  7. Winter Quarters Temple: Spiritual aspects, increased visitation & tourism
  8. Families: Strong multi-generational family links to Florence

Florence Challenges:

  1. distressed economy
  2. negative appearance of main street: empty storefronts and loss of older buildings
  3. perception of danger, hopelessness and bad reputation
  4. fast through-traffic & lack of parking
  5. lack of day activity/shopping options and night life
  6. lack of cooperation & coordination with many competing civic groups

DEVELOPMENT multi-year plan

Cultural I Historic Florence

• Connect Back-to-the-River-Trail along the Missouri River to a Historic Florence Trail - a hiking/biking trail-loop from the river to historic sites in Florence, creating a destination for the Federal Trails project.
• Creation of a Winter Quarters Historic Park between the Florence Mill & Missouri River by reconstructing the 1846 Winter Quarters Council House and Willard Richard's Octagon House along the Historic Florence Trail.
• "Historic Florence" Welcome Signs at North (30th & McKinley) & South (3O~ & Craig) entrances to old-town Florence
• Markers/plaques to honor prominent figures in Florence history before 1917

Education - Community Outreach • 1) neighborhood history talks
2) hands-on history for family activities during Florence Days
• "School Days in Historic Florence" Enhance history studies for elementary schools, targeting 3rd & 4th grades
• Video training & production of a historical documentary - "Introducing Historic Omaha.. . Florence" Produced in partnership with Omaha Public Schools, Community Discovered, Metropolitan Community College and Cox Cable.

Community - Neighborhood Stabilization & Beautification
• Public Art - outdoor sculptures - emphasis on historical themes
• Old fashioned outdoor lighting
• Colorful seasonal banners
• Potted flowers
• Landscaping
• Old-fashioned street benches I outdoor furniture
• Park beautification
• Encourage business owners to value historic ambiance & preservation
• Slow-down through-traffic


A Florence Renaissance * will have a positive impact by encouraging capital improvement and creating a stronger economic environment. The community goals are to increase specialty shopping options, quality entertainment and evening activities for increased visitation while maintaining the existing small-town atmosphere and improving historic ambiance.

Community components:
unique restaurants & "saloon" establishments
specialty shopping options
antique shops, art galleries
tours & recreation (cultural tourism)
books, cards, & gift shops
grocery & pharmacy
cleaners, barbers, beauticians, laundry
real estate office
banks/savings & loans
residential neighborhoods
medical facilities/clinics
library & Community Center
Govt./Post Office
Schools & churches
seniors/housing & care

*Renaissance as defined in the second edition of Webster New International Dictionary:

  1. be born again
    a new birth or revival, specifically: the transitional movement in Europe between the Medieval & the modem, marked especially by the revival of classical influence. Italian: "a new arising"
  2. any period similarly characterized by enthusiastic & vigorous activity among literary, artistic, or other lines; strictly, such a period when distinguished by a revival of interest in the past or a return to old masters for inspiration.
  3. a return of youthful vigor, freshness, zest, or productivity; W a rebirth, or renewal of life.


2003 Funding Assistance - Application Summary

Name of project: Territorial Garden

Project address/community: 30~ & Willitt, Florence neighborhood of North Omaha

Project sponsor(s): Florence Futures

Name of Project coordinator: Linda Meigs

Address of Coordinator: 5215 Jackson, Omaha NE 68106-1331

Daytime phone number of coordinator: 402-551-1233, (cel: 402-708-4298)

e-mail address of coordinator:

Project will be completed on land owned by: Florence Historical Foundation

If funded, do you wish to have assistance with project planning & design? Yes Amount of funding requested: $25,000 Estimated total cost of project $36,100

Territorial Garden Proposed Project Budget:

  Grant Funds Local Funds Total
Plant Material & Plant installation $15,000 $500 $15,500
Site Preparation $2,000 $1,000 $3,000
Project planning/design (Big Muddy Workshop pro-bono) $5,000 $600 $5,600
Hardscaping $3,000 $9,000 $12,000
Total $25,000 $11,100 $36,100

* Rounded Figures

A. Project Summary

The Territorial Garden will be a contemplative space where people, plants and history interrelate In addition to creating an urban green space, the Territorial Garden will improve cohesiveness of character and enhance the historical atmosphere in a community trying to improve itself Florence played a large role in the early development of Nebraska Territory. The speculative river-town of Florence was founded on the ruins of Winter Quarters as the Kansas Nebraska Act was being ratified in 1854. We hope to dedicate the Territorial Garden in 2004 as part of Omaha's 150~ Anniversary Celebration of the birth of Nebraska Territory.

The current site is an unattractive "L" shaped lot north and west of a historic bank building. The grounds connect the 1856 Bank Museum to another landmark structure: the former Tollhouse for the Mormon Bridge over the Missouri River. The empty lot west of the 1856 Bank Museum has a tree stump and bluegrass turf. The plot north of the bank contains three inappropriate cement bus-stop benches, a crude sign, and a few struggling hostas. A chain-link fence and a variety of used/unused electrical poles border the property. One ginko tree is worth keeping. The aesthetics are dreary, but full of potential.

B. Types of Plantings

The Territorial Garden will incorporate old-fashioned and hardy plants that could have traveled west with the first pioneers and settlers. Native plants that fit into a sustainable xeriscape philosophy will be given priority as well as low maintenance through elimination of chemicals and fertilizers.

C. Environmental & Community Benefits

The Florence neighborhood's potential for heritage tourism is underdeveloped. Many thousands of people pass through Florence and these numbers have increased significantly since the building of the Winter Quarters Temple and the rebuilding of the 1846 Nauvoo Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois. Unfortunately, these visitors don't linger. Florence has always had a strong sense of neighborhood but has been without the kind of focus that can turn that sense into positive development. We need to interpret, beautify and emphasize the multiple historical sites of Florence as a way to lift up this economically distressed part of Omaha.

The Territorial Garden is a multipurpose outreach project. It is an urban refuge. It interprets a historical neighborhood and educates the visiting public. ft will increase public safety through enhancing neighborhood identity and pride, by increasing foot traffic and by encouraging economic development. It will be another reason to visit Historic Florence.

D. How the Project will be Maintained

Maintenance of the Territorial Garden will be provided by various community groups: Florence Futures, Florence Historical Foundation, Florence Concerned Citizens, Florence Kiwanis, and the "Do-Something Club" from Florence Elementary School. We plan to invite student involvement from North High School, Metropolitan Community College and UNO.

E. How Design Plans will be Developed

Linda Meigs, an artist and Director of the Florence Mill is coordinating the Territorial Garden project for the Florence Futures neighborhood group. Professional advice and expertise will be supplied by Big Muddy Workshop. Other advisors for the Territorial Garden project partners will include the horticulture departments of Metropolitan Community College, University of Nebraska at Omaha and Notre Dame Master Gardener Sr. Mary Beth Kubesh.

F. About Florence Futures

Florence Futures is a grass-roots effort of cooperation, industry, and a creative vision for expanding the possibilities within our far-North Omaha community. We are a neighborhood advocacy group that has met monthly for several years to explore ways to advance neighborhood identity, promote cooperation, enhance community stabilization and beautification, encourage historic awareness, develop heritage tourism, and enhance economic development. Our mission is to preserve, enhance and promote cultural, historical, educational and community assets of Florence.

Florence Futures has organized short-range and long-range ideas into a plan called the "Historic Florence Initiative." The goal of the Historic Florence Initiative is to enhance neighborhood identity and to reverse economic decline by capitalizing on the wealth of historic sites available within Florence. Heritage tourism can transform this unique neighborhood into a lively neighborhood. The Territorial Garden is an important part of the "Historic Florence Initiative." It will beautify a prominent location on 3O~ Street where there are too many empty storefronts, empty lots and parking lots. It will instill an awareness of history and this community's Territorial heritage.

Florence Futures has formed alliances with other community groups and organizations: North Omaha Commercial Club, Florence Kiwanis, Florence Concerned Citizens, Florence Historical Foundation, Douglas County Historical Society, Florence Mill, Notre Dame Sisters and Seven Oaks, the Florence Home, Mormon Trail Center, Florence Library, Metropolitan Community College and Florence Elementary.

A "Historic Florence" web-site is being developed with the help of a 2002 Nebraska Department of Travel & Tourism Marketing grant, which could keep people aware of garden progress. We successfully applied for Mayor Fahey's Neighborhood Improvement Grant to fund two ornamental and old-fashioned "Historic Florence" signs to beautify and define the North and South 30 Street boundaries of Florence. We are working with a Mammel Foundation grant to staff and host regular open hours at the Bank Museum, Florence Depot and Florence Mill starting in the summer of 2003.

Florence Futures Officers:
Reverend Beverly Leonard, President
Linda Meigs, Vice President
Mike Wolfe, Treasurer
Sister Mary Ann Zimmer, Secretary
Members of the Board:
Lowen Kruse, Mele Mason, Betty Davis, Liz Westphalen, Rose Roeder, Jan Pinaire.