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In 1916 the Bankers Realty Investment Company built the Blackstone as a residential hotel rather than an apartment building to serve the transient elite of Omaha’s Gold Coast. With units rented by the year rather than by the day, the Blackstone was a deliberate attempt to provide a luxurious form of communal housing that would also serve as the social center in the emerging wealthy neighborhood just west of the city center. Residents of the developing area included many of Omaha’s financial, business, and social leaders who lived in architect-designed houses of the era’s most fashionable styles. Three streetcar lines and a paved Farnam Street provided access to and from the Blackstone Hotel.
Francis W. Fitzpatrick’s design for this large, prestigious building utilized a frame of structural steel and an E-shaped plan with eight stories above a raised basement. Renaissance Revival details are evident in the horizontal divisions of the facade created by terra-cotta bands and the classical details of the cornices of the three projecting blocks. The horizontal divisions of the tall brick curtain walls also suggest a vertical three-part composition typically associated with commercial buildings. Verticality is further emphasized by two terra-cotta stripes, encompassing pairs of windows and rising up the front facades of the three main blocks from the second to the seventh stories.
When it opened, the Blackstone included large residential suites as well as glass sunrooms, restaurants, a grand ballroom on the top floor, and roof gardens covered with wood trellises. The interior was an eclectic mixture of luxurious appointments, furniture, and a marble grand staircase.
In the years following Blackstone’s completion, numerous apartment buildings were erected in the Gold Coast and these eventually became more popular than the Blackstone’s extended stay residential model. In 1920 Vienna-born Charles Schimmel purchased the building and converted it into a regular hotel. For the next half-century the Blackstone housed the city’s finest social events and was well known for its elegant accommodations and fine food. The Blackstone’s most famous restaurant, the Orleans Room, received Holiday Magazine’s Award of Excellence for sixteen straight years. Among the amenities were an upscale limousine service for visiting dignitaries and its own magazine, The Blackstonian.
The Raddison Hotel Corporation of Minneapolis purchased the Blackstone in 1968. Following the gradual erosion of business, the hotel closed in 1976. In 1984 the building was renovated for use as offices and renamed the Blackstone Center.
Meyer, Lynn, “Blackstone Hotel," Douglas County, Nebraska. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1982. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
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