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Examination of Omaha’s Annexation History: Dundee

Shortly after the wave of annexations that Omaha saw at the end of the 19th century, the city was looking to expand again. Omaha’s population had tripled between 1890 and 1910,[1] but found that it was boxed in by the river to the east and smaller towns and villages to the north, west, and south. So began another three-year frenzy that would see Omaha’s borders extend to envelope three sizeable towns (and increase the city’s population by 50,000 in ten years).

Most people who have spent time in Omaha consider Dundee as a charming historical neighborhood in the heart of Omaha, but this was not always the case.

In 1870, John Nelson Hayes Patrick purchased 800 acres of land west of Omaha’s city limits and built a sprawling mansion at what is now the intersection of Happy Hollow Boulevard and Underwood Avenue. (The house would later be used as the Happy Hollow Club.) In the 1880s, Patrick hired a Kansas City firm to build six more houses on his land in the hopes of attracting wealthy Omahans to live in an exclusive new suburb run by the Patrick Land Company. The Dundee Place development sat on the land that is now 48th to 52nd Streets and Dodge to Cuming Streets.

The rules were strict: only residential properties could be built, homes must have a minimum value of $2,500, they must sit 25 feet from the street, and no alcohol or other “immoral business” would be permitted.

Advertisement for Dundee Place, Omaha World-Herald. November 1888. Image courtesy of Omaha Public Library.

By 1893, real estate developer Walter L. Selby had built his own grand house at 4808 Davenport Street, but he was one of very few people who had shown interest in the fledgling community. Much of the land was being used for farming. Only about ten residential homes had been built, and the landscape was rather barren. In order to provide the village with fast-growing greenery, Selby and Patrick purchased over 2,000 maple trees to be planted along the village’s streets. Around the same time, contracts with the street railway company guaranteed residents quick and affordable transportation into the city, and construction on Dundee’s commercial district was underway. In 1905, developers offered free lots to families that promised to build a home, then paid out $500 bonuses if they stayed more than a year.

J.N.H. Patrick House at Happy Hollow Boulevard and Underwood Avenue, ca. 1899. Image courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

Walter L. Selby House at 4808 Davenport Street, ca. 1899. Image courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

By 1900, Dundee’s population had grown to 400, then ballooned to over 1,000 in 1910. It began to expand to accommodate the newcomers, annexing land to Hamilton Street to the north and Howard Street to the south. The residents were affluent, the properties were grand, and the streets were quiet. Though Dundee was largely self-sufficient with its own pharmacy, shops, church, and school, the infrastructure that kept the village running (streetcar and utilities) came from Omaha.

In 1915, the city of Omaha proposed the annexation of Dundee village, citing benefits to business interests in both communities. The village of Dundee was staunchly against the idea. A flyer distributed in January 1915 read: “Dundee is opposed to annexation to the city of Omaha…People chose their homes in Dundee because of its form of government, location, environment, and promising future. Dundee, if left alone, will become a village, the beauty, progressiveness, morality, and patriotism of which the state will be proud. Dundee pleads to be left alone.”

When it became clear that the annexation would be decided by a vote, there was an attempt to declare the bill unconstitutional due to the great disparity between the populations of Omaha and Dundee (Omaha was approximately one hundred times larger).

Nevertheless, the vote was held in early June 1915. Of the 380 votes cast by Dundee residents, 301 opposed annexation, but Omaha’s 9,769 pro-annexation votes (out of 10,283 total votes) called for annexation to become effective June 5, 1915.[2] The village board of Dundee lobbied for Omaha to bankroll several improvements, including “paving, sewering, and lighting of the finest description.”[3] This caused some grumbling from Omaha taxpayers, but their voices in June’s vote had fused Dundee’s fate with the city of Omaha.

For the past hundred years, Dundee has remained a picturesque part of Omaha, and has become one of the city’s most iconic historic neighborhoods.


[1] Drozd, David and Jerry Deichert. Nebraska Historical Populations. Center for Public Affairs Research

University of Nebraska at Omaha, 2018.

[2] “Greater Omaha Voters Strong for Annexation.” Omaha World-Herald. June 2, 1915.

[3] “Many residents fought annexation.” Sun Newspapers. Oct. 9, 1980.

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