United States: Omaha

Omaha (/ˈoʊməhɑː/ OH-mə-hah) is the largest city in the state of Nebraska and the county seat of Douglas County. Omaha is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 10 miles (15 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. Omaha is the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, which includes Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River from Omaha. According to the 2010 census, Omaha's population was 408,958, having increased to 466,893 as of the 2017 estimate. This makes Omaha the nation's 40th-largest city. Including its suburbs, Omaha formed the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2013, with an estimated population of 895,151 residing in eight counties. The Omaha-Council Bluffs-Fremont, Nebraska-IA Combined Statistical Area is 931,667, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 estimate. Nearly 1.3 million people reside within the Greater Omaha area, comprising a 50-mile (80 km) radius of Downtown Omaha, the city's center.

Omaha's pioneer period began in 1854, when the city was founded by speculators from neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city was founded along the Missouri River, and a crossing called Lone Tree Ferry earned the city its nickname, the "Gateway to the West". Omaha introduced this new West to the world in 1898, when it played host to the World's Fair, dubbed the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. During the 19th century, Omaha's central location in the United States spurred the city to become an important national transportation hub. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the transportation and jobbing sectors were important in the city, along with its railroads and breweries. In the 20th century, the Omaha Stockyards, once the world's largest, and its meatpacking plants gained international prominence.

Before it was legal to claim land in Indian Country, William D. Brown was operating the Lone Tree Ferry to bring settlers from Council Bluffs, Iowa to the area that became Omaha. Brown is generally credited as having the first vision for a city where Omaha now sits. The passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854 was presaged by the staking out of claims around the area to become Omaha by residents from neighboring Council Bluffs. On July 4, 1854, the city was informally established at a picnic on Capital Hill, current site of Omaha Central High School. Soon after, the Omaha Claim Club was formed to provide vigilante justice for claim jumpers and others who infringed on the land of many of the city's founding fathers. Some of this land, which now wraps around Downtown Omaha, was later used to entice Nebraska Territorial legislators to an area called Scriptown. The Territorial capitol was located in Omaha, but when Nebraska became a state in 1867, the capital was relocated to Lincoln, 53 miles (85 km) south-west of Omaha. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled against numerous landowners whose violent actions were condemned in Baker v. Morton.

Many of Omaha's founding figures stayed at the Douglas House or the Cozzens House Hotel. Dodge Street was important early in the city's early commercial history; North 24th Street and South 24th Street developed independently as business districts, as well. Early pioneers were buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery and Cedar Hill Cemetery. Cedar Hill closed in the 1860s and its graves were moved to Prospect Hill, where pioneers were later joined by soldiers from Fort Omaha, African Americans and early European immigrants. There are several other historical cemeteries in Omaha, historical Jewish synagogues and historical Christian churches dating from the pioneer era, as well. The city's pioneering history is celebrated at two sculpture parks, Pioneer Courage and Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness and The Transcontinental Railroad.

Immigrants soon created ethnic enclaves throughout the city, including Irish in Sheelytown in South Omaha; Germans in the Near North Side, joined by the European Jews and black migrants from the South; Little Italy and Little Bohemia in South Omaha. Beginning in the late 19th century, Omaha's upper class lived in posh enclaves throughout the city, including the south and north Gold Coast neighborhoods, Bemis Park, Kountze Place, Field Club and throughout Midtown Omaha. They traveled the city's sprawling park system on boulevards designed by renowned landscape architect Horace Cleveland. The Omaha Horse Railway first carried passengers throughout the city, as did the later Omaha Cable Tramway Company and several similar companies. In 1888, the Omaha and Council Bluffs Railway and Bridge Company built the Douglas Street Bridge, the first pedestrian and wagon bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs. Gambling, drinking and prostitution were widespread in the 19th century, first rampant in the city's Burnt District and later in the Sporting District. Controlled by Omaha's political boss Tom Dennison by 1890, criminal elements enjoyed support from Omaha's "perpetual" mayor, "Cowboy Jim" Dahlman, nicknamed for his eight terms as mayor. Calamities such as the Great Flood of 1881 did not slow down the city's violence. In 1882, the Camp Dump Strike pitted state militia against unionized strikers, drawing national attention to Omaha's labor troubles. The Governor of Nebraska had to call in U.S. Army troops from nearby Fort Omaha to protect strikebreakers for the Burlington Railroad, bringing along Gatling guns and a cannon for defense. When the event ended, one man was dead and several were wounded. In 1891, a mob hanged Joe Coe, an African-American porter after he was accused of raping a white girl. There were several other riots and civil unrest events in Omaha during this period as well.

Since the 1970s, Omaha has continued expanding and growing, mostly to available land to the west. West Omaha has become home to the majority of the city's population. North and South Omaha's populations continue to be centers of new immigrants, with economic and racial diversity. In 1975 a major tornado, along with a major blizzard, caused more than $100 million in damages in 1975 dollars.

Downtown Omaha has since been rejuvenated in numerous ways, starting with the development of Gene Leahy Mall and W. Dale Clark Library in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, Omaha's fruit warehouses were converted into a shopping area called the Old Market.

The demolition of Jobber's Canyon in 1989 led to the creation of the ConAgra Foods campus. Several nearby buildings, including the Nash Block, have been converted into condominiums. The stockyards were taken down; the only surviving building is the Livestock Exchange Building, which was converted to multi-use and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Omaha is located at 41°15′N 96°0′W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 130.58 square miles (338.20 km2), of which 127.09 square miles (329.16 km2) is land and 3.49 square miles (9.04 km2) is water. Situated in the Midwestern United States on the bank of the Missouri River in eastern Nebraska, much of Omaha is built in the Missouri River Valley. Other significant bodies of water in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area include Lake Manawa, Papillion Creek, Carter Lake, Platte River and the Glenn Cunningham Lake. The city's land has been altered considerably with substantial land grading throughout Downtown Omaha and scattered across the city. East Omaha sits on a flood plain west of the Missouri River. The area is the location of Carter Lake, an oxbow lake. The lake was once the site of East Omaha Island and Florence Lake, which dried up in the 1920s.

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area consists of eight counties; five in Nebraska and three in Iowa. The metropolitan area now includes Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills Counties in Iowa and Washington, Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, and Saunders Counties in Nebraska. This area was formerly referred to only as the Omaha Metropolitan Statistical Area and consisted of only five counties: Pottawattamie in Iowa, and Washington, Douglas, Cass, and Sarpy in Nebraska. The Omaha-Council Bluffs combined statistical area comprises the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan statistical area and the Fremont Micropolitan statistical area; the CSA has a population of 858,720 (2005 Census Bureau estimate). Omaha ranks as the 42nd-largest city in the United States, and is the core city of its 60th-largest metropolitan area. There are currently no consolidated city-counties in the area; the City of Omaha studied the possibility extensively through 2003 and concluded, "The City of Omaha and Douglas County should merge into a municipal county, work to commence immediately, and that functional consolidations begin immediately in as many departments as possible, including but not limited to parks, fleet management, facilities management, local planning, purchasing and personnel."

Native Americans were the first residents of the Omaha area. The city of Omaha was established by European Americans from neighboring Council Bluffs who arrived from the Northeast United States a few years earlier. While much of the early population was of Yankee stock, over the next 100 years numerous ethnic groups moved to the city. In 1910, the Census Bureau reported Omaha's population as 96.4% White and 3.6% Black. Irish immigrants in Omaha originally moved to an area in present-day North Omaha called "Gophertown", as they lived in dug-out sod houses. That population was followed by Polish immigrants in the Sheelytown neighborhood, and many immigrants were recruited for jobs in South Omaha's stockyards and meatpacking industry. The German community in Omaha was largely responsible for founding its once-thriving beer industry, including the Metz, Krug, Falstaff and the Storz breweries.

Since its founding, ethnic groups in the city have clustered in enclaves in north, south and downtown Omaha. In its early days, the sometimes lawless nature of a new frontier city included crime, such as illicit gambling and riots.

The city's historical and cultural attractions have been lauded by numerous national newspapers, including the Boston Globe and The New York Times. Omaha is home to the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the United States. The Omaha Symphony Orchestra and its modern Holland Performing Arts Center, the Opera Omaha at the Orpheum theater, the Blue Barn Theatre, and The Rose Theater form the backbone of Omaha's performing arts community. Opened in 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum has significant art collections. Since its inception in 1976, Omaha Children's Museum has been a place where children can challenge themselves, discover how the world works and learn through play. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, one of the nation's premier urban artist colonies, was founded in Omaha in 1981, and the Durham Museum is accredited with the Smithsonian Institution for traveling exhibits. The city is also home to the largest singly funded mural in the nation, "Fertile Ground", by Meg Saligman. The annual Omaha Blues, Jazz, & Gospel Festival celebrates local music along with the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.

In 1955 Omaha's Union Stockyards overtook Chicago's stockyards as the United States' meat packing center. This legacy is reflected in the cuisine of Omaha, with renowned steakhouses such as Gorat's and the recently closed Mister C's, as well as the retail chain Omaha Steaks.

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