[From the Joslyn Castle Neighborhood Association]
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, prominent families began building large homes on North 38th Street with its commanding view of downtown Omaha and the Loess Hills of Council Bluffs. Some of the prominent families that called this area home were the McDonalds (architect of the Joslyn Castle); the Storzs (one of their earlier homes was at 4106 Davenport); the Haydens (founders of Omaha’s first department store); the Barmettlers at 622 N. 38th Street (owners of the largest cracker factory ovens in the world) and of course the Joslyns.
The beginning construction of St. Cecilia’s Cathedral also influenced the development of the area. On March 14, 1997, under the name of Gold Coast Historic District, a section of these homes in our neighborhood were placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service.
Public transportation also influenced the development of the area. Trolley service connected this far western edge of Omaha to the rest of the city. Through most of the 1900’s, the center of commerce was not Dodge Street as it is today. The neighborhood main street radiated from the intersections of Cuming and 40th Streets. Easy access to downtown jobs by trolley fueled the building of middle-class homes in the west half of the neighborhood. Many fine examples of the popular Craftsman bungalows and Prairie Style Four-Squares today grace the western slope of the neighborhood.
In the 1920’s, the city directory listed 15 to 20 businesses in a one-block radius of this intersection. Some of the businesses that occupied the mostly one-story storefronts included 3 grocers, 3 drug stores, a newspaper, a post office, a cafe and an undertaker just to name a few. The Joslyn Castle neighborhood was also the original location of the Omaha Community Playhouse. The playhouse was built in Sarah Joslyn’s milk cow pasture, on the northwest corner of 40th and Davenport.