Springview Stock Farm. That’s the name N. I. Solomon, a prosperous merchant, gave to his newly acquired 160 acre farm southeast of what would eventually be 52nd and Ames in 1880.
Solomon specialized in raising harness horses, Shetland ponies and pureblood Jersey cattle in a 100 foot barn. He built a three story brick home on the highest point on the property. A half mile oval race track was carved out of the rolling terrain, calling for cuts 12 feet deep and 30 feet wide to level the land for the track (possibly in the area of today’s traffic circle and to the west).
N. I. Solomon died in 1889. His family eventually divided the land, sold the southern half and turned their remaining interest into a 25 acre grape vineyard. The farm became one of the largest locally owned winemakers around. Two fine wine cellars were built.
Over time the Solomons left the land and rented it out. The buildings deteriorated, especially after a windstorm tore the roof off the house, and were leveled one by one.
In the 1930s the University of Omaha was looking to move west from its 24th Street location. The 60 acre Solomon farm was briefly considered before the decision was made to build at 60th and Dodge Streets. Lucky that was for the Masonic Home for Children as it left the “high and sightly” site at 52nd and Ames Streets for a new campus for the Home.
In an elaborate ceremony with hundreds present a flag was erected at the highest point on the property on June 22, 1941. A local architectural firm – George B. Prinz and Noel Wallace – was engaged to draw up a campus plan built around ten residential cottages and a winding boulevard with a traffic circle in it. A maintenance building (today’s Carriage House) was built in 1941-42 to serve as development headquarters.
In June 1944 a grader started work to level the last vestiges of the Springview Farm racing track and to slope the land for the new campus with its winding boulevard. Masonic cornerstones were laid for the first three cottages in October 1944 and two additional cottages came shortly after. Boys were moved here in the summer of 1945.
In this 1947 view of the Home, the first five cottage can be seen around the traffic circle and the Carriage House is visible to the lower right. Ames Avenue, eventually to be a main thoroughfare, crosses the picture near the top.
In 1953 some board members sat in the lounge of the Shrine Cottage and admired the view to the east over the Missouri River Valley. The term “Inspiration Hill,” a name still used today for our Residential Care Program, was born.
From Springview Farm to Inspiration Hill…quite a 73 years! There’s much more to tell but this never ending story will have to wait for a later date.
John E. Carter