When you walk through the Hanscom Park neighborhood, you are walking through one of Omaha's original “suburbs.”
Yes, back at the turn of the 20th century, when the area began to be developed, it was considered a subdivision for families who didn't want to live downtown, who wanted to raise their kids in comfortable houses with big yards and breathe fresh air. In the 1890s, the land was on Omaha's southwestern edge, but the commute into town for workers wasn't bad because of the streetcar system.
Hanscom Park is on land donated by Andrew Hanscom and James Megeath in 1872. It was developed into a park in 1889, one of the first by the city's newly created Park Commission.
While the Hanscom Park neighborhood is defined as the area from Center Street south to Interstate 80 and Interstate 480 west to 42nd Street, we walked through a smaller area along Hanscom Boulevard, from Hanscom Park south to Castelar Street. Those blocks seem representative of what you find throughout most of the neighborhood.
The neighborhood association is active and is willing to cooperate with other associations that border it to accomplish improvements for its residents. For example, it joined forces with the Ford Birthsite Neighborhood Association to establish the city's midtown off-leash dog park within Hanscom Park.
Hanscom Park Association leaders also have come up with a great way for neighbors to get to know one another. It's called Front Porch Fridays and anyone who lives nearby is invited to the front porch of a host family's home for a few hours on Friday evenings.
Lawn chairs are welcome. There are snacks, and talk bounces from group to group with a wide range of topics: neighborhood irritants, what's happening in other parts of Omaha, the start of the school year, child care, entertainment, pets and gardening. Dog walkers or joggers passing by wave or pause to say hello and get caught up in conversations.
A recent gathering was at the 1912 home of Jim Clements, neighborhood association president; his wife, Magali; and their children, Cecilia and Killian.
Billy Sobczyk, one of the first guests to arrive with his family to the gathering, said he's not terribly outgoing so he welcomes these get-togethers. They provide a way for him to meet people and develop friendships and other contacts.
Clements said the neighborhood is “half and half” — half young families, half retired people or senior citizens.
Sobczyk, his wife, Lindsay, and their three young children have lived in the area for two and a half years. Billy said his mother grew up on Hanscom Boulevard, and they decided this neighborhood was a good place for them to raise their children, too.
An older couple, Royce and Karla Gomez, had lived away from Omaha for 32 years. They moved back because of family and they love the neighborhood.
Kelley Rosburg moved into her Hanscom Park home from west Omaha after her kids graduated from high school. There's a sense of community and continuity that her west Omaha neighborhood had lacked, she said. Her 96-year-old house was purchased from an architect who had lived in it for 72 years, and she likes the idea of being entrusted to take care of the house now.
Many of the homes have passed from generation to generation within families, or different branches of a family tree live in various homes within blocks of each other.
It's a close-knit neighborhood, residents say. Not one of them had anything bad to say about it.
There is little commercial development on these streets. But Center Street and Leavenworth have stores, gas stations and places to eat out, and they aren't too far away. The Interstate is on the neighborhood's doorstep, so going farther afield isn't really a problem either.
Old neighborhood full of lovely two-story houses built mostly in the early 1900s, big shade trees and friendly people. It's a neighborhood that invites activity: walking the dog, taking an evening constitutional, enjoying a healthy jog or making a quick trip to the park.
Hanscom Park, with its lagoon, gardens and greenhouse, walking trails and off-leash dog park. It's the perfect place for a family picnic, getting a little exercise or enjoying a quiet moment communing with nature. And the park pavilion is great for neighborhood activities.
Other great things:
• Near the Interstate but not disturbed by it; quiet streets.
• Fairly low crime area; no major crimes reported since Jan. 1, according to the Omaha Police Department's website.
• Many of the old homes that had been broken up into apartments are reverting back to single-family homes.
• Homes have stayed in families, being handed down from generation to generation. Also, young people who had left the neighborhood are returning because it's a nice, safe place to raise children.
• Good and helpful neighbors, said everyone we talked to.
It helped create Omaha's second city dog park, sponsors neighborhood cleanups and garage sales, and hosts gatherings at Halloween and Christmas as well as the Front Porch Fridays.
It has a newsletter and website: hpnaomaha.org.
Jim Clements is president (email@example.com).
» Graffiti: Report it at hpnaomaha.org.
» Higher crime areas to the north and east
» A few of the houses have fallen into disrepair
» Speeders on 32nd Avenue
Quiet streets laid out in a grid. However, there are some unexpected jogs and dead-end streets.
Most are well-kept yards with grass, flowers and lawn ornaments. But some yards are totally native flowers, plants and trees instead of grass.
» Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School, 2110 S. 32nd Ave. In 1918, Archbishop Jeremiah J. Harty announced the formation of a new parish; the cornerstone for the current church was laid in 1920.
» Lo Sole Mio restaurant, 3001 S. 32nd Ave. A popular place, one of the few commercial buildings in this residential neighborhood.
Again, look to Hanscom Park, which offers a leisure swimming area, a ballfield, a soccer field, a basketball court, two outdoor tennis courts, eight indoor tennis courts, walking paths and fishing.
Royce Gomez said people in this neighborhood just like to walk along the streets.
Who lives here?
Census tract covers a larger area (north to Pacific and east to 29th Street) but it is, generally speaking, a similar area.
• Median age: 33 years old
• Racial makeup: 57 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 12 percent other races
• Average household: 2.5 people
28 percent of households are families with children (may be a bit higher in the area we walked)
42 percent of homes are owner-occupied (again, our specific area may trend a little higher)
Curbwise data (based on home sales since Jan. 1, 2012)
• Median house sales price: $99,000
• Average sales price: $96,689