When you think of a fraternity house, medical student Nathan Hogenmiller says, you don’t expect to walk into a Gold Coast mansion worthy of being listed as an Omaha landmark.
Hand-carved walnut paneling fills the main hall and stairway of the Georgian Revival structure. A solarium contains a marble fountain, dominated by a large Palladian window. The basement features an original pub with hand-painted murals, wood paneling and a built-in bar.
“It’s incredibly ornate,” Hogenmiller said. “There are literally flowers carved into the wood of the ceiling.”
The 37-room home was built by Charles E. Metz, owner of Metz Brewing Company, in 1916 at a cost of $175,000. The Phi Chi Fraternity of the University of Nebraska Medical Center purchased the home in 1949 and it’s been home to as many as 30 medical students at a time since then.
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The mansion at 3708 Dewey Ave. is one of nine sites on the Historic Blackstone Revealed Tour on Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are $20 and available online through Thursday at midnight. Tickets at the door are $25. Tour hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
First Central Congregational Church, Blackstone Plaza, Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, the Storz Mansion, Dundee Bank Blackstone, the Brandeis/Millard Mansion, the McLaughlin Mansion and the Williams/Bostwick Mansion also are on the tour. Go to historicblackstone.com to purchase tickets.
Money raised will be used to achieve local landmark status for some of the Blackstone neighborhood’s most iconic structures, so that they can’t be torn down. The Metz Mansion is first on the list.
Plenty of parties have been held at the house over the years, but the co-ed fraternity has been a good steward, too. Everyone has monthly chores. Deep cleaning is done twice a year, and at least once a year, the wood paneling is addressed.
“Usually the first- and second-year students get the job of oiling down all the wood paneling,” fourth-year medical student Stephen Kotopka said. “Someone gets on scaffolding and gets the ceiling.”
As beautiful as the main part of the house is, Kotopka said the other floors where the bedrooms are located look as you might expect after a fraternity has lived there for 70 years. He said it’s easy to take for granted that you live in a mansion and become complacent.
However, members have done numerous improvements and projects through the years. Hogenmiller has done several since moving in at the start of medical school.
First-year medical students typically get their first summer off to do a project or research paper. When everything was canceled because of the pandemic, Hogenmiller and his father, Bob, instead spent six days a week fixing things around the house.
They updated plumbing and electrical outlets, fixed bathrooms in the basement and third floor, installed motion lights in the common areas and hallways and put in a new refrigerator.
He’s the president of the fraternity and house manager, and his room on the third floor got new windows.
“I can go on and on,” he said. “A ton of small things that add up to a lot.”
Those updates have continued. Because of that work, one of the doctors involved in the ownership side of the house was inspired to raise money to tackle even bigger projects such as a new roof and gutters. The main water line has been replaced.
Hogenmiller, who plans to go into emergency medicine, said they were trying to get things in good enough shape to last several more years. It’s paid off immediately in that the house is at capacity for the first time in several years.
“We have every year a Thanksgiving dinner where we invite the house members, the old doctors,” he said. “They were pretty blown away with all the things that have been done.”
On the this weekend’s tour, visitors will have a chance to hold a little party of their own. To honor the original owner, samples of Metz Beer will be distributed in the mansion’s pub basement.
Both Kotopka and Hogenmiller agree it’s been a cool place to live.
“I remember telling all my friends I lived in a huge mansion,” Kotopka said.
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