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Webster Telephone Exchange Building

Webster Telephone Exchange Building
The Webster Telephone Exchange Building, the home of the Great Plains Black History Museum.
Webster Telephone Exchange Building
Location Omaha, Nebraska

41°16′52.51″N 95°56′43.55″W / 41.2812528°N 95.9454306°W / 41.2812528; -95.9454306Coordinates: 41°16′52.51″N 95°56′43.55″W / 41.2812528°N 95.9454306°W / 41.2812528; -95.9454306

Built 1907
Architect Kimball,Thomas R.
Architectural style Tudor Revival, Other
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 77000829[1]
Added to NRHP December 5, 1977

The Webster Telephone Exchange Building is located at 2213 Lake Street in North Omaha, Nebraska. It was designed by the well-known Omaha architect Thomas R. Kimball. After the Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913, the building was used as the center of recovery operations. In 1933 American Bell donated the building to the Urban League.

The 33-room building is closely associated with Omaha's black history, serving as a home to Omaha's Urban League and its leader Whitney Young.[2] In 1976 it was converted for use as the Great Plains Black History Museum. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and also designated a landmark by the City of Omaha.[3]


The Webster Telephone Exchange building was built in 1906. It is a modified Tudor-style building designed by the famed architect Thomas Kimball for the Nebraska Telephone Company. The building was a central headquarters for recovery operations after the Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913. Telephone operators stayed at their stations during the tornado, and despite shards of glass and reports of mass calamity, continued service immediately afterwards.[4] Victims from the nearby central business district of Near North Omaha were brought to the building, as well.[5]

In 1933 the phone company donated the building to the Omaha chapter of the Urban League for use as the Mid-City Community Center. Serving the Near North Side neighborhood, the community center had a library, nursery, dental and medical clinics, and classrooms. The future national civil rights leader Whitney Young kept his offices there in the 1940s. The center was moved in 1956, after which the building was converted to apartments. During the 1960s it was used as the headquarters of Great Omaha Community Action. The building was purchased for use as a museum dedicated to the history of African Americans in 1975 by James T. and Bertha W. Calloway. Shortly after, the family donated the building to the newly organized Great Plains Black History Museum.[6]

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, in recognition of its architectural and historic significance. It was closed to the public in 2004 due to the need to replace the 100-year old roof and other needed improvements.[7] Reorganized with a new board, the museum is exploring ways to stage exhibits at other venues outside the facility and in the spring of 2011 started community meetings on its future.[8]

See also


External links

  • Modern photo of the Great Plains Black Museum
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