Florence is a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska, United States on the city's north end and originally one of the oldest cities in Nebraska. It was incorporated by the Nebraska Territorial Legislature on March 10, 1857. The site of Winter Quarters for Mormon migrants traveling west, it has the oldest cemetery for people of European descent and oldest standing gristmill in Nebraska. Florence was the site of an illegal territorial legislature in 1858. Given the high concentration of National Register of Historic Places in the neighborhood, it is regarded as "the historic front door to Omaha as well as the state."
In the spring of 1854 James C. Mitchell, following the advice of the fur trader Peter A. Sarpy, platted the village of Florence, including the old buildings and improvements of old Cutler's Park. Cutler's Park was established at the site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1846 Winter Quarters as a hold-over on their way from Nauvoo, Illinois to Utah. Due to the harsh conditions, 359 members of the 2,500 person party died and are buried in what is now called the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery. Their community was the first city in the Nebraska Territory. Despite lasting only two years, the city had a mayor and city council, 24 policemen and fireguards, various administrative committees, and a town square for public meetings. The Mormon pioneers left their town once they moved on in 1848. Mitchell platted Florence six years later. The town of Florence was named for one Miss Florence Kilbourn.
Late in 1854 the town of Florence made a bid to become the Nebraska State Capitol, which it lost to Omaha. The Bank of Florence, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built as a wildcat bank in 1856. It fell in the Panic of 1857, leaving thousands of local townspeople and area farmers severely financially drained.
It may not be generally known that, about seven miles north of Omaha, on the Missouri River, there is a small hamlet, yeleped Florence, the proprietors of which have been, for months, laboring assiduously to delude strangers that it was a city.
In January, 1858 a group of representatives illegally moved the Nebraska Territorial Legislature to Florence following a violent outburst at the Territorial Capitol in Omaha. After repeatedly being dogged out of voting on the removal of the Capitol from Omaha, a skirmish pitted representatives from Nebraska City, Florence, and other communities to convene outside of Omaha. Despite having a majority of members present for the vote to remove the Capitol and all agreeing, the "Florence Legislature" did not succeed in swaying the Nebraska Territory governor, and the Capitol remained in Omaha until 1867 when Nebraska gained statehood.
In 1917, the town was annexed by the City of Omaha. The Fort Omaha Balloon School was established later that year as the first such military school in America. "Florence Field," about a mile (1.6 km) north of Fort Omaha, consisted of 119 acres (0.48 km2).
|Landmarks in Florence|
|Bank of Florence||1856||8502 North 30th Street||October 15, 1969||This wildcat bank was designated as an Omaha landmark on October 14, 1980. It is a Greek Revival-style building built between 1850 and 1874.|
|Florence Boulevard||1892||Burt Street north to J.J. Pershing Drive||Part of Omaha boulevard system, this was once called the "Prettiest Mile."|
|Florence Depot||1887||9000 North 30th Street||Originally built at 28th and Grebe Streets.|
|Florence Firehouse||1888||8415 North 29th Street||This landmark was severely damaged in a fire that broke out due to faulty electrical wiring on May 15, 1984. It was rebuilt in the Urbana Gothic style, a transition from the early Fremol style of most other landmark Florence buildings.|
|Florence Mill||1846||9102 North 30th Street||December 31, 1998||Also known as the Weber Mill, Mormon Mill, Grist Mill, and Old Pink Mill, this site is on the National Register of Historic Places and has two historic markers.|
|Florence School||1860s||7902 North 36th Street||Also known as Florence Elementary School. It was recently remodeled, and now has a part of the school specifically for boy and girls club. It attends to students from grades kindergarten to fifth grade.|
|Fontenelle Boulevard||Pre-1900||Military Road to North 30th Street|
|Keirle House||1905||3017 Mormon Street||Declared an Omaha Landmark in 1997.|
|Mitchell House||1854||8315 North 31st Street||Built by James C. Mitchell, some assert that Brigham Young lived in the house for a short period. The house was torn down in 1964.|
|Mormon Pioneer Cemetery||1846||3301 State Street||Used until 1848, LDS Church records indicate 359 pioneers are buried there.|
|Notre Dame Academy and Convent||1924||3501 State Street||March 5, 1998|
|Old People's Home||1917||3325 Fontenelle Boulevard||October 21, 1987|
|Potter's Field Cemetery||1870s||7909 Mormon Bridge Road||Located next to the Forest Lawn Memorial Park.|
|St Philip Neri School||8202 North 31st Street||The parish was founded in 1904; the school in 1922.|
In addition to these historic landmarks designated by the city, state or federal government, a new attraction is the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple, constructed in 2001. The opening ceremonies and open house for the large temple drew thousands of visitors. The Mormon Trail Center in Florence is a museum interpreting the Mormon Trail and early Mormon-era history of the area.
Also of interest are the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge, built in 1952; it carries Interstate 680 over the Missouri River. The Mormon Bridge Tollhouse, at 3010 Willit Street, was related to the operations of the toll bridge.
- (1912) Bulletin. Issues 2. Nebraska State Legislature. p. 7
- (n.d.) History of the Florence Mill.
- "Heritage tourism may define future of Florence" Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Omaha by Design. Retrieved 9/18/08.
- Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska - Douglas County
- (n.d.) Historic Florence - Culter's Park Marker
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 127.
- Reeves, R. (n.d.) Douglas County History Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine University of Nebraska.
- Omaha Nebraskian, 1857, as cited in Bristow, D. (1997) A Dirty, Wicked Town: Tale of 19th Century Omaha. Caxton Press.
- Bristow, D.
- Federal Writers Project, Nebraska: A Guide to the Cornhusker State, Nebraska State Historical Society, (1939) Online full-text PDF edition, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Retrieved 6/28/10.
- Fletcher Sasse, Adam (2017). "A History of the James Comey Mitchell House in Florence". North Omaha History. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
In 1963, it was determined termites had destroyed the second floor of the house and the next year, in 1964, the entire thing was demolished.
- "Parish history" Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine, St. Philip Neri Church of Omaha, Retrieved 6/4/08.