In this article, you'll learn the history of the Fontenelle Boulevard and a few facts you didn't know about this historic street that passes through several Omaha neighborhoods.
There are many things in the Omaha area which bear the name “Fontenelle,” Fontenelle Forest, and Fontenelle Park to name a few. Fontenelle Hotel once stood downtown and was the fanciest hotel in Omaha, hosting patrons like John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth, and Harry Truman.
However, to many Omaha residents, Fontanelle Boulevard is the most recognizable use of the name. Fontenelle Boulevard runs from Northwest Radial Highway north, before ending at N 36th Avenue. When it comes to residential housing, there are a number of affordable options along Fontenelle Boulevard, from apartments to multi-level homes.
It takes you past historic churches, shopping centers, and most importantly, Omaha’s favorite Fontanelle Park.
Fontanelle Park currently hosts:
- 1 Playground
- 2 Basketball Courts
- 4 Tennis Courts
- 2 Football Fields
- A large rentable pavillion
- Picnic Areas
- Outdoor Grills
Fontenelle Boulevard was named for Logan Fontenelle, an interpreter for the Omaha tribe of Native Americans in the mid-1800s. Logan’s mother was the daughter of Omaha Chief Big Elk and his father was a respected French-American fur trader from Louisiana named Lucien Fontenelle.
Lucien eventually bought a post near current-day Bellevue called Pilcher’s Post and became an agent along the Missouri River for the American Fur Company.
This post would become known as Fontenelle’s post. In 1832 he sold the post to the US Government. Because his father was a white man, Logan Fontenelle was not allowed to be a member of the Omaha tribe. His ability to speak both English and Omaha worked well for him, however, as he acted as Chief Big Elk's interpreter and later as Chief La Flesche’s, Big Elk’s successor. Logan
took an Omaha woman, Gixpeaha or “New Moon,” as his wife, and they had three daughters.
Logan Fontenelle is most famous for negotiating treaties with the US Government and Mormon pioneers in exchange for protection against the Sioux, who raided the Omaha tribe often.
The government offered protection by moving the Omaha tribe to a reservation near present-day Thurston County and paying the tribe a total of $840,000 for their land. He also helped develop fairy systems at the Elkhorn River near Columbus, Neb., and the Platte River near Fremont, Neb.
Fontanelle was killed and scalped during an attack by the Sioux during an Omaha buffalo hunt in the summer of 1855. Some accounts say Logan Fontanelle obtained Chiefdom before his death, but it is likely he was what was known as a “Paper Chief;” someone who obtains extra-tribal favor, usually through interpreting and signing legal documents. Fontenelle is even listed as a
chief in some treaty documents.
In 1854, Fontanelle negotiated land along the Missouri that would become the City of Omaha. In the later 1800s, Boulevards would be built around the city as expressways for wagons and horses; one of these boulevards being Fontenelle Boulevard, which would connect the communities of Benson, to Florence through present-day Northwest Omaha. This would therefore link Elmwood, Fontenelle and Miller parks together.
Omaha Neighborhoods Impacted
Today, Fontanelle Boulevard runs through the neighborhoods of Benson, Fairfax, Fontenelle Park, Central Park, Belvedere,
Florence Field, Minne Lusa, and Florence.
- Fontenelle Park
- Central Park
- Florence Field
- Minne Lusa
Fontenelle Park, 1927 - Photo Credit Adam Fletcher Sasse of North Omaha History
Fontenelle Park was built at the same time as the Boulevard, and between its inception in 1891 and 1930, the park would go from an ordinary prairie to offering a golf course and baseball field.
The park was a favorite in the City of Omaha, and in 1939 its ballfield would be chosen to host the 1939 American Legion World Series, in which Creighton Prep won the championship against a team from Berwyn, Illinois.
The first three games of that series drew a crowd of 8,000 each game and the fourth, and final, game of the series had 13,000 fans. In 1949, the area was looked at again as a possible location for a minor-league baseball team, but Deer Park was
chosen instead, which would eventually host the Omaha Royals.
Photo Credit Omaha CSO
Today, the 108-acre park has a playground, two basketball courts, four tennis courts, and two football fields. The golf course was recently abandoned in favor of developing the park’s trails and picnic areas. In 2012, a new picnic shelter was built along with many additional concrete pads and grilling areas. A six-foot-wide walking trail was also built around the park, providing a 1.5-mile loop.
The Lagoon in Fontanelle Park provides parkgoers with a beautiful backdrop for a picnic. The park pavilion currently houses the Joe Edmonson YMCA. Edmonson was a former wrestler who began working with youth and formed a youth center thereafter becoming a quadriplegic. He died in 2002.
There are many buildings along Fontenelle Boulevard listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Nebraska School for the Deaf was built on 23 acres in 1869 and remained in operation until 1998. Ten buildings from the school remain and are on the register.
Vaughn Manor - Photo Credit Photo Credit Adam Fletcher Sasse of North Omaha History
In 1917 the Joslyn family donated money to have a place built along Fontenelle to replace the “Old People’s Home.” The home was built in a Colonial Revival style and was called the Fontenelle Boulevard Home. Today, the building acts as senior living apartments and is called the Leo Vaughn Manor.
One of the first orphanages in Nebraska was built by the Nebraska Children’s Home Society in 1885 on Fontenelle Boulevard and Pratt Street. This historic building remains today and is on the register.
Homes in the Fontenelle Boulevard area offer great nearby amenities and are modestly priced. The average commute for residents living near Fontenelle Boulevard is less than 15 minutes each way.
High school students in the area attend Benson High School; a magnet school offering “academies” in each grade with different career focuses. The school prides itself on academic excellence and career preparedness.
If you are interested in finding a home near Fontenelle Boulevard or another Omaha Neighborhood, contact a Nebraska Realty agent today at NebraskaRealty.com!
Article Written by TJ Chrasti