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'People just totally forgot about it': Piece of North Omaha history brings economic opportunities

Posted at 7:21 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 08:21:15-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — After decades of being forgotten, a part of North Omaha's history is being remembered and some businesses in the area could benefit in the process.

Gayla Lee-Chambers, the founder of the Saratoga-Belt Line Railroad Trail Way project, will admit she’s not a historian.

But when she started looking for the history of her own building, she wound up finding the story of a forgotten town in the middle of North Omaha.

“The Saratoga city got lost in the shuffle,” Lee-Chambers said. “People didn’t know about it. People just totally forgot about it.”

Saratoga was founded in 1856 by Erastus Beadle, who named the town after Saratoga Springs, New York. It was a pioneer town complete with hotels, blacksmiths, a church and anything else a settler in Nebraska Territory could come to expect.

After 21 years, it became part of the City of Omaha but maintained its identity as a neighborhood for many years.

Glimpses of Saratoga can still be spotted in the area: a school bearing its name and historic buildings built only a few decades later.

The Saratoga-Belt Line district, as Lee-Chambers has dubbed the area, also recognizes the role of the Omaha Belt Line which provided transportation to the people of Omaha before being used commercially.

“They made such a thriving impact during that time, not just the people, but economically,” Lee-Chambers said.

The Omaha Belt Line was a part of the growing community in the Saratoga area, with many of the historic buildings in the area being built around it.

“All of these buildings around here in this little industrial area have been here, about 100 years or more,” Lee-Chambers said.

On Tuesday, the Omaha City Council approved the area as an Economic Vitality Preservation District. According to Lee-Chambers, this qualifies several buildings for a historic tax credit.

“A small business would be able to have opportunity for economic growth, for job opportunities,” Lee-Chambers said.

She hopes to add historic markers to the area to keep this newly uncovered history alive.



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