Omaha is the largest city in the State of Nebraska, United States. It is the county seat of Douglas County.GR6 As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 390,007. According to the 2006 census estimate, Omaha's population rose to 427,872, which includes an extra population count of approximately 8,300 people by annexing the smaller city of Elkhorn. Located on the eastern edge of Nebraska, it is on the Missouri River, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the mouth of the Platte River. Omaha is the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area. Council Bluffs, Iowa lies directly across the Missouri River from Omaha. The city and its suburbs formed the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2000, with an estimated population of 822,549 (2006) residing in eight counties or about 1.2 million within a 50 mile (80 km) radius.
The history of Omaha led to the nickname "Gate City" because of Omaha's centrality in the nation and access to the gold fields of Colorado. The leadership of the Omaha Claim Club included many of the city's founding fathers, many of whom received lots in Scriptown and likely never visited Sheelytown. While many of Omaha's early wealthy class were making money from the warehouses in Jobbers Canyon, madames Anna Wilson and Ada Everleigh were making a living from the crowds visiting the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition. Boss Tom Dennison compounded the city's vices in the notorious Sporting District, while others invested in the Omaha Stockyards and packinghouses. While the wealthy were building homes in Kountze Park and Dundee, many working class immigrants built homes in the Sheelytown and Burlington Road neighborhoods, while many African Americans lived in the Near North Side. Many early settlers are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery. After two race-focused lynchings in its early history, the Civil Rights Movement in Omaha included contributions by Whitney Young and Harry Haywood, as well as local organizations including the DePorres Club and the Omaha Star. Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers gained national notoriety in the late 1960s documentary film A Time for Burning, and has maintained it throughout his career, recently being named "the maverick of Omaha" by Mother Jones magazine.
Funding for schools and racial segregation have been contentious issues for education in the Omaha Public Schools and surrounding districts for the last several years. This tension was relieved in early 2007 when the Nebraska Legislature developed a plan to use learning communities that ensure socioeconomic diversity. Education experts have called this plan, "an important model to watch." Crime in Omaha is comparable to other U.S. cities of similar size, with racial tension and methamphetamine use among top social issues.
Omaha has a rich cultural background. Cultural highlights include the Joslyn Art Museum, the Durham Western Heritage Museum, the Holland Performing Arts Center, and the Omaha Community Playhouse. The city boasts headquarters for such companies as Berkshire Hathaway and Conagra, and is listed as a top 10 high tech haven by Newsweek in 2001. Music in Omaha has always been important to the city, with North Omaha's music scene being historically important and in modern times, the "Omaha Sound" defining an important trend across the nation.
Omaha is home to the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the United States. The Omaha Symphony Orchestra and its modern Holland Performing Arts Center, the Opera Omaha at the Orpheum and Rose theaters, and the Blue Barn Theatre form the backbone of Omaha's performing arts community.
Opened in 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum has significant art collections. Since its inception in 1976, Omaha Children's Museum has been a place where children can challenge themselves, discover how the world works and learn through play. The largest urban artists' colony in the world, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, was founded in Omaha, and the Durham Western Heritage Museum is accredited with the Smithsonian Institution for traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian. The annual Omaha Blues, Jazz, & Gospel Festival celebrates local music along with the Omaha Black Music Hall of Fame.
In 1955 Omaha's Union Stockyards overtook Chicago's stockyards as the United States' meat packing center, and this legacy is reflected in Omaha's renowned steakhouses like Gorat's and the recently closed Mister C's, as well as through the retail chain Omaha Steaks.
The Henry Doorly Zoo is widely considered one of the premier zoos in the world. Omaha's historic downtown area known as the Old Market was once part of the former "Jobbers Canyon". Today its warehouses and other buildings house shops, restaurants, bars, and art galleries. The Omaha Botanical Gardens features 100 acres (40 hectares), while the new Kenefick Park recognizes Union Pacific's long history in Omaha.
North Omaha is the home to several historical cultural attractions, including the Dreamland Historical Project, Love’s Jazz & Art Center, and the John Beasley Theater. The annual River City Roundup is celebrated at Fort Omaha; Florence Days celebrate Florence history, and; Native Omaha Days is a biennial event celebrating Near North Side heritage.
View of 24th & Lake Streets in North Omaha