Omaha Mud Flood: St. Mary Magdalene Church 1920 transformation

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#1
St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in downtown Omaha turns 150 in 2018. Over the years the church has seen a lot, including the lowering of Dodge Street in the early 20th century, renovations in the late 1990s and the long-awaited addition of a steeple in 2007.

Interesting but it took only one year - 1868 - to build this "Gothic-style cathedral". One year was a normal time frame to build something like this back then. As a matter of fact, it appears somewhat slow, for Seattle did much better in 1889. I'm being sarcastic, but these are the official narratives we have.

The Dirt

Below is an example of over 20 feet of dirt which came from nowhere. It buried this cathedral at some unknown point in time. Our official history can not account for its appearance. The officials are not even trying to explain where the dirt came from (as far as I know). If we were to believe that the cathedral was indeed built in 1868, than somebody has some explaining to do. If the cathedral was not built in 1868, we have a totally different issue added to the mud flood one we already have.

St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church
Omaha, Nebraska

1. Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church before the grading project began. This photo shows the west side of the church about 1908.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_1.jpg

2. A view of St. Mary Magdalene before 1920 street construction.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_2.jpg

3. St. Mary Magdalene is seen during grading. The Dodge Street project cost nearly $13 million in today’s dollars, and at the time was described by the World-Herald as a “great engineering feat.”

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_3.jpg

4. Crews work on the lowering of Dodge Street in front of St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_4.jpg

5. A steam shovel removes dirt and loads it onto a hopper car during the grading of Omaha's Dodge Street near 19th Street.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_5.jpg

6. Steam engines and dump cars ran on special tracks to remove dirt dug out by steam-powered shovels along Dodge Street in 1920.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_6.jpg

7. St. Mary Magdalene Church at 19th and Dodge Streets in Omaha during the lowering of Dodge Street. Once the earthmoving was complete, the church’s front door stood about 20 feet above Dodge.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_7.jpg

8. Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church at 19th and Dodge Streets during the street grading project. The workmen are building a new foundation.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_8.jpg

9. St. Mary Magdalene, about a year after the Dodge Street project.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_9.jpg

10. This photo shows the new lower level of Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church after the Dodge Street grading.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_10.jpg

11. St. Mary Magdalene Church at 19th and Dodge Streets in Omaha after the street grading project.

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_11.jpg

Source: Photos: Downtown Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church through the years

* * * * *
KD: Entering a cathedral through the 3rd story window has to be somehow explained. Where is that explanation?

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_1_1_1.jpg

Next time you walk by a building with half-sunk windows like above, remember this cathedral. There could be three buried stories beneath your feet.
 

sharonr

Active member
Messages
61
Likes
282
#2
Yes, Conspiracy-R-us did a video on this church (2 actually), but you added many more photos. It was this church that got me convinced the of the mud flood. I ended up posting some stuff on his comments from my own research about Omaha and the church, but he didn't comment back. This forum would probably be a better place. Plus I am able to edit and look at it more closely.

In his video he says the excuse was because there were too many steep hills. They were compromising the expansion of the town.


Some things I noticed:

Have you seen this postcard of the church? It shows it in it's full height. No hill anywhere near it. This was drawn what looks to be around 1940's, give or take a decade. (So it was after the excavation?). But if you look at the postcard below it, it is still buried, but the large building behind the structure with the triangle roof (to the right of the church in the postcard) is gone. So is the structure that was across the street where the lamp post is, in what is now the park, and shown on your excavating photos.

St. Mary Magdalene Church_1.jpg

This is before the church was excavated....I guess....., but is missing the tall building to the right. And I don't see a hill either.

St. Mary Magdalene Church_2.jpg

The city was supposedly founded in 1854. Wikipedia says "Its growth happened so quickly that the town was nicknamed the "Magic City". The latter part of the 19th century also saw the formation of several fraternal organizations, including the formation of Knights of Aksarben." and "Surrounded by small towns and cities that competed for business from the hinterland's farmers, the city suffered a major setback in the Panic of 1857. Despite this, Omaha quickly emerged as the largest city in Nebraska. After losing the Nebraska State Capitol to Lincoln in 1867, many business leaders rallied and created the Jobbers Canyon in downtown Omaha to outfit farmers in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and further west. Their entrepreneurial success allowed them to build mansions in Kountze Place and the Old Gold Coast neighborhoods." (if you search photos of Omaha you will see the architecture of those homes....) Look at this old, old photo (doesn't have a date though).

The excuse they gave were the "steep" hills, but look at the building looming in the background. (and remember the town wasn't even founded until 1854)...but I don't see the steep hills they "HAD" to remove per se. They were obviously building on them just fine. And nothing like what is shown in the picture with all the mud.

St. Mary Magdalene Church_3.jpg

And here is an image of Omaha in 1867. Again, not seeing those treacherous steep hills (which was the excuse to re-grade the street). Certainly not downtown (like shown in the picture). This looks like an older image, and what the town looked like even before 1854.

1536260735877.png

And look at this photo. Taken in Omaha. There is no info or date, but I am assuming they are blaming the cyclones that go through there, but I have no idea. But it is a trolley.

omaha_1.jpg

The Wiki history of Omaha is pretty pathetic and skips over portions of time, plus not giving any realistic details. Nor does it talk of any disasters. Look at the next picture.

omaha_2.jpg


The Trans-Mississippi Exposition was held in North Omaha from June 1 to November 1, 1898. The exposition drew more than 2 million visitors. It required the construction of attractions spanning 100 city blocks, including a shipworthy lagoon, bridges and magnificent (though temporary) buildings constructed of plaster and horsehair.

omaha_exposition.jpeg
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#3
As far as hills go, that is what the official position is:
Since Omaha's earliest days, six steep hills near present-day 20th Street vexed residents. City leaders knew that if the hills weren't conquered, there would be no development directly west of downtown.

So they began a series of projects from the 1880s until 1920 to remove the hills – rather than cut roadways through them.
In early Omaha, the steep hills had to go for the city to grow

Obviously with what we know today, it is reasonable to suggest that these hills were accumulated due to some unreported event. Below is the "birds eye view" map of Omaha in 1868. It clearly shows that there were no hills, at least in 1868. And especially, when we talk about this St. Mary Magdalene church, there were no hills at Dodge and 19th.

MAP omaha-ne-1868.jpg
This cyclone and the expo, are very interesting events I was not aware of. Omaha Expo of 1898 looks big enough do devote some time to it, and may be write an article. The cyclone of 1913 appears to be another write off event meant to void the area of some specific architecture, and quite possibly people.

Thank you for the info, let's keep on digging.
 

WildFire2000

Well-known member
Messages
74
Likes
337
#4
Normally I'm with you on these, but those pictures during the regrading show holes in the structure in the 'buried' parts and it looks like there's nothing else under the church but dirt. What am I not seeing?
 
OP
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#5

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_1.jpg


The above wall with dug out windows is visible in the below image

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_wall.jpg


Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_2.jpg


Removed dirt line is visible above these two's heads

Omaha's St. Mary Magdalene Church_8_1.jpg

Additionally, brick foundation is probably a pretty bad idea, especially when concrete is available.

I think we are missing a whole lot of interesting regrading pictures of this building.
 

sharonr

Active member
Messages
61
Likes
282
#6
Normally I'm with you on these, but those pictures during the regrading show holes in the structure in the 'buried' parts and it looks like there's nothing else under the church but dirt. What am I not seeing?
In the one photo it does look as if they are supporting the structure with scaffolding and there is just dirt under it, and then they would have built up to the base of the church, instead of lowering the church. I've not looked into it, @KorbenDallas might know. The pictures are misleading because the one I saw originally is the 8th picture down and it looked like the base is what they unearthed.

It still does not explain the mysterious hills that seemed to appear from nowhere.
 
OP
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#7
We are missing tons of progress pictures. It appears nowhere does it say that that had to build a 20 foot downward extension to the building. This is a considerable achievement to omit.

I think the only way to find out for sure would be to get some first hand knowledge of what the lowest room in this church was prior to 1920. May be if the forum grows enough for us to get a member from Omaha, we could find that out.

As it stands, judging byonly the dirt line on the wall, we see 12-15 feet of unaccounted submergence.
 

WildFire2000

Well-known member
Messages
74
Likes
337
#8
I see that from those later pictures, but there are 2 specifically that show space under the building that would support an extension of the church to add 3 floors. I'm not sure what, exactly is going on, but in this instance it looks like they dug, added a new foundation and extended the building and did what they claim.

Now, the rest of it where there weren't hills and all doesn't jive at all, but those two pictures are standouts.

Edit-- I see the 1 extra floor with the 1 dirt line, and the windows, but in the others, you can see the supports in place. I dunno.
 

kentucky

Member
Messages
19
Likes
50
#9
I love this. I had lived in Omaha when I had first come across r/culturallayer and this site and had wondered if I could find evidence of anything around town. And here you deliver. Thank you so much for the work. I could have been your street team member if you would have posted this last year. Nevertheless, I will be traveling back there within a few months and will definitely make some time to investigate!

I was already familiar with the tunnels in the old market area and have been to some of the basement level shops in the old market, and I've wondered if they may have at one time been street-level corridors.

To restate, Omaha has an un-advertised (and supposedly abandoned) tunnel system in the downtown area and the central hub of that network, back in the prohibition days, was around 16th and Harney or so. It definitely runs east but also allegedly runs NW to Creighton University, which puts 19th and Dodge right on it's path.
 
Last edited:

sharonr

Active member
Messages
61
Likes
282
#10
I love this. I had lived in Omaha when I had first come across r/culturallayer and this site and had wondered if I could find evidence of anything around town. And here you deliver. Thank you so much for the work. I could have been your street team member if you would have posted this last year. Nevertheless, I will be traveling back there within a few months and will definitely make some time to investigate!

I was already familiar with the tunnels in the old market area and have been to some of the basement level shops in the old market, and I've wondered if they may have at one time been street-level corridors.

To restate, Omaha has an un-advertised (and supposedly abandoned) tunnel system in the downtown area and the central hub of that network, back in the prohibition days, was around 16th and Harney or so. It definitely runs east but also allegedly runs NW to Creighton University, which puts 19th and Dodge right on it's path.
Very interesting. Hope to learn more :)
 

kentucky

Member
Messages
19
Likes
50
#11
Very interesting. Hope to learn more :)
Below are some links to some of the tunnels' 'official' history. It does take a dark turn if you are familiar with the Franklin Scandal case (Boystown abuse ring). It's very likely that the tunnels downtown connect some of the establishments that those implicated in that scandal owned or patronized, but that's mostly word on the street and second/third-hand knowledge. That's a whole different story for a different forum, regardless.

Regarding the tunnels, one of the central hubs, like I had previously mentioned, may be below what was called the "Sporting District", a prohibition era gambling and prostitution center, with bootlegging running amok underground.

Sporting District, Omaha - Wikipedia

Life beneath the streets: Downtown sidewalks conceal a hidden world underground

If you google Omaha tunnels, you'll come to find that the whole of Omaha proper 100+ years ago (which is now merely the downtown/northern downtown district) seemed to be almost completely littered with alleged tunnels connecting the entire town. I say allegedly because I'm getting the feeling that, in alignment with the spirit of this board, it wasn't a tunnel complex that was dug out that spanned the city, but rather it could have been an entire town that a new one was built on top of.
 
Last edited:

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
396
Likes
679
#12
We are missing tons of progress pictures. It appears nowhere does it say that that had to build a 20 foot downward extension to the building. This is a considerable achievement to omit.

I think the only way to find out for sure would be to get some first hand knowledge of what the lowest room in this church was prior to 1920. May be if the forum grows enough for us to get a member from Omaha, we could find that out.

As it stands, judging byonly the dirt line on the wall, we see 12-15 feet of unaccounted submergence.
I don't see a whole lot of issues here, from looking at the building. There is definitely a lot of underpinning work going on. The work they are doing in the photos matches with they say they are doing. It's clearly on a hill, and it is fairly steep.

Brick foundations were very common at the time. I've seen many brick foundations in old buildings and houses.

The existing/original buried portion does look like a proper foundation, and on the low side it's only 6-8 feet below grade.

Those three holes there are likely from passing supported beams through to hold up the wall while the lower portion is redone. Could be many reasons why they had to do this here and not elsewhere. Or The could even be beam pockets for interior beams.
 

sharonr

Active member
Messages
61
Likes
282
#13
Below are some links to some of the tunnels' 'official' history. It does take a dark turn if you are familiar with the Franklin Scandal case (Boystown abuse ring). It's very likely that the tunnels downtown connect some of the establishments that those implicated in that scandal owned or patronized, but that's mostly word on the street and second/third-hand knowledge. That's a whole different story for a different forum, regardless.

Regarding the tunnels, one of the central hubs, like I had previously mentioned, may be below what was called the "Sporting District", a prohibition era gambling and prostitution center, with bootlegging running amok underground.

Sporting District, Omaha - Wikipedia

Life beneath the streets: Downtown sidewalks conceal a hidden world underground

If you google Omaha tunnels, you'll come to find that the whole of Omaha proper 100+ years ago (which is now merely the downtown/northern downtown district) seemed to be almost completely littered with alleged tunnels connecting the entire town. I say allegedly because I'm getting the feeling that, in alignment with the spirit of this board, it wasn't a tunnel complex that was dug out that spanned the city, but rather it could have been an entire town that a new one was built on top of.

Thanks! The Omaha story just gets deeper and deeper (couldn't resist). How strange.
 

Magnus

Well-known member
Messages
103
Likes
283
#14
In the one photo it does look as if they are supporting the structure with scaffolding and there is just dirt under it, and then they would have built up to the base of the church, instead of lowering the church. I've not looked into it, @KorbenDallas might know. The pictures are misleading because the one I saw originally is the 8th picture down and it looked like the base is what they unearthed.

It still does not explain the mysterious hills that seemed to appear from nowhere.
The building is not ans can not be supported by scaffolding. Think about it. Its not possible to achieve without collapse.

The church always had solid foundation walls underneath the street level.

Thos photos just show angles that appear to depict scaffolding supporting the building. But, that scaffolding is ONLY supporting wooden foot paths and bridges to walk to and from the church building.

They dug out all the earth surrounding rhe building, so how would anyone be able to access the building without bridges or scaffolding?

Repeat: that scaffolding is NOT supporting the church building
 

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
396
Likes
679
#15
The building is not ans can not be supported by scaffolding. Think about it. Its not possible to achieve without collapse.

The church always had solid foundation walls underneath the street level.

Thos photos just show angles that appear to depict scaffolding supporting the building. But, that scaffolding is ONLY supporting wooden foot paths and bridges to walk to and from the church building.

They dug out all the earth surrounding rhe building, so how would anyone be able to access the building without bridges or scaffolding?

Repeat: that scaffolding is NOT supporting the church building
Based on what?
What are you calling scaffolding?

It most certainly is possible, I've seen it done, and it is exactly what these pictures show. It's been done under much more difficult circumstances than we see here.

There are some places as you describe, however all those lolly columns and temporary supports on the bottom most certainly ARE supporting the building. The columns top plates are visible and likely have plates on the ground as well.

Take it from someone who has actually done this kind of work. They are obviously building brick columns underneath to extend the foundation lower.
 
OP
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#16
@ISeenItFirst, just to clarify. Are you saying that they just have extended this side by whatever many feet that is while simultaneously still removing dirt? In other words, is that line depicting a portion of the wall which did not exist prior to the digging activities?

1_omaha_x.jpg

If we do not count the lower level below those two guys... 7-15 feet of dirt covering the base of the building is ok? Is that the foundation of the building where those two guys are standing?

Are they extending the building with that dirt still laying up against the building on the bottom left side? If so how did they manage to lay all the extension bricks (specifically in the left bottom) with dirt being there? Or they extended it and then dumped the dirt there?

Also, how do we know they are not simply removing moisture damaged brick?

1_omaha_Y.jpg

Just curious.
 

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
396
Likes
679
#17
In the bottom picture, that is the original foundation. The footers, where the columns get wide at the bottom, would have been original.
Below that is what is being added to.

The top picture is another side which appears to be the high side of the original grading. Meaning much of your veritcal red line would have been below ground and original. Some of the lower portion would be new. Need some more pictures to really see what's going on.

As for the dirt on the sides, you don't do this all in one shot. It goes in phases, and the more of the completed work you can get backfilled, the safer it is for everyone. It's tough to tell which parts are in which phase in this pic, but I am taking a guess that that left side is already done. The brick below the column is in place to support the structure and the original footer is being removed.

I was thinking about that dirt as well. Could be a few reasons why it looks like that in this pic.

I don't totally rule out shenanigans, but based on these pictures, the official version seems by far the most likely.
 
OP
OP
KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

Negotiator
Messages
2,635
Likes
7,172
#18
I do not see anything in any of the above photos suggesting construction. Unless they went out of their way to police up anything related to such construction every time a picture was taken.

No loose brick, no cement mixers, no brick laying in progress, no visible tools other than digging ones.

I do see support beams though, but what the purpose of their support was is not clear from the available photographs.

None of the brickwork looks new, only the finishing cosmetic work does.

The city of Omaha was founded in 1854. In 1868 they allegedly chose one of the steepest hills in the entire city to build this cathedral on. With 1868 city plan showing no such hills existing in the area.

They choose to dig in about 20 feet on one side and 7-15 feet on the opposite side of the building.

Meanwhile thousands of flat acres were available to its not even 15k population.

63D68399-16A0-4E31-8B47-47DDAFB0F404.jpeg

Something does not add up here.
 

kentucky

Member
Messages
19
Likes
50
#19
I do not see anything in any of the above photos suggesting construction. Unless they went out of their way to police up anything related to such construction every time a picture was taken.

No loose brick, no cement mixers, no brick laying in progress, no visible tools other than digging ones.

I do see support beams though, but what the purpose of their support was is not clear from the available photographs.

None of the brickwork looks new, only the finishing cosmetic work does.

The city of Omaha was founded in 1854. In 1868 they allegedly chose one of the steepest hills in the entire city to build this cathedral on. With 1868 city plan showing no such hills existing in the area.

They choose to dig in about 20 feet on one side and 7-15 feet on the opposite side of the building.

Meanwhile thousands of flat acres were available to its not even 15k population.


Something does not add up here.
I noticed the same, we’ve got shovels in the picture but not much else for tooling.

Also, on the bottom right section, if I am reading this correctly that this is supposedly new construction, they would have seemed to not err on the side of caution and pragmatism, and would have supposedly fashioned two windows that aligned with the design on the upper floors, only to then put up supporting braces up inside the window jam areas, themselves.

Seems like, even if they wanted to honor the design aesthetic of the building, that such “improvements”would have been done much later, or at least secondary to ensuring the integrity of the building’s foundation, arguably job one.
 

ISeenItFirst

Well-known member
Messages
396
Likes
679
#20
Lots doesn't add up, with the information provided. I don't know about Omaha landscape or soil conditions, but the foundation, and depths you describe seem perfectly reasonable for the structure.

I see some areas near the street in some pictures that look like they could be brick stacks. It is virtually impossible to tell the age of the bricks from this grainy black and white photo. All we can see for sure is that the lower brick looks different from the upper. It looks different to this day in the pictures I've found. It's not unusual for brick to look a mess until it is cleaned.

Looking at pictures of other building raises, and having seen it done personally, and the lack of scope of the photos in this case, I don't see a lack of materials being concerning. That's why being a masonry laborer is hard, hard work. Gotta keep a steady supply of bricks and mortar to the layer. The material lot is probably on the backside of the church.
 
Top