Carter Lake Shore Drive
History: The oxbow lake that formed north of the city when the
Missouri River changed course in 1877 was first known as Cut-Off Lake.
It soon became valued as a commercial and recreational resource.
The South Omaha meatpackers Swift and Armour were among those who
located ice cutting and warehousing operations along the northern banks of
the lake. Attracted by its
water-related recreational advantages, a beach resort with a large
boathouse and two-story pavilion, a Rod and Gun Club, and a YMCA camp had
all settled on the lake shores by 1906.
industrialist Levi Carter, owner of the Carter White Lead Works in nearby
East Omaha, became interested in Cut-Off Lake for different reasons.
He passed this land daily going to and from his business and was
among the first to see its desirability for park and boulevard purposes.
1908, three years after Carter’s death, his widow donated $50,000 to the
city to acquire lakefront lands for a public park memorializing her
husband. Terms of the
donation stipulated that Cut-Off Lake, also known at that time as Lake
Nakoma, be officially named Carter Lake.
Park Commissioners were not looking to add to their holdings in the
northern section of the city; Miller, Fontenelle and Kountze Parks were
already in place but they welcomed Mrs. Carter’s offer.
A number of citizens objected to the proposal which required the
City to provide matching funds to develop the property; they felt the City
money would be better spend improving existing park properties.
1908 Commission report states that “by the acquisition of this park
Omaha is given a beautiful body of water with possibilities for aqua
sports and recreation.” In
the 20 years since Omaha’s first parks were developed, more active forms
of leisure activity had become popular.
The Board’s interest in the lake property reflected this shift in
attitude about the purpose of parks. The earlier focus was on the quite
enjoyment of picturesque scenery but now there was a new emphasis on the
provision of facilities for more active activities, such as swimming,
golf, tennis and baseball.
In 1908, Mrs. Carter donated funds for Levi Carter Park; she also married Edward Cornish, an Omaha attorney who had served on the Park Commission. After moving from Omaha in 1911, the Cornishes continued to play an active role in the development of Levi Carter Park through gifts of property and funds for improvement projects.
1989, $1 million was expended to upgrade Levi Carter’s facilities.
This park was the first one to benefit from the Major Park
Rehabilitation philosophy initiated by the Department of Parks, Recreation
and Public Property in 1988.
to return to the Community Parks
Last Updated: 09/19/2007 12:22 PM