Mr. James C. Jewell, prominent businessman and his charming wife, Ferwilda.
Completed in 1923, the Jewell Building stands as one of the first substantial commercial buildings constructed in North Omaha. Its substance, however, does not lie in its architectural or commercial value. Its importance has grown and matured as the Jewell Building remains a landmark of African American history in the community. Its walls fondly hold the memories of time - for past, present and future generations of community residents as well as visitors.
In a segregated society, Dreamland Ballroom, located on the second floor of the Jewell Building, met the need for a spot for black entertainment in the community. The long-time club hosted big bands and jazz artists. Performances by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, Jimmy Lunceford, Lionel Hampton and Nat King Cole often filled the night air with an excitement that touched and reinvigorated even passersby.
During World War II, the USO leased the Jewell Building and Dreamland as a place where African American soldiers from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps could find entertainment while home on leave or traveling through Omaha. Later in its history, the building hosted activist Whitney Young who spoke to the community about the civil rights movement in America.
Today, the renovated Jewell Building provides commercial office space for OEDC, the NAACP and 100 Black Men. Purchased in 1983 by Omaha Economic Development Corporation, the dust has been removed. Driven by the building’s history, its tenants are bringing life back to the community.