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South Omaha Union Stock Yards

Image of drawing of Union Stock Yards in Omaha, Nebraska
The Hollywood version of cowboys driving cattle to market created a romantic notion of the Old West that rarely included the final destination – the stockyards. Seeking a livestock market closer to Chicago, in 1883 Wyoming cattle baron Alexander Swan and six local partners created the Union Stock Yards. Over time, the stock yard complex grew to include a bank, a hotel, offices, and the largest dining hall in Nebraska (seating 400) as well as elevated walkways over the stock pens for the comfort of prospective buyers. By 1914, the South Omaha Union Stock Yards was the largest sheep market and the third largest livestock market in the world. Shifting markets, new technology and changes in transportation systems led to the decline of this symbol of the history and growth of Omaha and the entire Midwest. The city of Omaha received federal Community Development Block Grant funding to raze the pens and most of the buildings, make street and sewer improvements, and prepare the land for redevelopment (1998). The use of Federal funds led the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Office to require that documentation be prepared as part of NHPA Section 106 mitigation. The measured drawings, photographs, and written historical report prepared as a result of the mitigation became part of the Historic American Engineering Record’s archive at the Library of Congress.