Holland van der Velde is quite familiar with the Douglas County Courthouse. The 3-year-old regularly accompanies her mother, Tracey, to the downtown building for lunch visits with her grandfather.
“We pop in for visits,” Tracey van der Velde said. (Holland's grandfather is Jerry Leahy, the county's public property director.) “Holland likes all of the echoing off the marble.”
But the Courthouse is special to the van der Velde family for another reason, too. It is where Holland's adoption was finalized.
“It's important for all of us because it's where the papers were signed,” Tracey van der Velde said.
The van der Velde family joined residents and officials Saturday at festivities to mark the Courthouse's centennial. Its offices opened on Oct. 1, 1912.
“It's important to recognize a beautiful building and the architecture,” said event organizer and County Board member Pam Tusa.
The building at 17th and Farnam Streets was designed by John Latenser Sr., who also designed Omaha Central High School and Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The Courthouse is noted for its circular atrium and rotunda, floor mosaics, marble and murals.
Saturday's celebration started with a flag-raising ceremony and rifle salute by the American Legion Post No. 1. The Acappella Omaha Chorus of Sweet Adelines sang the national anthem before officials spoke to the crowd.
Marc Kraft, chairman of the Douglas County Board, and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle were among those who spoke.
Guests then were invited inside to tour the 100-year-old building.
County Board member Chris Rodgers brought his sons, Ellis, 7, and Evan, 4. They stopped to see Colors da Clown and helped themselves to birthday cake after touring the building. The sheet cake featured a photo of the Courthouse.
“Somewhere down the line, they'll appreciate that they were here,” Rodgers said.
The day's festivities also included face painting and other children's activities, live music, a display of VFW motorcycles and antique cars, and reminiscences about happenings in the building.
Display boards were set up inside the Courthouse, detailing the building's rich history.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, retired Chief Deputy Tim Dempsey, retired City Prosecutor Marty Conboy and U.S. District Court Judge Lyle Strom shared some of the more notorious courtroom stories over the years.
Ed Jankowski and Elroy Gertner attended Saturday with the Meadowlark Model A Ford Club, which parked antique cars in front of the Courthouse.
“It's very nice,” Gertner said. “It's definitely a piece of history.”
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