Omaha’s 250-room Grand Central Hotel on the southwest corner of 14th and Farnam, shown here about 1875 at its height of popularity, burned in 1878.

As the village of Omaha City, Nebraska Territory, grew, virtually from zero in 1854 to a prosperous river city, one of the requirements which grew apace was the need for hotels.

Local businessmen began talking about a large, and more spectacular, hostelry in the late 1860s. A plan then quickly formed around what would be the first “really large hotel” in Omaha and, in fact, the entire state.

As the original idea began to develop, it was decided to develop a major hotel with individual investors limited to $1,000 each, shooting for a total cost of $150,000, with actual construction not beginning until the total had been met.

When around 100 businessmen had pledged a total of $130,000, it was decided to begin construction, albeit a bit prematurely, on what they had decided to name the Grand Central Hotel.

Lots totaling a quarter of a square block on the southwest corner of 14th and Farnam were acquired, and a 132-square-foot building begun. By December of 1870, the walls and roof had been competed, but for reasons not completely explained, the proposed name was changed to the Pullman Hotel.

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The new name was instantly objected to by some of the subscribers, and the question was picked up by the local press. A local patent medicine, called Hembold’s Bushu, was said to have done as much for Omaha as Pullman, leading some to suggest Bushu House as a better name than Pullman. Other suggestions included Georgefrancistrain, Astor, National Humbug, Barnum, Omaha House, Hash House, Union Pacific, Occidental and Bennett. The Bennett in question was L. M. Bennett of the Palace Car Co., which had named one of its railroad cars The Omaha.

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