John and James Strauss were twins and first-generation Americans who grew up on a farm near Lincoln in the years before and after World War I.
After spending a few years in the dairy business as young men, they went into construction, eventually winning contracts to build housing and other projects for the U.S. military during World War II.
They took the mass production techniques they learned during the war and started building houses in the late 1940s and early 1950s, along with their older brother and a cousin, in Lincoln and other communities in Nebraska. A younger brother also was worked for the business.
Strauss Bros Construction Co. became one of the largest home builders in post-war Lincoln, building more than 3,000 homes, mostly in the newly developed east and northeast parts of the city, and another 600 in Omaha.
Among its notable projects was Eastridge, a neighborhood of about 500 homes east of 56th Street between A and L streets, in which more than 90 percent of the homes were built by the company.
The city believes the neighborhood is noteworthy enough that it is seeking to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district.
The homes, built mostly in the mid- to late 1950s, were what Strauss Brothers marketed as "Trend" homes, generally modern, one-story, ranch-style homes with low-pitched gable roofs.
The homes were affordable, with many built for between $5,000 and $10,000, although a few cost $20,000 or more.
The neighborhood also includes a school, church and pool. A shopping center was planned for the south side but was never built.
The neighborhood was desirable and attracted a wide cross-section of the community, with enlisted Air Force personnel and tradespeople living side-by-side with doctors, business owners, and bank and insurance company executives. Among the neighborhood's early notable residents were the Strauss brothers themselves, Crete Carrier founder Duane Acklie, and mayors Clark Jeary and Roland Luedtke.
The city's Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday gave its OK to plans to submit an application to the Nebraska State Historical Society in May. If the state approves the application, it will be forwarded to the National Park Service, which can either approve it as is, ask for revisions or reject it.
Ed Zimmer, the city's historic preservation planner, said that to qualify for a historic designation, a neighborhood not only needs to be at least 50 years old, it also has to have "integrity and significance."
In the case of Eastridge, the neighborhood's homes have a remarkable amount of integrity in design, materials and feeling from their original construction, Zimmer said in a report for the commission. Only about 2 percent of the homes have been modified enough that they would be considered "non-contributing" to the historic character of the neighborhood.
Zimmer said that though the historic designation would qualify the properties for renovation tax credits, they don't offer much benefit to residential properties.
The main benefit is prestige and marketing benefits when selling to new residents, he said.
If the designation is approved, Eastridge will join other Lincoln neighborhoods such as South Bottoms and the Boulevards around the Country Club of Lincoln as historic districts.