Building History

You wouldn't guess the history of the 902 Dodge building by looking at its' new modern look, but this building has a history of excitement that rivals the most exciting places of prohibition times.

902 Dodge | Downtown Omaha

Gene Livingston was a well known bootlegger in Omaha NE in the 1920’s.  Back then to fight prohibition you would have to pay-off policemen, so they would provide protection for you.  One such policeman was Joe Potach, a career “touch copper” who “delivered messages” and provided protection for many of the bootleggers in Omaha.  One night while at a pool hall Livingston and Potach got into a fight where Livingston allegedly admitted to paying Potach off.  Potach filed a libel suit against Livingston and a court hearing soon began.  Livingston testified that for over 4 years he paid Potach $100 a month then raising it to $200 a month.  Obviously Potach a “respected” policeman denied these allegations.  After three days and thirty minutes of deliberation by the jury the verdict came back not-guilty.  The police commissioner at the time was Henry Dunn who allowed Potach to stay on the police force only to change is mind the next day and suspended him.  This was due to a bribery complaint filed against Potach.  In order for prosecutors to win the case against Potach they needed the testimony of Livingston and other bootleggers, but it was not in their best interest to testify.  On claims of the 5th amendment, Livingston did not testify for fear of self-incrimination, and the case was dropped.

902 DodgeLivingston soon started one of the biggest stills in downtown Omaha in the late twenties.  This was located at the Farrell Building on 9th and Dodge, formally the Farrell Syrup Company.  At that time, there were only 4 floors with the first two occupied by the still and boilers the third was used for storage and the fourth was used for shipping and packaging.  A total of ten vats, each six feet deep and thirteen across were housed at the Farrell Building.  All of the equipment and installation came from Chicago, men associated with Al Capone.  Unfortunately due to Livingston’s past he could not afford good protection.  He enlisted Fred Palmtag who did not know the right people or have the experience to deal with Livingston.  Palmtag demanded money from Livingston which he did not have because the still was not fully functional.  Their debate came to a head one day when Palmtag’s patience gave out and he hit Livingston in the head with the butt of his gun.  Then he went to Council Bluffs and told federal officers about the still which was then raided.  Needless to say the Chicago gang he purchased the still from was not excited about this.

Seeing the need to make money, and quickly to appease his Chicago friends he started another still at 1207 Howard.  Another elaborate still valued around $50,000 with a daily capacity of 1,000 gallons, was again raided by police before Livingston (operating under the name Henry Landsman) could get it started.  It seems Livingston did little else then get himself in trouble in Omaha and Chicago.

With an extensive rap sheet and two successive raids Livingston’s future was looking bleak.

32nd and Farnam Street, February 1930, was the location and date of Livingston’s attempted murder.  Forty shotgun slugs and revolver bullets riddled Livingston’s Lincoln automobile.  As a car pulled up beside the Lincoln three men opened fire, the elusive Livingston allegedly jumped out of the car and into another car which drove him away.  The police caught up with him later at a pool hall and confronted him about it, to which he replied he knew nothing about the incident.  Two and a half months after the incident, Livingston 27 years old, scheduled to go to prison on May 12 for possession of a carload of alcohol in March 1928, entered a speakeasy on North 17th street.  He would never make it to prison.  At about 3a.m. on May 1st Livingston asked to stay over because he was drunk.  As he walked to the sink to get a drink of water a hail of shotgun and pistol fire rained from the window, police would estimate that it was three people.

Livingston had many enemies, and two days before he was shot he was ready to turn them in.  He had contacted Irving Stalmaster the assistant attorney for the state of Nebraska and told him he would tell his story about the corruption in Omaha involving state, federal, county, and city officials, in return for immunity.  Was this the reason Livingston was murdered?  There are many theories out there:  One such theory is that Potach was told to take him out.  In an elaborate scheme, Potach took his family to L.A. even wrote a letter from L.A. to Omaha.  He was conveniently gone during Livingston’s death; however two people say they saw Potach on the day Livingston died in Omaha.  902 DodgeWas Al Capone to blame??  Livingston bought his still from Capone’s men and he owed them $40,000 with both the Farrell and Howard Street stills raided he had no way of paying them.  The Chicago gang would have accepted the Farrell still back as payment, which Livingston tried to accomplish.  A junk company had bought the confiscated Farrell still from the government which in turn Livingston bought from the junk company.  With the Farrell still back, he packed it into two boxcars for a train headed to Chicago subsequently ending his debt to Capone’s men.  That train never made it to Chicago.  Federal agents acting on a tip, right down to the boxcar numbers, raided the boxcar and re-confiscated the Farrell still.

Livingston’s murder is down on the books as unsolved, however for years after his death many men were heard saying “we will do you like Livingston” adding to the drama and the mystique of the unsolved murder.
 

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