Woods Bros agents plant 125 trees at Pioneers Park

Woods Bros Realty agents and staff
Woods Bros Realty agents and staff gather to plant trees.


Woods Bros Realty agents and staff recently planted 125 trees in the Pioneers Park area, in honor of the company’s 125-plus years in the community.

Woods Bros Realty worked with Lincoln Parks and Recreation to line several areas of the park and the golf course with trees. The company wanted to give back to the community, and decided to honor some of its history with Pioneers Park.

Legend has it that Mark Woods was the one who suggested to John F. Harris that he should gift a park to the citizens of Lincoln. It was also reported (by F. Pace Woods II in his “Keeping the Pace” series) that the Woods family donated evergreen trees and lilac bushes from their nursery.

Arla Meyer
Arla Meyer

Arla Meyer, managing broker of the Woods Bros Lincolnshire Square office, coordinated the event.

“This is a way to give back to something Woods Bros was a part of since the beginning,” she said. “It’s the little things that can and do make a difference.”

Dozens of agents and staff arrived at the park September 19, 2015, and had 125 trees planted in just over one hour.

See more photos from the event.


Distinguished Nebraskans

The NEBRASKAland Foundation was created in 1962 under the leadership of Governor Frank Morrison to contribute to the social, historic, cultural, and economic wellbeing of Nebraska. The Foundation sponsors activities around the state that engage youth, working to enhance their historical knowledge of Nebraska’s proud artistic and social heritage. The Foundation also works to promote Nebraska’s many wonderful and unique assets to visitors, ranging from business opportunities to tourism.

From the organization’s Web site:
The NEBRASKAland Foundation, Inc., was established to express as well as enrich the value of Nebraska’s Good Life for our citizens from all walks of life and to portray and promote the quality of its life to our visitors.

The NEBRASKAland Foundation’s signature event is its annual Statehood Day Dinner that is held at the Nebraska State Capitol. The black tie evening and celebration of distinguished Nebraskans is presided by Nebraska’s sitting Governor, who serves as the Foundation’s Chairperson. Through the years the roll call of award-winning honorees has been impressive. Dr. Tom Osborne was named the original Distinguished NEBRASKAlander in 1982. Since then, artists, clergy, educators, military personnel, politicians, and others have joined him, hailing from all areas of the state.

In 2009, the Foundation chose to honor the family of Colonel F.M. Woods with the Distinguished NEBRASKAlander award. The program notes from the ceremony (reprinted below with permission and a few italicized updates) is a terrific summary review of several of the Woods families’ accomplishments, aspirations, and initiatives.

In 1873, Frederick M. Woods, a livestock auctioneer, relocated his family from Illinois to Lincoln, Nebraska. From the beginning, Frederick, better known as “Colonel,” along with three of his sons, Frank, George, and Mark, were at the forefront of business, community, and cultural development in Nebraska.

They were leaders in everything that helped Lincoln grow into one of America’s finest cities. These enterprises included horse importing (Watson, Woods Brothers & Kelly); residential and commercial development (Woods Bros Realty); telephone service (Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph); aviation manufacturing (Arrow Aircraft Corporation); and charity (Woods Charitable Fund).

The Colonel’s broad knowledge of thoroughbred cattle built his reputation as an auctioneer. The editor of the Breeder’s Gazette wrote, “For more than forty years he was engaged in an ever-widening field as an auction salesman of purebred stock. Wherever livestock improvement was a factor in the United States or Canada, the effect of his potential influence was felt.” The Colonel was in such demand, that sale dates had to be made at least a year in advance.

In 1880, the Watson, Woods Brothers & Kelly Company started importing draft horses from Europe. Mark and George Woods served as the stateside salesmen. In 1914, the La Percheron Society of France asked the Company to take six award winning Percheron horses to the United States because the Society felt certain that the fine breed stock would be slaughtered to feed the German army. The Company grew to become the largest importers of registered draft horses in the mid-west and the second largest importers in America.

In 1889, Mark and George Woods founded Woods Brothers Realty.

In 1903, Frank Woods was hired by Charles and Frank Bills to establish Western Union Independent Telephone Company, a new, independent telephone company. One year later, the company changed names to Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph and began processing calls for its customers. By 1925, LT&T reported that it had the highest telephone saturation rate in the entire United States.

In 1925, the Arrow Aircraft Corporation entered the aviation industry as a pioneer in the manufacture of biplanes. The Corporation sought to meet the boom in demand for small and inexpensive aircraft following Charles Lindberg’s successful solo trans-Atlantic flight.

Frank Woods established the Woods Charitable Fund in 1941 as the philanthropic expression of the Woods family. The Fund provided capital and leadership to create the Lincoln Community Foundation. To date, the Fund has awarded more than individual 1,850 grants, totaling more than $47,700,000, in the fields of arts & culture, human services, civic issues and education.

Today, portions of the fifth, sixth, and seventh generations of the Colonel Woods family reside in Nebraska. For their significant impact on the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska, the NEBRASKAland Foundation is pleased to honor the Woods family with the 2009 Distinguished
NEBRASKAlander Award.

The NEBRASKAland Foundation promotes Nebraska through programs and awards that celebrate the State’s social, historical, cultural, educational and economic heritage.

Let the Horses Go Where They Will

Woods Bros Sale Day on Sheridan Boulevard
Woods Bros Sale Day on Sheridan Boulevard, photo courtesy of the Lincoln Planning Dept.

South Street at 25th in Lincoln is a hilltop. In the first part of the twentieth century if you were standing there, you would have had a nice view in all directions. There was surrounding countryside to the south, east, and west. Looking north, a view of the growing city. Mark Woods eventually built a beautiful home at the site. It provided an anchor at the north end of what would become Sheridan Place.

The beautiful and stately two-mile thoroughfare Sheridan Boulevard would become a main artery through the development, and later it would help connect the Woods developments that followed: Woodscrest, Van Dorn Park, Woodsdale, Woodsshire, and the Country Club additions.

Accounts vary about how this lovely street came to be laid out well over one hundred years ago, but it is accepted that a boy laid out the general path of Sheridan Boulevard. Mark Woods prepared a buckboard buggy with two horses for his son, Pace, then quite young. The boy would ride along and mark the pathway that would become Sheridan Boulevard.

He was to point them in the right direction, south and east through the countryside, and then simply, “… let the horses go where they will.” The idea was that the horses would follow the natural ridge top as they pulled the buggy along. Staying atop the ridge would help provide best views, breezes, and natural drainage.

There are some fun variations on the story of the way that young Pace Woods marked the path of the road. In one version, he rode on the step at the back of the wagon, and because it was shortly after Independence Day, he placed individual American flags in the ground every several feet. In another version, he had the family’s hunting dogs along with him and to mark the path of the future boulevard, he tossed large stones every few yards that the dogs would chase with delight.

In any event, it is clear that the method was successful – young Pace Woods and his horses forged a beautiful path through farm and prairie. The course that was eventually carved resulted in Sheridan Boulevard – still a signature thoroughfare in our city.

Pace Woods Jr. Part 1: Beginnings

This begins a three-part look into the fascinating life and legacy of the last Woods family member associated with Woods Bros Realty.
A young Pace Woods Jr with his father, Pace Woods Sr.
A young Pace Woods Jr with his father, Pace Woods Sr.

Bridging the traditional and modern eras of Woods Bros Realty was a task that required intelligence and nuance. It took authority, patience, and class. It took Pace Woods Jr.

Born in 1924 in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Frederick Pace and Olive (Black), Pace Woods Jr. received early education in the Lincoln Public Schools, then attended The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey where he graduated cum laude in 1943.

During World War II he served in both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the 75th Infantry Division, attaining the rank of sergeant. In 1950, he graduated with Dean’s honors and a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he studied creative writing, drama, and economics.

In 1950, when Woods was finishing at Yale, modern television was emerging. As was the case with many others from his family, Woods had a talent for sensing the possibilities of a newly blossoming field. The potential of television to entertain and educate was seductive. Woods relocated to California and started a successful career in the television industry in Hollywood.

Woods said that he became Audience Promotion Director at ABC. He then moved to NBC where he became the Advertising and Promotion Director for KNBH, NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate. At NBC he transferred to the live television part of the network operation. Woods’ directing credits include productions of the popular NBC Matinee Theatre, on which he directed stars such as Peter Graves and Cloris Leachman. In a 2004 interview, Woods revealed that he ultimately became senior director for NBC Hollywood and was connected to such productions as The Dinah Shore Show, The Jimmy Durante Show, The Bob Hope Show, NBC Matinee Theatre and The Colgate Comedy Hour with stars such as Martin and Lewis, Ethel Merman, Frank Sinatra and others. He also had a hand in NBC’s first color television commercial for RCA.

Next week: Part 2: The Bridge

Red Deer

Lots of people actively avoid mixing business and pleasure. Not so for the Woods brothers. Measured in dollars, their ranches certainly provided them with fantastic profits, and they also afforded them the precious restoration of mind and soul one can only get in the natural world.

Red Deer: Biography of a Sandhills Hunting Club
Red Deer: Biography of a Sandhills Hunting Club, courtesy of AbeBooks.com

In his wonderful book, Red Deer, Biography of a Sandhills Hunting Club, (2005 – privately published by the Red Deer Hunting Club,) author Jon Farrar lays out a fascinating history of the Lake Country of Nebraska’s Sandhills region. Starting in the late-1800s, he provides a context for that history by focusing on the sport of waterfowl hunting. (This essay makes use of much information from Farrar’s book.)

Farrar’s book shines its spotlight on Cherry County and a number of area hunting clubs. Specific attention is paid to Red Deer Lake and the Red Deer Hunting Club, of which the Woods brothers, Mark, George, and Frank, were charter members.

Roughly 1,600 lakes bubble up from the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska’s Sandhills. (By the definition of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 15 surface acres or more of water constitutes a lake. Red Deer Lake qualifies by about 1,000 times at roughly 1,500 acres.) With plentiful food, the shallow waters furnished a paradise for migrating birds. Hunting was splendid, and participants’ experiences evolved from early days of “roughing it” in tents in this wonderland of game, to organizing very sophisticated and exclusive camps, lodges, and clubs.

The club officially incorporated in 1905, and its membership roster was (and still is) populated with Lincoln businessmen. The Cochrane family of Chicago owned the land on which Red Deer Lake is situated and members of the Woods family had hunted there since the 1890s. In 1906, George Woods purchased the 6,000-acre Cochrane Ranch. It then came to be known as Red Deer Ranch.

For club members, Red Deer was a haven for getting away from the city and enjoying the outdoors. Members ate well, played cards, and socialized without conducting business. For the Woods Brothers, their paradise in the Sandhills was used for similar purposes, except that in addition to relaxing at Red Deer, they also welcomed opportunities for entertaining potential business partners, dignitaries, and political leaders.

In the fall of 1926, U.S. Vice-President Charles G. Dawes, and General John J. Pershing were guests of the Woods brothers and spent a few days hunting at Red Deer. Their visit became the subject of a celebrated article in Field & Stream magazine the following year.

The club had its ups and downs – many such hunting clubs came and went in the early part of the twentieth century. The Woods family sold Red Deer Ranch in 1940, by which time the acreage of their properties swelled from 6,000 to about 20,000 acres, of which 9,000 acres run along the Niobrara River. Red Deer Hunting Club still exists today as an exclusive duck club with some 40 members.

Famous Ranch

In 1917 the Woods Bros were already in the farm business. They had a 5,600-acre farm near Tekamah, for example. But in that year the Woods Bros delivered a keen feat of diversification when they purchased the Watson Ranch near Kearney, Nebraska.

Better known as the 1733 Ranch (view a photo at Stuhr Museum site), (it was thought to be situated 1733 miles equidistant to San Francisco and Boston,) Woods Bros paid about half a million dollars for the ranch. The 4,200-acre showplace was a spot of local pride and one of the great “country places” in the whole state.

According to a Lincoln State Journal article from June 1917, “Everything connected with the ranch is pitched on a huge scale.” When Woods Bros took over ownership of the ranch it featured:

  • More than one thousand acres under irrigation.
  • Hundreds of head of cattle and pigs.
  • 100 head of horses and mules to work the land and livestock.
  • 42 men who live on the property employed as ranch hands.
  • Between 7,000 and 8,000 pedigreed poultry with 48 incubators.
  • Hundreds of fowls of other kinds, both tame and wild.
  • A kennel of Airedale dogs.
  • 3,000 cherry and apple trees, and a 15-acre cedar grove (for decoration, windbreak, and lumber.)

The property’s manor house had 40 rooms and there were 15 tenant houses located about the ranch. Dairy herds were fed from what was said to be the world’s largest silo, and the farm animals were housed in a four-story barn that spanned 320 x 80 feet (over 102,000 sq. ft.). Scattered on the ranch were three lakes stocked with bass.

As one might expect, the ranch was much coveted and very well respected because of its grand scope, its “precision as a large business enterprise,” and its “tremendous attractiveness.” It was considered possible that the Union Pacific might even want to take over the place because it was perfect as “advertisement [of] Nebraska territory by the use of money and intelligence in operating on a large scale.”

In true Woods Bros fashion, their famous ranch, as with their other endeavors, was bold, monumental, and full of grand vision.

Pioneers Park

Buffalo statuary in Pioneers Park
Buffalo statuary in Pioneers Park

It must have been a fabulous home that Mark Woods and his son, Pace Woods, Sr., were visiting in the late-1920s: the New York City home of John F. Harris. Harris had been a childhood friend of Mark Woods and his brothers, and he had become a successful investment banker. He was a Lincoln native who wanted to do something back home to honor the memory of his parents.

According to Pace Woods, Jr., his grandfather, “…suggested that [Harris] donate a park to the citizens [of Lincoln].” That he would do. Pioneers Park came to life on roughly 600 acres of rolling prairie north of Van Dorn in west Lincoln that Harris donated over the course of three years (1928 – 1930). The Harris family also donated several animal sculptures for the park, including the bronze buffalo that greets visitors at the center of the east entry’s roundabout.

Another Lincoln native designed the wonderful park. Ernst Herminghaus was a landscape designer for Woods Bros developments and was trained at Harvard University as a landscape architect. The easternmost 80 acres of the park, closest to Coddington, were the first to be designed, and the plans included incorporating vistas of the Nebraska State Capitol Building that was then under construction.

Pace Woods, Jr., wrote that his family’s nursery, located south of Sheridan Boulevard and east of South 33rd Street, donated evergreen trees and lilac bushes to line the Coddington Street approach to Pioneers Park.

Pioneers Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As historian Ed Zimmer noted in the site’s Registration Form, Lincoln was undergoing a period of phenomenal growth in the 1920s. During the Depression, the park provided much needed public recreation space. It likewise created employment for people and galvanized development opportunities for the city’s parks and recreation spaces.

True to their form, the Woods brothers and other families of means used a combination of creative and practical resources to make this civic opportunity meaningful and long lasting. In the spring/early summer of 2015, Woods Bros Realty will launch half of a 125-tree donation to the Pioneers Park area to commemorate this longtime relationship and its 125 years in the community.

Flight – Part 3: The Crash

In the summer of 1929, the aviation industry was literally flying high. In October the stock market crashed, and suddenly the already short list of people who could afford an airplane became very short indeed. The aviation market evaporated. It would take patience, imagination, and boldness to face the tests of the nation’s devastating financial collapse.

Pace Woods was determined to keep key employees from his aircraft manufacturing business on the payroll. He started a welding school for them and continued to manufacture one Arrow Sport bi-wing per month. They conceived of and began to develop an innovative new airplane that could be run from an automobile engine and would be a single-wing craft.

During the lean years between the crash and the Second World War, there were struggles. The new single-wing plane was deemed an industry “breakthrough” and according to Pace Woods, the factory, “…delivered 100 and they were a great success; however, in 1938 … we couldn’t get refinanced.” The plant was closed.

Later, the Woods’ Arrow Aircraft and Motor Corp. facility became a home for Goodyear in Havelock. When he reflected on the times, Woods expressed both great joy at being a part of an exciting, burgeoning industry and some wistfulness for what might have been if the bottom hadn’t fallen out of the world.

He did what he could to protect his business and his employees, and if the scales of fate had tipped a bit differently, Lincoln may have become a major private and commercial aircraft-manufacturing hub. As with so many endeavors, the Woods family would have been right in the thick of it.

The second version of the Arrow Sport, with Pace Woods, Sr., Gen. John Pershing, and test pilot Jimmy Hearst.
The second version of the Arrow Sport, with Pace Woods, Sr., Gen. John Pershing, and test pilot Jimmy Hearst.

Flight – Part 2: The Bear and the Windy City

In 1926 the Woods family entered the aviation business. By 1929, the Woods’ Arrow Aircraft and Motor Corp. was a world’s leading aircraft producer. Pace Woods must have been about 30 when he was doing the initial marketing of his family’s airplanes, and Chicago would have been ripe with clients for plucking.

Built in Lincoln and selling to the whole country, Woods decided that a bear would accompany him on his maiden flight to the Windy City. Maybe because the bear is a symbol of the city of Chicago, or perhaps it was simply because the sight of a small bear can be delightful. At any rate the pilot, the young Woods, and the young bear would fly and descend together, alighting in the landing field among hundreds of Chicagoans gathered to see the machine and the animal.

The bear tactic combined the kind of fun and audacity that the family would mix together to put their positive touch on all endeavors. But this was surely at least a somewhat complicated plan – arranging for a crowd in Chicago to meet the arrival of your company’s new product (A Glistening Arrow Sport Airplane!), printing fliers, obtaining a bear, etc.

Not everything can be considered, and in the wide world of unintended consequences, calculating for the effects of altitude pressure on the ears of a young bear did not get on the marketing plan. As the anecdote goes, they got the bear loaded in the plane and everything was fine for takeoff and during the flight. When they began to descend, the bear became restless and then agitated, breaking its restraints. When the airplane landed and came to a stop, the bear was able to let itself out of its seat and climb down off the wing. It promptly relieved itself in front of the crowd.

Some bears are more delightful than others, and some marketing plans are better than others.

Next: Flight – Part three: The Crash

Flight – Part one: The Take Off

The Woods family set trends and realized success in a number of areas. This was often due to an ability to look ahead to the future. In 1925 Pace Woods Sr. and his father, Mark, first saw the Arrow airplane. They were instantly beguiled. The aviation industry was still young, and thoughts of flight set imaginations into motion.

According to Pace Woods, his father, “…envisioned airplanes as the wave of the future.” In 1926 the family acquired an airplane manufacturing facility in Havelock and became part of that future.

Another foresighted aviation enthusiast, Charles Lindbergh, learned to fly, wing-walk, and parachute from airplanes in Lincoln, Nebraska. The former airfield where he trained sat next to one of jewels of the Woods’ development–the current Country Club of Lincoln. The airfield is memorialized at 20th and High Streets with a bronze plaque set in stone that sits next to the stately east gates of another of the Woods Bros development gems, the Woodsshire neighborhood. In 1927 “Lindy” made a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris, and became the most celebrated person the world had ever known.

By 1929, the Woods’ Arrow Aircraft and Motor Corp. was the world’s leading producer of the Arrow Sport bi-wing. The 1920s really roared and the wildly successful facility employed between 500 and 700 people. Crews built four aircraft per day and at its peak, the company had orders for a total of over 250 airplanes, which cost $2,500 apiece.

The Arrow Sport can now be found in the Lincoln Airport.
The Arrow Sport can now be found in the Lincoln Airport.

Pace Woods was prodigious and had an unquenchable, entrepreneurial spirit. He got his real estate license at age 17, about a dozen years before embarking upon the Woods family’s future in aviation. Engaging in such diverse interests and opportunities made for a life rich in fact and in anecdote. More broadly applied, such varied pursuits not only keep life interesting, they keep others interested as well.

Next Week: Flight – Part two: The Bear in the Windy City. Woods clients in Chicago were in for a treat.

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