By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
If you were in Omaha in 2008 for the Olympic Swim Trials, you already know about the city’s inherent charm and hospitality – not to mention a strong love for and history of sports.
But did you know that Omaha is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich? Or that civil rights champion and minister Malcolm X called Omaha home? Or that hundreds of temporary buildings – most resembling the architecture of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. – were constructed in Omaha for the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898?
Located on the western bank of the Missouri River, Omaha was founded in 1854 to outfit pioneers traveling the Oregon and Mormon trails. It wasn't until 1863, when President Lincoln made Omaha the eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad, that the city began to grow.
In recent years, Omaha's riverfront has enjoyed a renaissance, with footpaths, parks and pedestrian bridges linking it to Iowa across the Missouri River and to the downtown Old Market district, 12 square blocks of former warehouses now enjoying new life as restaurants and shops.
Following are a few interesting facts about Nebraska and Omaha, the 42nd largest city in the United States:
1. In 1927, Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings, Neb., invented the powdered soft drink Kool-Aid.
2. The Lied Jungle located in Omaha is the world's largest indoor rain forest. The desert dome is the world’s largest geodesic dome.
3. Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.
4. Nebraska is the only state in the union with a unicameral (one house) legislature.
5. Nebraska has more underground water reserves than any other state in the continental U.S.
6. Marlon Brando's mother gave Henry Fonda acting lessons at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
7. Origin of Nebraska's Name: From an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water.”
8. Union Pacific Railroad's museum is headquartered in Council Bluffs, Iowa, located just across the Missouri River from Omaha.
9. Omaha has been home of the NCAA Men’s College World Series since 1950.
10. Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska in 1917.
11. Omaha is home for five Fortune 500 company headquarters: ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific Corporation, Mutual of Omaha, Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc., and Berkshire Hathaway.
12. Omaha’s Borsheims (owned by Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway) is the largest jewelry store in the nation.
13. Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha is the largest furniture store in the nation.
14. Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th President of the United States, was born in Omaha on July 14, 1913. Ford served from 1974 to 1977 following the resignation of Richard Nixon.
15. Omaha is also the home to four Fortune 1000 headquarters: TD Ameritrade, West Corporation, Valmont Industries and Werner Enterprises.
16. The first chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) west of the Mississippi River was founded in Omaha in 1912.
17. Omaha has added two new professional sports teams since the 2008 Trials, including the Omaha Nighthawks (football) and the Omaha Storm Chasers (baseball).
18. Gale Sayers, an All-Pro running back for the Chicago Bears, was raised in Omaha and graduated from an Omaha Central High School.
19. Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants) was born and raised in Omaha.
20. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, lives in Omaha where he made his fortune in business and is a world philanthropist.