Member of the Week: Vince Furlong

VFtourleader2015

Vince Furlong

Tour Coordinator and Guide, and Volunteer

Restoration Exchange Omaha

http://www.restorationexchange.org

Describe your day job. How does it intersect with urban history?

I am mostly retired and did have 17 years as a teacher in my early days – Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and the Omaha metro.

You lead guided tours of Omaha. How did you get into doing that? Give us a sense for the tours!

About 20 years ago, I had space to consider what I might want to do at age 60 plus. I ran a self-initiated forum discussing the question – how do we want Omaha to grow? Several folks suggested a rebirth of Omaha’s historic neighborhood commercial districts. I was encouraged to look at the National Trust’s Main Street program. So, I tried to introduce the Main Street program here, but local government said “we are already doing this” and local business and neighborhoods oozed apathy. So, I began doing the tours of a couple districts myself.

Our La Veinticuatro tour of the South Omaha 24th Street Historic Main Street highlights an area that grew up in the Omaha stockyards/meatpacking satellite city from 1887-1970s and now is the heart of the Latino population. The Deuce tour of the 24th and Lake historic district emphasizes black musical heritage and local civil rights actions from 1920-1970. Finally, our Historic Vinton Street Commercial District tour stresses a unique street angle and interesting architecture that grew around it.

History is just part of each tour as we also look at the arts vibe in each area, ethnic influences, architecture, revitalization efforts…. Our main tourist clientele are students first grade to grad school.

What recent or forthcoming urban history books are you excited about?

My daughter recently gave me a hardback copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, so I have been re-reading selected areas.

What advice do you have for scholars of urban history who want to share history with their communities?

  1. Start doing it.
  2. Keep doing it.
  3. Show some passion.
  4. Keep adding tidbits of info.
  5. Do not be too scholarly.

What’s the best question you have been asked while giving a tour?

The best question for me while I was walking the streets doing the research was “Hey, Vince, why are you doing this?” Also, I always like “Que pasa?”

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