137 Glen Avenue – Peter Jensen

by | Historic Homes

This charming house at 137 Glen Avenue lies within the Park/Glen Avenues Historic District and, according to Tallgrass Historians, writers of the district nomination, could be individually eligible as well.

Built in the Neoclassical style, its unique features include the hipped roof with a dramatic flare at the front roof overhang and short side-gabled ells. The house is unusually narrow to fit the lot size, but the narrowness is further emphasized by the dramatic height and flare of the roofline. The front porch has square pressed brick posts with bullnose corners and thick turned balusters on the wood railing. The posts have decorative classical wood capitals. Other Neoclassical decorative details include the modillion blocks under the eaves, the hip-roofed dormer and inset balcony on the front roof slope, and the segmental-arched brick lintels above the centered front door and the dormer window. It is possible that the architect was J. Chris Jensen.

Jensen House

Peter Jensen purchased the property in 1905 from Zillah and Richard Green and built the house as a rental. The first known occupant was Clarence Laubach, a superintendent for the Independent Telephone Company. Jensen and his wife, Mabel, lived here from 1917 through 1927 when they moved to 121 Keeline Avenue.

Peter and his brother, J. Chris Jensen, came to the United States from Denmark in 1879. Peter spent 60 of his 78 years making cigars in Council Bluffs. By 1946, at 77, he was the city’s only remaining cigar manufacturer. He told the Nonpareil, “I was going to school and I wanted to make some extra money. Like other boys, I went looking for a job.” He found one in Frank Levin’s cigar store, stripping tobacco leaves. After he finished school, he went to San Francisco and worked for a brief time as a cigar maker, returned here in 1888 and again went to work for Levin. At his father’s suggestion, he started a small cigar-manufacturing business in the woodshed behind his home. In 1899, Jensen purchased Levin’s store, made cigars and operated a retail tobacco store. Later he moved to 417 West Broadway, and in 1913 into quarters at 16 South Main Street. At one time, Jensen employed as many as 20 people, turning out in excess of 1,000,000 cigars a year. His Santiago and Turnpike brands, a 5-cent cigar, were sold exclusively in Council Bluffs. At the turn of the century, large companies began putting the small manufacturers out of business. Jensen gave this bit of advice to anyone thinking of opening a similar establishment: “You might as well buy an ox-team and compete with the big trucks.” He died at age 78, still making cigars.

Mabel, a native of Sterling, IL, attended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, taught at Coe College prior to her marriage and, after, taught piano and violin in her home. She performed with the Omaha Symphony for more than twenty-five years, serving in the positions of first violin and assistant concertmaster. In a 1958 interview, she said, “We’re going to try for a youth symphony. It will be good incentive for my pupils”, adding that she can “lay foundations for appreciation of good music throughout their lives”.

Source Material

Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research.