223 Park Avenue – Samuel Evans/Samuel S. Bayliss

by | Historic Homes

Through the years, the house at 223 Park Avenue was believed to have been built in 1862, but a study of the district prior to its listing in the National Register of Historic Places determined that 1866 was the more likely date of construction. Based on court records, it appears that Samuel S. Evans purchased the land but did not build on it until after the war and his marriage in 1865 to Endamile Bayliss, and that the couple occupied the home from February 1866 until October 1869. In that year, they made “alterations and improvements” to the house and then traded properties with Endamile’s father, Samuel S. Bayliss, for a house on the public square. Samuel and Martha Bayliss lived in the house until his death in 1874.

223 Park Avenue, Evans House

Samuel Evans was born in Ohio in 1834. It is not known when he came to Council Bluffs; he was listed in the 1860 U.S. census as a 29-year-old merchant living in one of the town’s hotels.

Colonel Samuel S. Bayliss was born in Virginia in 1817 and was living in Illinois in 1852 when he joined the gold-rushers headed west. Bound for Kanesville on the steamer Saluda, he left the ship at Lexington, Mo, convinced it was unsafe. According to H.H. Field’s History of Pottawattamie County, he had been off the boat scarcely ten minutes when it blew up. Continuing on, he arrived in Kanesville in April.

According to Field, Bayliss was “a Virginian of the old school, courteous and dignified, but not accustomed to roughing it”. He purchased a large tract of land, which included a farm and claim, from Henry Miller, who held squatters rights and was leaving for Salt Lake with the Mormon exodus, for a reported $250. This turned out to be some of the most valuable property in the new frontier town.

Bayliss was soon joined by his brother, Joseph. They raised a large crop of wheat, corn and vegetables on the claim, which they sold to emigrants during the following fall. They also opened a brick yard and built several brick buildings.

Bayliss laid out his claim into town lots and his plat for the First Bayliss Addition was filed in June of 1853. It took in the property in the vicinity of what today is Pearl Street and Broadway and, as one writer later described it, “all the lots on the west side of Main Street, southward of Pearl Street and one square south of Broadway.” He donated the square to the county for a courthouse. At the dedication it was called a “public square”. The county authorities disregarded his gift and built the courthouse one block south while the square remained a weed patch. Ten years later, the city began to exercise control over the park, planting trees and enclosing it with a fence. Twenty years after the original donation, Bayliss made an attempt to regain possession of the square, but after lengthy litigation the Supreme Court of Iowa held the park to be city property.

Samuel Bayliss was a community leader. When the city was incorporated and Kanesville became Council Bluffs, he was elected alderman in the first city election.

He was one of the seven organizers of the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Co. that purchased the Lone Tree Ferry from William Brown. (It was so named because there was one tree marking the landing point on the west bank.) With profits from the ferry, they purchased land on the west bank of the river and laid out and platted a new Omaha city. When it became necessary to add a larger ferry to transport rail cars, the company introduced its new steamboat ferry, the Lizzie Bayliss, named after Bayliss’s youngest daughter.

Bayliss’s Pacific House hotel, a three-story brick building, was built at Broadway and Pearl Street (later replaced by the Eiseman store which was purchased by John Beno in 1900). The bend in Broadway at Fourth Street is there to take traffic past the Pacific House and the buildings of other influential leaders. For a time, the first governor of the Nebraska Territory had his office in the Pacific House. Abraham Lincoln stayed at the Pacific House during his two-day visit to Council Bluffs in 1859.

Bayliss and others from the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Co. helped to organize the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph Railroad in 1858.

Once considered a very wealthy civic leader, Bayliss died in comparative poverty. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery. The house was sold in 1875 to James Brewster in a sheriff’s sale, and then to W. S. Mayne in 1887.

The nomination of the district to the National Register of Historic Places describes the house as Italianate/Gothic Revival with a brick foundation and walls, and an asphalt shingled cross-gabled roof. The two-story house originally had its main entry on the second floor reached by twin curving staircases leading out to the street. Around 1887, the third owner, W.S. Mayne, removed the entry stairs to the second floor and changed the main entrance to the ground floor, resulting in a more Gothic appearance as seen in the steeply-pitched gabled roof and dormer. The first floor features a centered door flanked by tall, narrow windows. The original entrance can still be seen on the second floor as a centered double-wide window with a segmental-arched transom and hoodmold , and flanked by two double-hung windows. The front-gabled wall dormer above has an arched window. The open front porch is a 1986 restoration. It is said that 130,000 bricks were used to build the original house.

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.

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