231 Park Avenue – Thomas Hart Benton and Patrick Lacy
One of the most significant houses in the Park and Glen Avenues Historic District is this two-story brick house built in 1857 by Thomas Hart Benton, Jr. Benton was a nephew of the Missouri senator and a partner in the banking firm Green, Ware and Benton, one of the first banks established in Council Bluffs. Before coming to Council Bluffs in 1852, he had served as Secretary of the State Board of Education, Superintendent of Public Education, and completed a term in the Iowa State Senate (1846-48). He was commissioned as a Colonel in the U.S. Army in 1862 and was made Brigadier General in 1864.
Benton’s bank suffered a financial loss in the Panic of 1857, less than a year after the house was built. Benton and his wife Susan were able to stay in their new home and, according to the National Register nomination, it was from here that he left to serve in the Civil War. A series of mortgages and judgments followed, and Benton sold the house in 1865 to Judge R.L. Douglas, one of the first two circuit judges for the state of Iowa.
Other significant early owners were Mary Ann and Patrick Lacy, who purchased the house in 1884. Patrick Lacy was born in Ireland in 1843. His father died there, and the family came to the United States and settled in Savannah, GA. Three years later, his mother died of yellow fever.
In 1856 Lacy came to Council Bluffs with his brother and sisters. He was 13 years old. Around age 18 he started work with a wagon train, making several trips between Council Bluffs and Denver. He then worked in mining camps in Colorado, Idaho, and Montana for four years before returning to Council Bluffs.
Lacy was married twice and had eleven children. His first wife was Annie Wickham, who came from Ireland with her family in 1857. (His older sister, Mary, married James J. Wickham, Annie’s brother.) After her death, he married Mary Ann Fee.
City directories list Patrick Lacy as a saloon keeper, giving several business addresses on Broadway through the years. One source claims he was owner of the infamous Ocean Wave Saloon. However, family members cannot confirm this. He would have been 18 years old when it burned, about the time he started work with the wagon train. He became an extensive dealer in real estate, and by 1886 he was no longer listed as a saloon keeper.
Lacy was a charter member of the first Volunteer Fire Department and served as chief for eight years. He retired when it became a paid department. He was one of the organizers of the State Firemen’s Association of Iowa, served two years as president, and was a member of the National Association of Fire Engineers. He served on the city council, and sold his building to the city. It became Fire Station #1 and stands today on South Main Street, across from The Center.
Patrick Lacy died on December 27, 1890. He was 47 years old. Mary Ann Lacy continued to live in the house until 1909 when it was purchased by James O’Connor, a railroad builder. He sold the property in 1931 to Dr. Abbott and Elizabeth Dean.
The Federal-style house exhibits this early architectural style in the symmetrical windows, centered front door, and six-pane double-hung windows. An 1875 illustration shows the full-length front porch, which was removed in the 1930s.
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.
Preserve Council Bluffs is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and preserve the heritage of Council Bluffs through its architecture, sites, and people.
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