304 Glen Avenue – William Stewart Keeline
William Stewart (Will) Keeline, born in 1862, was the seventh of the nine children of Sophia and George F. Keeline whose home at 1133 East Pierce Street was featured in this column on December 23rd. Keeline spent the summers of his younger years working on the family’s cattle ranches in Wyoming with his father and brothers from about 1879 (age 17) until 1886 when he returned to Council Bluffs and went into the wholesale hardware business with his brother-in-law, Corydon Felt. In 1887, he married Julia Dohany. They had six children: Clarence, Margaret, John Frank, Katherine, Adele and William Stewart Keeline, Jr.
His father-in-law, John Dohany, owned a lumber yard, real estate, and a livery stable with an opera house above. In 1883 he built a new Dohany Opera House at Sixth Street and Broadway, which later became the Strand Theater. The Dohany home was on Park Avenue, where Park and Glen Avenues meet at Pomona.
Keeline sold the hardware business in 1892 and became a successful fruit-grower. The vineyards were located on the farm off Old Highway 6 on Birdsley Road. The apple orchards were located off Highway 275.
William Keeline is best known as the founder of the Council Bluffs Grape Growers Association with the subsequent construction of the Grape Growers building on Ninth Avenue and the City Auditorium on Bryant Street where the popular horticulture exhibits were held. He died in 1942. William and Julia Keeline are buried in St. Joseph Cemetery. Three of their nine children died in 1901 and are buried here also: Frederick (5), Ada (3), and baby.
The family’s large, three-story home on the corner of High School and Park Avenues, according to the Tallgrass Historians’ National Register nomination of the Park and Glen Avenues Historic District, “…. is considered a high-style example of the Colonial Revival in this neighborhood. The house features three front-gabled (with cornice returns) dormers on the front roof slope, wide eave overhang with modillion blocks under the eave, a rounded bay window centered on the second floor over the full-width portico front porch, which features paired and tripled full-height round and square posts with classical capitals and turned balusters on the wood railing. Windows include Palladian windows in the side gable ends, rectangular, square, and round-arched windows, some with decorative upper panes, and cottage windows with decorative headers. The house retains good integrity and is a standout in the district”.
Keeline purchased the property, which was originally three lots, from the Independent School District in 1902. The house next door at 310 (built in 1925) sits on what was once a tennis court on the Keeline’s south lot. The current owner plans to replace the second story porch railing which was removed some years ago.
The front yard was the scene of a lynching in 1854 when Baltimore Muer, a young emigrant accused of murder, was hung from a limb of an elm tree by other emigrants camping in the valley. A 1935 Nonpareil article with the headline, “Wind fells tree used as gallows” tells the story and noted that the 200-year-old elm tree in the yard of the W.S. Keeline home had been blown over by high winds. The accompanying photograph shows that the “hanging tree” was located near the evergreens that appear on the right in today’s photograph. For several years, the valley was known as “Hang Hollow”.
The Keeline ranches also provided background for what has been called the first great novel of American Western literature. A Nonpareil article dated December 27, 1906, states that noted author Owen Wister spent the summer after graduating from college (1883) working on a Keeline ranch, among others. Living the life of a cowboy gave the author a sense of the spirit of the country and its people when, years later, in 1902, he wrote “The Virginian” – the novel that became the inspiration for four movies, a television series, and, in 2000, a television movie.
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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