304 Willow Avenue – Dr. Charles Woodbury

by | Historic Homes

The Woodbury House was built in 1906 for Dr. Charles Woodbury and his wife, Nellie. Barbara Heck remembers the home of her grandparents: “In the early 1930s, the porch on the east side of the house was converted to a three-season sun porch. On the west side of the house, where the deck is now, was a small formal garden. The house was always brown shingles with white trim. Recent owners painted it blue and erected the fence. The Woodburys had four children. Three boys died in infancy. One daughter, Dorothy, was their only surviving child.”

The National Register nomination for the district lists the Colonial Revival house as “contributing, with very good integrity” and mentions, specifically, the broken pediment window detail on the second floor, a hipped roof with an inset hipped dormer, the double set of triple-round posts on the porch piers, side lights and a transom on the front door, and the Chicago –type windows with fanlights.

The Omaha World Herald was founded by Gilbert Hitchcock in 1885. Decades later, a tribute to Dr. Woodbury told his story:

304 Willow Avenue Dr. Woodbury

“The year this newspaper was born a young Council Bluffs man was completing his dental education in the East. In the ensuing 65 years, Dr. Charles E. Woodbury made important scientific contributions hailed by the entire profession, stimulated Midwestern dentistry to high competency and taught, practiced and wrote himself into the Dental Hall of Fame. His office remained in Council Bluffs from the time he hooked up his first drill until he retired in 1950.

Dr. Woodbury taught in the Creighton School of Dentistry for 42 years, designed more than one hundred dental instruments, and was a pioneer in the enduring gold foil technique of filling teeth.

His father, Dr. Edmond Israel Woodbury, arrived in Council Bluffs on July 1, 1859. He then was the only dentist west to Denver and north to the North Pole.

The elder Dr. Woodbury made his own gas to anesthetize patients. It was the original laughing gas and had about the same effect as bonded whisky. Once a burly drayman got so happy he wrecked the dentist’s office before staggering out. . .

Young Dr. Woodbury joined his father in practice when he was 21. The two worked in a one-story building at Pearl Street and First Avenue, site of the present Chieftain Hotel.

The first gold crown in Iowa was made in the office by a Chicago surgeon. While the younger Dr. Woodbury did not originate the technique, his ardent teaching of the gold foil method spread its usage throughout the country. He lectured and conducted clinics in nearly every state. . . .His study clubs spread throughout the country. He helped organize the American College of Dentists.

In 1927 a testimonial dinner was held in Omaha. Five hundred dentists throughout the country attended. A leader in the profession flatly called the Council Bluffs man the ‘greatest man in dentistry today’.

Some years later, bronze portraits of 10 dentists were dedicated in the Dental Hall of Fame at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. Three of the 10 had practiced in the Omaha area – Dr. Woodbury was one of the three.

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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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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