332 Willow Avenue – O.P. Wickham/Paul Coleman DeVol

by | Historic Homes

The Wickham and DeVol names may sound familiar, as both families have previously been featured in this column: 616 South Seventh Street was the home of O.P. Wickham after the family moved from this location, and 203 Turley Avenue was the home of Paul Clyde DeVol, the son of Paul Coleman DeVol who lived at this location.

O. P. Wickham, one of ten children of Patrick and Cecelia Wickham, came to Council Bluffs from County Leitrim, Ireland in 1858 with his father, two brothers and a sister. His mother and his other siblings emigrated four years earlier and settled in New York. In 1857 they came to Council Bluffs where Cecelia purchased property. The family united here in 1858.

James, O.P. and Martin Hughes (who married their sister, Mary) founded the Wickham Brickyards on North Eighth Street, now the site of Sternhill Park. At one time the brickyards produced 35,000 bricks daily. They started a contracting business in 1863 and, after a few years, Hughes went into business for himself, building a stately mansion at 903 Third Street which has been carefully restored and preserved. (It was also featured in a previous column.) O.P. married Jennie Fenlon whose family owned the coal company that heated many of the city’s homes.

332 Willow Ave.

The Wickham Brothers are credited with the construction of the Dohany Opera House (later the Strand Theater); the courthouse and jail; Mercy Hospital; St. Francis, St. Peter, and Holy Family Churches; the Grand Hotel, the first brick buildings and streets in Omaha, and many other Council Bluffs commercial and residential buildings.

Paul Coleman DeVol, well known for many years as a hardware and tinware merchant, was the second owner of this home. One of a family of nine children, he came to Council Bluffs from New York via Massachusetts and Illinois with his parents, David and Delia (Tobey) DeVol in 1847. They brought with them the family of Dustin Amy – Mormons who were fleeing persecution in Nauvoo and who later owned a successful hardware store.

Paul C. DeVol was eleven years old when the family settled in Council Bluffs, then known as Mormon Crossing and later as Kanesville. He attended school and was employed in various ways. According to H.H. Field’s (In italics) History of Pottawattamie County (end italics), though he started in life empty-handed, he became one of the successful merchants of the city. His first business venture consisted of a space some six feet in width between two buildings. He kept a small stand, selling pies, ginger bread, cider and other commodities to emigrants who were on their way west.

At age eighteen, he began to learn the tinner’s trade, which he followed until 1861 when he formed a partnership with Milton Rogers and they opened a stove, tin and hardware store. After two years, DeVol purchased his partner’s interest and operated P.C. DeVol Hardware alone until 1883, when he formed a partnership with W.S. Wright. The hardware store continued to operate on the corner of Broadway and Main Street. The partners also opened a very successful jobbing house (wholesale hardware) in Omaha, employing many traveling sales representatives. DeVol became the first president of the Iowa Retail Hardware Association. At the time of his death in 1903, he was recognized as a leading citizen of Council Bluffs during its formative years.

In 1868 Paul C. DeVol married Katharine Swobe and they became the parents of five children. In 1884 they purchased this home from O.P. Wickham for whom it was built in 1878 in the Italianate architectural style. In 1913, Katharine renovated it to the then-popular Prairie style. The two-story brick house has a wide eave overhang to the hipped roof. The porches have Craftsman/Prairie School details. Other features include the recessed double entrance door with sunburst motif, a rounded bay window, and Italianate-styled window hoods with a scroll design. The house was converted to apartments many years ago and has been restored to a single family home. The recent addition to the back of the house maintains the integrity of the original architecture. The house, designated a local landmark, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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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