424 Oakland Avenue – Dr. Frank Wilson Dean – Part II

by | Historic Homes

(This column is continued from March 16th.) Dr. Frank Wilson Dean was born in Satara, India in 1863, the fourth of six children born in India. His parents were Congregational missionaries. In 1867, the family returned to the United States because of his father’s health. They located in New Hampshire and Georgia before moving to Nebraska in 1872. Dr. Dean attended Doane College in Crete, Nebraska and medical school in Minneapolis (not Chicago, as stated), graduating in 1890. He set up practice in Mineola, Iowa and, after a year and a half, left for Europe to study diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat. He married Sarah Meston of Hastings, Nebraska in 1897 and opened an office in Council Bluffs. They lived in a cottage at 302 S. Ninth Street where their son Abbott was born in 1900. Three years later, they moved the house to 116 Third Street, sold it in 1912 and built a new house at 424 Oakland Avenue.

424 Oakland Ave., Dean

The new house was built in the Italian Renaissance style. According to the nomination of the Lincoln/Fairview Historic District to the National Register, it is an “impressive two-story rectangular house with a low-pitched hip roof. (It has) a very wide eave overhang with modillion blocks under the eaves of the main roof and porch roof. The front portico porch has ¾-height round columns on wood-paneled square bases. The exterior is red brick. There is a strong horizontal emphasis to the roofline, massing of house, and design of windows, particularly on the second-floor…(the house was) probably architect-designed.”

In his autobiography, Dr. Dean tells of renting his first office in 1895 at 541 West Broadway. He first stayed at the Kiel Hotel. Fifty cents per night gave him a bed and breakfast. The first three nights, he didn’t have fifty cents and slept in his office chair, tipped back. When he “got money ahead”, he began to room and board at the Kiel for $5 per week.

Setting up an office in 1895 did not cost as much as it does today. In his autobiography, completed in 1954, Dr. Dean writes, “Many aids doctors have now, were not to be had in 1895” and mentions just a few. There was no x-ray, diagnostic instruments with small lights were not on the market, nothing was known about blood pressure and there were no instruments for measuring it, there were no blood cell counts, no vaccine for typhoid, no treatment for meningitis, no insulin. “When one thinks of the number of helps the doctors of 1895 had to do without, and I have mentioned only a few of them, one is surprised that they did as well as they did.”

In 1896, Dr. Dean moved his office to the Merriam Block (where city hall is now located). The country was just coming out of a depression and his practice “began to pick up a little”. That fall, an Irish father brought his seven or eight year old son into the office and said, “The Sisters insist that the boy have his eyes fitted with glasses, but there is no use in it for the boy is foolish, he is not right in his head. His younger brother is ahead of him in school. But the Sisters say he must have glasses or I must take him out of school. So, Doctor, do what you can for him.” So Dr. Dean fitted him with glasses. The next spring, the father and the boy came back to have the frame repaired. The father reported that “the boy has done very well in school, has caught up with his brother and is ahead of him now….but, doctor, I still contend there is a damn fool in the family but it isn’t the boy.”

About 1902, a little boy, six or seven years old, “came to the office with a small brown spaniel pup in his arms. He asked me if I wasn’t an eye doctor. When I admitted it, he asked me to fix his pup’s eye.” The pup had been bitten by a large dog, and one of its eyes was forced forward. Dr. Dean repaired the eye, but the pup immediately scratched the bandage off. So he sewed the lids together. The boy brought the pup in every day to be checked. On the fifth day, the sutures were removed and the eye was fine. When the boy brought the pup back the next day for a final check, “the little chap surprised me by asking how much he owed me. I told him I had done quite an operation and he had brought the pup up a number of times, and I thought it ought to be worth as much as three cents. He said, ‘Three cents. I thought it would be worth a lot more than that’ and he handed me a nickel. I gave him two cents change…I have always regretted that I did not learn the boy’s name and address.”

In 1910, Dr. L.L. Henninger became his partner “He did the ear, nose and throat practice and I took care of the eye practice.” In March of 1923, he joined the Council Bluffs Clinic at 532 First Avenue. In 1923, Abbott married Elizabeth Baker who had attended Radcliffe for her master’s degree when Abbott was in medical school at Harvard. They bought a house at 231 Park Avenue. Abbott had begun working in the office in 1920. In 1933, Dr. Frank dean dissolved the partnership with Dr. Howard, who had replaced Dr. Henninger, and Drs. Frank and Abbott Dean moved into an office at 22 South Sixth Street.

Sarah’s parents came from Scotland and were married in London They came to Canada when Sarah was a baby, and moved to Harvard, Nebraska in 1872. Sarah taught school until she married Dr. Frank Dean. She died in 1939. Dean sold the house in 1940 and moved to 532 First Avenue.

Dr. Dean was on the staff at Jennie Edmundson Hospital and was a trustee of the Christian Home. He was a member of several medical and civic organizations and an honorary member of the Rotary Club. He died in 1955. Frank and Sarah Dean are buried in Memorial Park cemetery.

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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