The History of the
A little home with
a big history.
Who were the little people?
Jean & Inez Bregant
Jean and Inez Bregant were known as “the little people” by local residents. Jean stood about 45” tall and Inez, about 42” tall. It’s been said that Inez always wore a hat when she went out, and it usually had some sort of plume to make her appear taller.
About 1906, Jean and Inez operated the neighborhood store owned by Inez’ parents and located on North 8th Street in Council Bluffs. On one occasion, while at the John G. Woodward and Company factory ordering candy for the store, Jean and Inez met John Woodward. Sometime after, Mr. Woodward hired Jean and Inez to represent the company and by 1907, they were known as the “Candy Kids”. For seven years, they traveled across many states, demonstrating and selling “Woodward Candy” and handing out postcards featuring their likeness, as advertising for John G. Woodward and Company.
Big love within a small home
Their love story
In the summer of 1905, Jean Bregant and Inez Lewis were actors in the same Vaudeville troupe at Coney Island, New York. The story goes… Jean invited Inez to dine with him one evening and they became engaged shortly thereafter. They traveled to Council Bluffs and were married on Christmas Eve, 1905; she was 17, he was 35. They continued to work in Vaudeville as a couple, before returning to Council Bluffs in 1906.
The Bregant Home
517 4th Street, Council Bluffs
In 1908, Jean and Inez purchased the parcel of land south of Inez’ parents home, and in 1911, the construction began on their home. The home was completed in 1912 and was custom built to fulfill their needs. Jean died in 1944 and Inez lived in the house another 25 years until her death in 1969.
The Bregant house is located on the east side of the street at 517 4th Street, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Bregant home was built as a one bedroom Craftsman bungalow. It’s situated so far back on the lot, that passersby are likely to miss it. It features a low-pitched roof and open porch; true to bungalow style. The home retains its original lapped wood siding and beveled, leaded glass windows. Notice that the fireplace chimney towers several feet above the home at 515 South 4th St. That home was once owned by Inez’ parents. The original back porch was altered at some time, giving the home a potential second bedroom.
This house is located so close to both of the neighboring houses that the eaves would literally touch if the houses were the same height.
As previously stated, the house was custom designed to fulfill the special needs of the Bregants; you will find that the light switches, door knobs and medicine cabinet are a bit lower than most homes. The home’s walls are of finished plaster and were always covered in wallpaper; several layers were removed during the restoration. All of the home’s wood floors have been refinished, and wallpapers have been replaced and the beveled glass windows and doors restored. Both the living room and dining room feature picture molding just below the ceilings. We do know that the Bregants had average-sized furniture to accommodate their guests.
The living room features original oak flooring and a fireplace mantel that would be waist-high for the average adult. Flanking the fireplace are low, built-in benches. The bench on the left camouflages the air return, while the right side’s seat opens and serves as a firewood storage box. On either side of the chimney, there is a beveled, leaded glass window and the south wall of the living room features a beveled, leaded glass “piano window”. On the front of the house, there are additional windows featuring both beveled, leaded glass and others with a decorative wood, in a similar style.
The north wall features a three-sided bay and a custom-built china-curio cabinet. The piece is about five feet tall and also features beveled, leaded glass doors. It has a mirror in the center and we learned that Inez would stand in front of that mirror and adjust her hat before going out. Most adults would need to kneel on the floor to see their image in the mirror. Above the built-in, is another beveled, leaded glass window, similar in size to the piano window in the living room. The full-length windows on either side of the built-in feature the same wood design as some of the windows on the front of the house.
Restoration of “Mrs. Bregant’s Model Kitchen” is nearly complete. A farmhouse sink with drain board and a near replica of her unique, four burner stove are in place. The original open cabinet and barge boards have been re-created.
The bedroom features an open closet in the pass-through to the bathroom and a second closet across from it. The three bedroom windows also feature the wood design.
The home’s most unique feature is its tiny claw foot tub. The tub’s interior measures a little more than three feet in length, and the tub is legendary. Sometime after Jean’s passing, Inez was traveling and rented out her home. It was reported that the mail hadn’t been taken in for a few days and the police were called to investigate; they found the tenant stuck in the bathtub and called to fire department to get her out. Norma Glassburner, the home’s former owner would joke that “she had nothing to eat, but plenty to drink”. The tub has recently been restored.
So what’s in store for the Bregant home’s future?
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