“The History
We Live In”

Experience historic Council
Bluffs through its past.

They came from Germany, Ireland, England, Denmark, France, Canada, and the eastern and southern states. Each of their stories has a common thread: they left their homelands in search of a better life for themselves and/or their families. Some came with financial resources; most reached their goal through hard work and determination. They watched the tiny settlement grow from a frontier town, to a major outfitting station for those traveling west, to the fifth largest rail center in the country.

The History We Live In series attempts to tell their stories, as accurately as possible, through the homes they built by the architecture reflecting the culture of the times. In the very early days, houses did not have numbers; they were identified by the name of the occupants (e.g. the Snow House). This practice continued for several generations after numbers came into use.

Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information: the Pottawattamie County auditor’s office; the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library; Council Bluffs Community Development Department; family members, homeowners, and individuals; and especially the documents relating to the nominations of the historic residential districts to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Author

Mary Lou
McGinn

412 Oakland Ave – Dell Morgan

Dell Morgan’s great-great-great-grandfather came from Wales in the seventeenth century and settled in Herkimer County, New York, where the family was represented for three generations. According to an article in the May 5, 1934 edition of the Nonpareil, Morgan is a...

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Bebbington Place – Glen and Park Avenues

Small, irregular parcels of land. The Bebbingtons. The street that wasn’t. The Park/Glen Avenues Historic District, so named in the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, is comprised of two parallel streets: Park Avenue and Glen Avenue, with two...

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445 Glen Avenue – F.O. Gleason

Fayette Orlando Gleason (better known as F.O.) was born in New York in1839, according to census records. Laura Atkins was born in England in 1853. They were married on November 21, 1870 in Pottawattamie County. Gleason came to Council Bluffs about 1860. His obituary...

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600 Huntington Avenue – KOIL Radio Station

I grew up in southwest Iowa listening to two radio stations: KOIL (Omaha) and KMA (Shenandoah). I did not realize that 1) both stations were founded to promote the founder’s business, not to generate income- as has been the purpose of radio stations for decades;...

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930 Fourth Avenue – Hans H. (Henry) Spetman

Hans H. (Henry) Spetman was born in 1825 in Holstein, Germany – one of nine children of G.H. and Ann (Ellis) Spetman raised on the family farm. At age 17, he left the farm to become a seaman on German merchant ships. After seven years, he went to work with American ships off the coast of China. At age 27, he came to the United States and worked for several years in the California mines, then returned to Germany where he stayed for about one year before returning to America in 1854– this time to Davenport, Iowa. read more

102 Bluff St. – Kimball Brothers

A grocer in Anamosa, Iowa, had no easy way to get potatoes from his basement to the main floor of his store. The year was 1892. He went to the local machine shop, owned by John Kimball, the father of William (Willis) H. and Charles E. Kimball. The company was founded...

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309 South 8th St – John Shea

John Joseph Shea was born in 1859 near the village of Business Corners, Van Buren County, Iowa. His parents were John Shea and Ellen Flynn Shea, natives of County Kerry, Ireland. It is not known if there were other children. In the 1860s, the family moved to Jefferson...

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190 12th Ave – Sears Roebuck

Today’s LEGO aficionados would have had a field day. Others would have hired a contractor to put the house together. Either way, a mail-order house from Sears Roebuck & Co. was a good investment. Prior to 1908, Sears sold furniture, appliances, and nearly...

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315 Park Ave – C.G. Ouren

C. G. (Curtis) Ouren was born at Living Springs near Treynor, Iowa, in 1871, the son of a Norwegian immigrant who operated a stage freighter across the great plains. He attended country schools, working during the summers on the farm where he learned the details of...

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17012 Allis Road – Benjamin Marks Log House

Soldier, gambler, landowner, community leader, confidence man, livestock grower, philanthropist – stories of Benjamin Marks have been kept alive for more than a hundred years. Some are true and some are just… stories. Those who’ve heard anything of the life and times...

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517 4th St. – Bregant House

The tiny house at 517 Fourth Street was the home of Jean and Inez Bregant who met while performing in a vaudeville show at Coney Island, New York. They were married in Council Bluffs on Christmas Eve, 1905. Jean and Inez were perfectly proportioned “little people”....

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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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