254 Fletcher Avenue – George H. Champ/Charles Beno
George H. Champ was born in Ohio around 1845 and came to Council Bluffs in 1879. He was an investment banker and a partner in the firm of Kimball & Champ, and the first owner of this Queen Anne Stick style house built in 1886.
Vincent Battin was the contractor/builder. He was born in Ohio in 1833, married Jennie Rogers in Idaho in 1866, and moved to Council Bluffs in 1867. He established his business that same year. His office was on Seventh Street and their residence was on the corner of North Eighth and Mynster Streets. Battin’s buildings include the Whitney Block, the Everett Block, the Key Block, and he rebuilt the Ogden Hotel after a fire destroyed a significant portion of it. He also built the Shepard Farnsworth House at 301 South Eighth Street, which is still in existence, and many others.
Anna Jefferis, widow of Thomas Jefferis, purchased the Fletcher Avenue property from George H. Champ in 1901, according to the land transfer records in the Pottawattamie County courthouse. She lived here with two daughters and two grandchildren. She sold the house to Charles A. Beno in 1916.
The story of the Beno family begins with John Beno, whose family came from Alsace, France, and settled in St. Louis in 1850. John was seven years old. His mother died soon after. John worked at various jobs in St. Louis and St. Joseph, MO until coming to Council Bluffs in 1861. He went to night school to complete his education, working at various stores. He formed a partnership, Foreman and Beno, and eventually opened his own general store at 18 Main Street and 17 Pearl Street. In 1900 he purchased the building that formerly housed the Henry Eiseman store located at 504-514 Broadway. The business was incorporated under the name of The John Beno Company. In 1902 he sold an interest in the company to his nephews, Charles and Adolph. The store dealt in “Dry Goods, Clothing, Carpets, Notions, and Millinery” and was said to be the largest department store in this section of the state.
John and Elizabeth Beno raised five children: John, Donald, Grover, Elizabeth and Catherine. After John’s death the business was carried on by his nephews and their successors. The original home of the John Beno family, still in existence, is located at 120 Frank Street. John and Elizabeth Beno are buried in Fairview Cemetery near the street leading to the Kinsman Monument.
Charles A. Beno was born in St. Joseph, MO in 1860. According to H.H. Field’s History of Pottawattamie County, the family lived “all over the west”, including four years in Portland, Oregon and four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming before settling in Council Bluffs in 1871. Charles was 11 years old. For a time, Charles and Adolph lived with their uncle, John.
Charles Beno’s business career began when he worked as a clerk at Foreman & Beno. He became a member of John Beno & Company when it was first formed, and continued when it was incorporated in 1900 as The John Beno Company. Charles was elected treasurer of the new firm, Adolph was elected secretary. Shortly after, Charles was elected president and served in that capacity until he retired in 1932. Other residents of the Lincoln/Fairview district were employed in the various departments.
He was also a director of the AI Root Company, nationally known maker of candles.
According to his obituary, Charles and Harriet, married in 1891, had a daughter, Kathryn, and a son, Bernard. He belonged to several civic organizations and was a charter member of Rotary. His obituary also states that on August 23, 1931, he was adopted “Chief Big Man” by a tribe of Potawatomi Indians at Sidney, Iowa.
Charles Beno died in 1944 and Harriet sold the house in 1946. They are buried in Cedar Lawn cemetery.
The nomination of the Lincoln/Fairview district to the National Register of Historic Places describes the house as a distinctive Queen Anne, Stick style two-story house with a corner tower capped with a spire-type roof. Other notable features include the Jerkinhead (clipped-gable) roof details accented by highly decorative bargeboards, a rounded bay window on the side, and some decorative shingle siding remaining. Changes include application of narrow-width vinyl siding, the removal of the original front porch, the addition of a bay window and screened-in porch to the façade, and the removal of wrought-iron crests on the roof ridges.
The Charles and Harriet Beno home is one of seven sites included in the Historic Homes for the Holidays tour presented by Preserve Council Bluffs on Sunday, December 8th.
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, Virginia and Lee McAlester’s “Field Guide to American Houses”, homeowners, family members and individual research.
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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