Downtown Council Bluffs was once a well-built-up urban center with structures that would rival those in any larger community during the early to mid 1900s. The central business district was vibrant and bustling, with big-city streets, viable transit, and a booming business and shopping community.
(Update: The example photo which appeared above has turned out to be of a city other than Council Bluffs. Sorry for any misinformation.)
... and the Liberty, to become the Crest ...
,,, with the sonorous pipe organ, which became an "adult art house" in its later days.
Department stores and specialty shops anchored the downtown Council Bluffs area.
Council Bluffs even had a "Trolley Park", Playland Park, with a midway and roller coaster. (Or as they say in Indiana, "rolley coaster"!) :)
Playland Park lasted into the 1960s.
Yeah! Just like Jersey, but without Snooki! :)
Eat yer heart out, Bruce Springsteen! :)
Alas, much of this old growth is long gone!
Fortunately a few pockets remain, such as Upper Broadway's Block 100, recently visited, as well as an area to the south of Broadway, which we will now explore.
The area we'll visit begins on Pearl Street just south of Broadway ...
... south to just north of 9th. Avenue, and then back north following Main Street.
The streets in this area are kind of a fusion of the legacy Kanesville named streets and Council Bluffs' newer "grid system" streets, with non-sequential named and numbered streets and avenues intermingled. Legacy streets follow the terrain of the bluffs, while the grid extends westward toward the flood plain.
Much of the section we will explore is situated in what's known as the Haymarket Commercial Historic District (now with WIFI).
We begin just south of Broadway, on Pearl Street.
I have a thing for fountains. We'll visit two of my faves on this trip.
This particular one sits in the middle of a well-maintained mini-park in a turn-around island between Pearl and Main just south of Broadway.
I've always called this, the building on the northwest corner of Pearl and First, the Godfathers Building.
Turns out that it's the old Chieftain Hotel, one of old Kanesville's finest!
It's now the anchor of a mini restaurant row, and does appear to be more or less fully occupied. Efforts are apparently underway to remodel and upscale the living quarters.
The streetlamps in the area are (yes, with homage to FNY) :) a retro-styled Bishop's Crook type.
With these lamp posts, some parts of this area could easily pass for the Smith Street corridor in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn ...
South of First Avenue and the Godfathers Building lies Bayliss Park
Homage to the area's once-extensive trolley network lies under your feet just north of Bayliss.
The Bayliss Park Fountain is way-cool, awesome, esplosive!
We wander south of First and come upon the first of several (unfortunately isolated) commercial strips.
I don't know why I am so fond of these commercial vernacular strips, but I just am! They are the antithesis of the strip mall. They exude the class and character of the old-growth neighborhoods.
This is another mini restaurant row.
One thing about some of the buildings in the area is that the distance between Pearl and Main is not a full city block, so some structures and businesses, such as the Main Street Cafe, shown above, and City Hall below, front both Pearl and Main.
Hold that thought! :)
Ellie's Ice Cream and Deli! :)
Back when I lived in Council Bluffs (yes, I am a once-resident of Kanesville), this was known as the Purple Turtle, a long-lived neighborhood bar.
The current owners and managers have retained the long-standing Purple Turtle sign.
We now Step Ahead down the block from Quarthouse. :)
The looks of the neighborhood leads me to believe that these strips were once more contiguous, but became disjointed with the years of "development" (translated: Tear it down and put in yet another parking lot.) in the area.
Further south lies the Park Building,
extending along Willow Avenue from Pearl to Main.
The Park Building is home to various legal and other professional offices, social service agencies, and the like.
As we wander south of Bayliss and cross Willow Avenue, we come across what is now the Union Pacific Museum. This replaces the smaller UP Museum, formerly in the old UP headquarters in Omaha.
The building now housing the Union Pacific Museum has a very rich history.
Until recently it was the Council Bluffs Public Library. It was built in the early 1900s as one of the many Carnegie Libraries, with funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The original Council Bluffs Public Library was "Men Only" but Carnegie insisted that the libraries his funds built be open to all. Another novel concept of the Carnegie Libraries was that of "Open Stacks", used in almost all public libraries today. Many libraries of the era used "Closed Stacks" where library patrons were not allowed to browse freely, but had to request their selections from the librarians. The Carnegie Library remained in use until 1998.
Council Bluffs has a very rich railroad history! In popular culture, Council Bluffs has been short-changed by Omaha as having the honor of being the east terminus of the Transcontinental Railway. The eastmost point on the Transcontinental Railway was indeed Council Bluffs, with the "Mile Zero" point being just southwest of the Golden Spike Monument on 9th. Avenue.
During the golden age of railroads, Council Bluffs was the nation's fifth largest railway center.
The UP Museum, along with Rails West and other attractions, is featured in the annual event known as Railroad Days (or as they say in Indiana, "Ray-road days").
And, what trip to this area is complete without a visit to the old Squirrel Cage Jail, just off of Pearl Street south of Willow and the UP Museum, and appropriately adjacent to the new(er) Council Bluffs Police Headquarters.
This very unusual prison consisted of three levels of cells mounted on a large rotary turntable. Prisoners were let in/out of the cells by rotating the entire cell block until the particular cell aligned with the entryway. LOL, kind of reminds me of a vending machine we used to have in the lunch room at work. :)
The jail, dating from the late 1800s, was actually in use housing prisoners until 1969!
Across from the Union Pacific Museum stands Council Bluffs City Hall, spanning from Pearl to Main.
It's now parking lots on the left and parking lots on the right (yawn!) until we get to ...
One of many law offices in the area.
We come upon Fifth Avenue.
Pott. County Offices are on the southwest corner.
Smaller professional office on the southeast.
One very well cared-for building in this row hosts one of several of the area's legal firms.
As I said, we will see several law offices on our trek today.
As we wander south ...
Oooo - ooooo, knockin' at yerr back door! (/me puts on an old Deep Purple album and cranks it!)
I knew the building on the southwest corner of Pearl and Sixth as The Granary, a restaurant that I somehow forgot in the Forgotten Cuisine series.
They closed the restaurant in the 1980s, IIRC, but kept the catering operation out of the same building for some time after.
It's obviously been re-purposed in recent years.
As Main street merges with Pearl St., the address numbers on the west side of the street change from Pearl Street to Main Street.
More law offices. Murphy y Murphy and ...
Yes, that is (or rather was) the real name of this law firm, kids!
(/me puts on an old DC5 single and cranks it!)
First is Vodec.
Vodec stands for Vocational Development. Vodec provides vocational training and job opportunities for intellectually challenged individuals in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.
Vodec contracts with area businesses to provide various services such as packing and shipping, product assembly, order fulfillment, etc.
In addition to this location, Vodec also operates facilities is west Omaha.
Just south of Vodec we have a nicely-preserved commercial vernacular row housing a restaurant and a bodega type of place.
There's also a ghost sign up above in the corner.
More street tilework, as seen frequently in this area.
Just south of Seventh Avenue stands The Center. Although not in the title, this is the Senior Center, and membership is restricted to those 50 and older. (Alas, I qualify.) :(
South of The Center is the Prime Square Apartments. These are for senior housing, available to those 55 and older. (Alas, I qualify for this one too.) :( Visiting Nurse Association co-located in the complex.
It's a contemporary row styling.
Anyway, we've now reached Ninth Avenue, so we'll turn around and head north on Main Street.
Looks like they are installing a vacant lot here. :)
All 4 Kidz anchors the remaining commercial row to the east of Prime Square. It's consignment and resale of, as the name implies, children's clothing, toys, accessories, etc.
Unfortunately this particular strip-of-three has been suffering from turnover and closures lately. :(
The Goos Gallery was an antique shop which was operated for many years by Gilbert and Jacqueline Goos.
The building, dating from the late 1860s, is said to be the oldest commercial structure still standing in today's Council Bluffs, shown on the left in the vintage photo below.
The frame structure to the south of the Goos building is long gone.
Unfortunately the goose mascot looks a mite tipsy!
This was, until recently, a dance studio, but now appears to be an independent gym, Peak Fitness, having recently moved from another storefront about a block north.
The building to the immediate north, another well-preserved two-story brick vernacular which possibly dates from the late 1800s, is, or rather I should say was,Straka Brothers Meats.
This is apparently a recent closure. They were open the last I knew.
They are, however, most definitely not open at this time.
Some ghost-ad commercial signage on the north side of the building.
(No, I can't make it out, sorry.)
The building on the southeast corner of Main and Worth is one you can almost literally HEAR a mile away!
This was a firm called Mario's a few years back, but doesn't appear to be much of anything now.
We now start to run into various legal firms again.
The Rodenburg Building houses the Rodenburg Law Office as well as others.
Shhhhhhhh! Be vewwy vewwy kwiet! I'm a-huntin wabbit!
One of the best-preserved and best-maintained commercial strips covers the east side of Main from Story Street north almost to Willow Avenue. No true eyesores along this section at all!
More professional offices to come.
A couple of firms named Dickenson right here.
Accounting and investments.
This is most definitely the best preserved of the commercial rows in the area!
Anchoring this strip to the north is a local watering hole.
With the plethora of vacant lots and parking lots invading this area, it's very nice to see this almost-intact almost two-block commercial row in well-kept condition!
Yeah, been there, done that. The Primmer Law building is one of those spanning the entire Pearl-Main block and fronts both streets.
Vending, printing, toys, upholstery!
And food of course, with Duncan's Cafe anchoring the corner of Main and Fifth.
Duncan's is in the first floor of the old Kiel Hotel, one of several former lodging facilities in the area.
In a way, it's too bad they modernized this and bastardized the vintage styling, but at least they took care of it and didn't rip it out for yet another parking lot!
We cross Fifth Avenue heading north.
More professional offices to come in this next block ...
And more law offices ...
This is how the 221 building looked on a night shoot a few years back.
To the north we come upon the Creston House.
Now an office building, this was once a long-standing residential and transient hotel.
It's been restored and revamped in recent years. Office suites available. :)
Old-school neighborhood barber shop just south of Willow.
We now cross Willow Avenue heading north.
On the west is the Main Street frontage of the Park Building, which we visited on Pearl Street.
To our right, on the east is the new Public Library, and yes, it's still co-ed. :)
Joseph's Salon just north of Step Ahead.
On the corner of Main and First is the Main Street Cafe.
Yes, it's the same Main Street Cafe that we passed over on Pearl.
Although we're dangerously close to the mass-renovated area, there are still a few more intact commercial buildings on the east side of Main.
Now a bank, but it looks like ...
I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed this trip through one of the area's best-preserved legacy business districts. :)
Please keep those cards and letters coming, gang! :)