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Council Bluffs, Iowa
—  City  —
Council Bluffs, Iowa, Old Town.jpg
The Haymarket National Historic District
Pottawattamie County Iowa Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Council Bluffs Highlighted.svg
Location in Iowa
Coordinates: Template:StateAbbr2 41°15′13″N 95°51′45″W / 41.25361°N 95.8625°W / 41.25361; -95.8625
Country Template:Flag
State Template:Flag
County Pottawattamie
 - Mayor Tom Hanafan
 - City 39.7 sq mi (102.7 km2)
 - Land 37.4 sq mi (96.8 km2)
 - Water 2.3 sq mi (5.9 km2)
Elevation 1,090 ft (332 m)
Population (2000)
 - City 58,268
 - Density 1,558.7/sq mi (601.8/km2)
 - Urban 822,549
 - Metro 767,041
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 51501-51503
Area code(s) 712
FIPS code 19-16860
GNIS feature ID 0455672

Council Bluffs is a city in and the county seat of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States[1] and is on the east bank of the Missouri River. The population was 58,268 at the 2000 census. Along with neighboring Omaha, Council Bluffs is part of the 60th-largest metropolitan area in the United States in 2000, with an estimated population of 837,925 residing in eight counties. There are more than 1.2 million residents within a 50 mile (80 km) radius of the Omaha city center, forming the Greater Omaha Metropolitan area. Council Bluffs is several decades older than its significantly larger neighbor across the river, Omaha, which was founded by Council Bluffs businessmen and speculators in 1854 following the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

History: From Caldwell's Camp to Kanesville to Council Bluffs


Lincoln Memorial where Abraham Lincoln is said to have selected Council Bluffs as the eastern terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad.


The city was named for the 1804 meeting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Otoe tribe that took place near present-day Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. The area in northwestern Mills County, Iowa across the Missouri River from present-day Bellevue, Nebraska was later known as Council Bluffs.

The present city of Council Bluffs was first settled by Sauganash's band of Potawatomi in 1838 after they were removed from what became Chicago. Sauganash's English name was Billy Caldwell, so the Potawatomis' main settlement was called Caldwell's Camp. The U.S. Dragoon built a small fort nearby where in 1838-1839, the missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet helped establish St. Joesph's Mission to minister to the Potawatomi. De Smet was appalled by the murder and brutality caused by the whiskey trade; he had little success in religious conversions, resorting to secret baptisms of Indian children. During this time he assisted and supported Joseph Nicollet’s efforts at mapping the Upper Midwest. De Smet used newly-acquired mapping skills to produce the first detailed map of the Missouri River valley system, from below the Platte River to the Big Sioux River; this map includes the first detailed map of the Council Bluffs area.[2][3]

De Smet Council Bluffs

Pierre-Jean De Smet's map of the Council Bluffs area, 1839. The area labeled 'Caldwell's Camp' was a Potawatomi village led by Sauganash, this was at or near the later town of Kanesville, the precursor of Council Bluffs.[2]

De Smet wrote the earliest descriptions of what would become Council Bluffs: "Imagine a great number of cabins and tents, made of the bark of trees, buffalo skins, coarse cloth, rushes and sods, all of a mournful and funeral aspect, of all sizes and shapes, some supported by one pole, others having six, and with the covering stretched in all the different styles imaginable, and all scattered here in there in the greatest confusion, and you will have an Indian village."[4] As more Indian tribes were pushed into the Council Bluffs area, inter-tribal conflict increased, fueled by the illegal whiskey trade. Fort Croghan was built in 1842 to keep order and control liquor traffic on the Missouri. In 1844 the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party crossed the Missouri River here and by 1848 the town had become Kanesville, named for Thomas L. Kane. Built at or next to Caldwell's Camp, Kanesville became the main outfitting point for the Mormon Exodus to Utah. A noted Colorado naturalist, Edwin Carter spent 1848-1859 here working in a dry goods store supplying Mormon wagons.

The Mormon Battalion began their march to California during the Mexican–American War from Kanesville, plural marriage was first openly practiced, Orson Hyde began publishing The Frontier Guardian newspaper, and Brigham Young was introduced as the second leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church).

The community was transformed by the California Gold Rush and the majority of Mormons left for Utah by 1852. The town was renamed Council Bluffs and remained a major outfitting point on the Missouri for the Emigrant Trail and Pike's Peak Gold Rush with a lively steamboat trade. The completion of the Chicago and North Western Railway into Council Bluffs in 1867, the transcontinental railroad in 1869, and the opening of the Union Pacific Missouri River Bridge in 1872 made Council Bluffs a major railroad center. Other railroads operating in the city included the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, Chicago Great Western Railway, Wabash Railroad, Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and made Council Bluffs the country's fifth largest rail center during the 1930s. The railroads also made Council Bluffs a center for grain storage and several grain elevators continue to dot the city's skyline. Other industries in the city have included Giant Manufacturing, Reliance Batteries, Monarch, Mona Motor Oil, Woodward's Candy, Kimball Elevators, World Radio, Dwarfies Cereal, Georgie Porgie Cereal, Blue Star Foods, and Frito-Lay. In 1926 the portion of Council Bluffs west of the Missouri River seceded to form Carter Lake, Iowa. During the 1940s, Meyer Lansky operated a greyhound racing track in Council Bluffs.

GrenvilleDodgeHouse CouncilBluffsIA

The Grenville M. Dodge House, built in 1869 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The late 20th century brought economic stagnation, downtown urban renewal, and a declining population. The liberalization of Iowa gambling laws was followed by the opening of The Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in 1986. By 2005 Council Bluffs was the 19th largest casino market in the United States, with revenue equaling nearly $434 million. Casinos include Ameristar Casino Hotel Council Bluffs, Harrah's Council Bluffs, and the Horseshoe Council Bluffs. Tyson Foods, Con-Agra, American Games, Omaha Standard, Barton Solvents, Katelman Foundry, Red Giant Oil, and Griffin Pipe all have manufacturing plants in the city. In 2007 Google began construction of a server farm on the former site of the Council Bluffs Drive-in theater. Interstate 80, Interstate 29, U.S. Route 6, the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, and the Union Pacific, BNSF, Iowa Interstate, and Canadian National Railroads all connect in Council Bluffs and MidAmerican Energy has a large coal-burning power plant near the southern city limits.

Culture and attractions

Omaha c bluffs

Satellite photo showing Council Bluffs and Omaha, Nebraska

Council Bluffs is the location of the Pottawattamie County "Squirrel Cage" Jail, in use from 1885 until 1969, which is one of three remaining examples of a Rotary Jails. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built as a rotary jail with pie-shaped cells on a turntable somewhat based on Jeremy Bentham's panopticon. To access individual cells, the jailer turned a crank to rotate the cylinder until the desired cell lined up with a fixed opening on each floor. According to the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, the Squirrel Cage Jail is the only three-story rotary jail constructed. Although the rotary mechanism was disabled in 1960 the building remained the county jail for another nine years. Similar, smaller examples of the concept can be seen in Crawfordsville, Indiana and Gallatin, Missouri.

The city's strong ties to the railroad industry are commemorated by three local museums. The Union Pacific Museum is located in the former Council Bluffs Free Public Library (a Carnegie library) at Pearl Street and Willow Avenue, the Grenville Dodge Home is on Third Street, and the RailsWest Railroad Museum is at South Main Street and Sixteenth Avenue. RailsWest is housed in an 1899 Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad passenger depot later shared with the Milwaukee Road which was used by the Rocky Mountain Rocket, the Arrow (passenger train), and the Midwest Hiawatha. RailsWest features an outdoor display of historic train cars, including a Railway Post Office car, two steam locomotives, two cabooses, a Burlington Lounge car, and a 1953 switcher produced by the Plymouth Locomotive Works.

The Iowa West Foundation, the charitable wing of the local gambling industry, funded a public art planning process for Council Bluffs in 2004 that emphasized a 2015 goal for the city to become "a prosperous urban area known for its cultural enlightenment and public art collection."

A renovated Bayliss Park in downtown was re-dedicated in early 2007 with the addition of a new fountain dubbed Wellspring and performance pavilion known as Oculus designed by sculptor Brower Hatcher. This was the first installation of the Iowa West Public Art, a foundation established during the Public Art Master Planning process. The Iowa West Foundation then established IWPA along with public art website. In 2008 a 50 foot tall Molecule Man sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky was installed at the Mid-America Center with nearby sculptures designed by William King (artist), and Jun Kaneko. Albert Paley designed elements of the nearby South 24th Street bridge at Exit 1B of the combined Interstate 29 and Interstate 80 at Council Bluffs.

The black squirrel is the city's mascot and were reported by John James Audubon in 1843 along the Missouri River at Council Bluffs.

The Iowa Blackhawks of the American Professional Football League play at the Mid-America Center which home to the Omaha Lancers from 2002 until 2008. The Mid-America Center, casinos, and Westfair Amphitheater east of the city on U.S. Route 6 have made Council Bluffs a growing entertainment venue.

Council Bluffs is also home to the Chanticleer Community Theater, and Hamilton College (Iowa) which is now part of Kaplan University - Council Bluffs.


Council Bluffs is located at 41°15′13″N 95°51′45″W / 41.25361°N 95.8625°W / 41.25361; -95.8625 (41.253698, -95.862388).[5]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.7 square miles (102.7 km²), of which, 37.4 square miles (96.8 km²) of it is land and 2.3 square miles (5.9 km²) of it (5.70%) is water.

Council Bluffs covers a unique topographic region originally composed of prairie and savanna in the Loess Hills with extensive wetlands and deciduous forest along the Missouri River. Excellent vistas can be had from KOIL Point at Fairmont Park, the Lincoln Monument, Kirn Park, and the Lewis and Clark Monument. Lake Manawa State Park is located at the southern edge of the city.


As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 58,268 people, 22,889 households, and 15,083 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,558.7 people per square mile (601.9/km²). There were 24,340 housing units at an average density of 651.1/sq mi (251.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.76% White, 1.05% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 0.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.81% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.45% of the population

There were 22,889 households out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.1% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,221, and the median income for a family was $42,715. Males had a median income of $30,828 versus $23,476 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,143. About 8.2% of families and 10.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.0% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.



Downtown Council Bluffs historically covered the area along West Broadway from Old Town west to the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad passenger depot at 11th Street. Downtown developed as the economic rival of Old Town after the 1853 opening of the Pacific House Hotel by Samuel S. Bayliss through the 1867 completion of the Chicago and Northwestern. In 1899 the Illinois Central passenger depot opened at 12th St. and West Broadway. The area declined as the city's primary retail center after the 1955 completion of the Broadway Viaduct, 1970s urban renewal, and the 1984 completion of the Kanesville Boulevard U.S. Route 6 bypass. Remaining business buildings include the 1959 Council Bluffs Post Office and Federal Building at 6th Street, the 1986 "Red" Nelson Building, the 501 Main Building, the substantially altered 1909 City National Bank Building, and the 1968 First Federal Building. The 1947 State Savings Bank Building at 509 West Broadway and the seven-story 1924 Bennett Building at 405 West Broadway are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 100 Block of West Broadway is a National Historic District and the 1892 Broadway United Methodist Church at West Broadway and 1st St. remains a prominent community landmark.

Old Town Council Bluffs was adjudged by Judge Frank Street in the 1850s as the area between West Broadway and Glen Avenue and East Broadway and Frank Street from Harmony Street south to Pierce Street. Today this area encompasses Billy Caldwell‘s settlement of Potawatomi on Indian Creek during the 1830s and Kanesville established by the Mormons as Miller's Hollow in 1848. Kanesville was the home of Mormon leaders Orson Hyde, George A. Smith, and Ezra T. Benson and served as a major outfitting point on the Mormon Trail during the California Gold Rush. The reconstructed Kanesville Tabernacle in the 300 block of East Broadway is operated as a museum by the LDS Church.

The West End is a geographically large area on the flood plain east of the Missouri River and downtown Omaha, Nebraska, west of 10th St. and the Broadway Viaduct, and north of 9th Ave. and the Union Pacific Transfer railyards. These neighborhoods of long, tree-shaded avenues are divided by the commercial corridor of West Broadway (U.S. Route 6), once part of the Lincoln Highway and now prominent for its abundance of fast food restaurants. This stretch West Broadway has also traditionally had automobile dealerships with several grain elevators adjacent to 1st Avenue. West Broadway ends at the Interstate 480 bridge to downtown Omaha. Iowa Highway 192 follows North 16th St. from West Broadway to Interstate 29. Neighborhood landmarks include the 1890s Illinois Central Railroad Missouri River bridge, Stan Bahnsen Park, the Golden Spike monument, the Narrows River Park, Big Lake Park, and many examples of late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture. The West End was used as a location by film director Alexander Payne in the movies Citizen Ruth and About Schmidt.

Casino Row is located on and near the Missouri River south of West Broadway and Interstate 480 off South 35th St. and north of Interstate 80 along 23rd Avenue west of South 24th St. The opening of the Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in 1986 (now the Council Bluffs Horseshoe) was followed in the mid 1990s by riverboat casinos operated by Ameristar and Harvey's Casino (now Harrah's Council Bluffs). New development in this previously industrial area has included the Mid-America Center, several restaurants and hotels, a Kerasotes Theatres with an IMAX, and a Bass Pro Shops. The appearance of legalized gambling in Council Bluffs became a major issue in neighboring Omaha where Mayor Hal Daub had declared Iowa a "XXX [disambiguation needed] state" in 1995 as horse-racing came to an end at Ak-Sar-Ben.

Twin City is located south of where Interstate 29 splits from Interstate 80, east of South Omaha, Nebraska, west of Indian Creek, and north of the South Omaha Bridge Road (U.S. Route 275 and Iowa Highway 92). This neighborhood developed mostly during the 1960s for workers in nearby Omaha factories and at Offutt Air Force Base. The Interstate 80 Exit at 1-B at South 24th Street includes two large truck stops, a Sapp Brothers and a Pilot Travel Centers, along with several motels, the Western Historic Trails Center, the Bluffs Acres manufactured home development, and The Marketplace shopping area with J.C.Penney as its primary tenant. The Willows on the South Omaha Bridge Road is an example of mid-20th century roadside motel architecture and Bart's Motel further east at South 24th St featured prominent eon signage, was used as a location in the Sean Penn motion picture The Indian Runner, and has since been demolished.

Manawa is the portion of Council Bluffs from the combined Interstate 80 and Interstate 29 south to the city limits between Mosquito and Indian Creeks. The area was developed as a trolley park by the Omaha and Council Bluffs Streetcar Company after the former channel of the Missouri River was "cut-off" during an 1881 flood to become modern Lake Manawa State Park. Later development followed the establishment of U.S. Route 275 and the completion of Interstate 80 with additional growth during the 1990s. A variety of fast food restaurants, motels, big-box stores, a TravelCenters of America truck stop, several automobile dealerships, and other businesses are located between Interstate 80 and Interstate 29 south to the state park. The Lake Manawa Inn hosts early examples of roadside cabin architecture. In February and March bald eagles & red-tailed hawks can frequently be seen at Lake Manawa, particularly along the southwest shore.

File:DSCN5007 councilbluffsfishermen e.jpg

The South End is bordered by 12th Avenue on the north, South 16th St. and the Union Pacific Transfer railyards on the west, Interstate 80 and Interstate 29 on the south, and the South Expressway (Iowa Highway 192) on the east. This neighborhood developed during the late 19th century with the railroads, especially the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. In the early 20th century much of the area was dubbed "Dane Town" or "Little Copenhagen" for the large number of Danish immigrants with several Croatian and Mexican families closer to the Union Pacific railyards. Landmarks include Peterson Park and the 1899 Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific passenger depot, now the Railswest Railroad Museum.

The Oakland-Fairview neighborhood developed during the 1890s and features a wealth of 19th century architecture, including the Judge Finley Burke mansion at 510 Oakland built in 1893 out of Minnesota granite. The neighborhood is also home to the Lincoln Monument. Located at the western end of Lafayette Avenue, the monument was erected in 1911 by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution that, according to folklore, commemorates the spot where Abraham Lincoln decided on the location of the transcontinental railroad in 1859. The monument offers expansive views across the West End in the Missouri River Valley to Omaha, Nebraska. Nearby is the entrance to Fairview Cemetery, situated on the north side of Lafayette Avenue, which predates the establishment of the present city and includes the Kinsman Monument and the burial place of many early settlers, including Amelia Bloomer. At the east end of Lafayette Avenue where it intersects with North Second Street stands the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, the "Black Angel" designed by Daniel Chester French, although the wife of Grenville Dodge is actually buried elsewhere in Council Bluffs.

Madison Avenue is the area of Council Bluffs adjacent to Exit 5 of Interstate 80 along Madison and Bennett avenues, Valley View Drive, and the area between Iowa Highway 92 north to McPherson Avenue. Mosquito Creek (Iowa) flows through this area which was originally notable for the Potawatomi gristmill and now includes the usual roadside gas stations, fast-food restaurants, motels, and the tracks of the Iowa Interstate Railroad. Plans for a shopping mall here first appeared in 1972 and construction finally began on the Mall of the Bluffs in 1985. A Sears, Old Navy, and Barnes & Noble later opened at the mall which is owned by General Growth Properties with adjacent commercial development by Hy-Vee and No Frills Supermarkets. Residential growth east of the railroad tracks towards State Orchard Road and the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport and north to U.S. Route 6 has included developments outside the Council Bluffs city limits. Original anchor stores J.C. Penney and Target both relocated from the Mall of the Bluffs in 2008.

The Huntington Avenue neighborhood consists of early 20th century Craftsman homes that wind along the top of the Loess Hills passed the 1925 studio of radio station KOIL, now apartments.

The historic Council Bluffs' Red-light district was formed during the late 19th century, when at least 10 separate brothels were located on Pierce Street east of Park Avenue with another three brothels down the block on the south side of West Broadway east of Park. One 1890 newspaper article referenced in Lt. RL Miller's "Selected History of the Council Bluffs Police" noted the "places of vice and corruption on Pierce" and Stella Long's above the Ogden House along with the "terrible den at the corner of Market and Vine" and Belle Clover's bagnio at 8th St. and West Broadway.



Public education in the city of Council Bluffs is provided by two school districts: Council Bluffs Community School District [1] and Lewis Central Community School District [2]. Most of the city is located within the Council Bluffs Community School District, which operates 14 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, a career center, and an alternative school. As of the 2008-2009 school year, district had a total enrollment of 9,246.[7] The Lewis Central Community School District serves the southern portion of Council Bluffs and enrolled 3,047 students as of the 2008-2009 school year.[7]

There are several private schools in Council Bluffs, including Community Christian School, Heartland Christian School, Liberty Christian School, Saint Albert Catholic Schools, and Trinity Lutheran Interparish School.

The Iowa School for the Deaf moved to the south edge of Council Bluffs in 1870 along what is now Iowa Highway 92. It is open to all students in both Iowa and Nebraska who are younger than 21 and whose hearing loss places them at a disadvantage in the public schools.

Iowa Western Community College is located on the eastern edge of Council Bluffs near the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. Route 6 and is the home of the radio station KIWR.

Notable residents and natives

See also


  1. Pottawattamie County, Iowa, Pottawattamie County, 2007. Accessed 2007-09-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Whittaker (2008): Pierre-Jean De Smet’s Remarkable Map of the Missouri River Valley, 1839: What Did He See in Iowa? Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society 55:1-13.
  3. Mullen, Frank (1925) Father De Smet and the Pottawattamie Indian Mission. Iowa Journal of History and Politics 23:192-216.
  4. Laveille, E. (1915) The Life of Father De Smet, S. J. Kenedy and Sons, New York. p.83.
  5. "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "2008-2009 Iowa Public School PreK-12 Enrollments by District, Grade, Race and Gender" (XLS). Iowa Department of Education, Bureau of Planning, Research, and Evaluation. 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 

Additional References

  • Warner, Dr. Richard and Ryan Roenfeld. Council Bluffs: Broadway. Arcadia Publishing. 2007.
  • Gerber, Kristine with Ryan Roenfeld. Council Bluffs: 365 Days, 150 Years. Nonpareil Publishing. 2007.

External links

Template:Omaha-Council Bluffs metro Template:Pottawattamie County, Iowada:Council Bluffsio:Council Bluffs, Iowa ia:Council Bluffsht:Council Bluffs, Iowa mr:काउन्सिल ब्लफ्स, आयोवाja:カウンシルブラフス pt:Council Bluffs ru:Каунсил-Блафс simple:Council Bluffs, Iowa sv:Council Bluffs vo:Council Bluffs zh:康瑟尔布拉夫斯 (艾奥瓦州)

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