From the bluffs, an expansive view overlooks the Missouri River Valley and a landscape full of promise.
It’s the same vantage (minus Omaha’s modern skyline) that Abraham Lincoln encountered in August 1859 as he dreamed of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Later, in 1863, as president of the United States, he selected the area as the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1911, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected the Lincoln Monument, a focal point in Council Bluff’s Historic Lincoln Fairview neighborhood
“This neighborhood has a lot of charm and a lot of character,” says Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association treasurer Ken Freudenberg, a longtime resident who works in risk management. “We have three major historical monuments in our neighborhood, so we want to be good caretakers.”
The Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association has around 30 members, meets on a monthly basis, and has won awards for their efforts and dedication to preserve their area’s historical charm. “We try to get people to do more things and maintain their lawns and their homes so that it is a nice area for people to ride through and tour,” he says. “We get a lot of people that come through here looking at the homes.”
Past association president Susan Seamands says the group purchased banners and placed benches and a trash receptacle at the Lincoln Monument. “It’s a historic neighborhood on the national historic registry with a very active neighborhood association, which sponsors many activities throughout the year,” she says.
Besides progressive dinners and annual picnics, the group has hosted events such as the Lincoln-Fairview Neighborhood Porchfest (hosting local band Pony Creek). “The band was on the deck and the people were on the driveway. It was a fun time. It was a beautiful night,” Freudenberg says.
With the neighborhood surrounding Fairview Cemetery, the neighborhood association has also partnered with the city and a Civil War historical group for repairs and plantings at the Kinsman Monument located within the cemetery. The Civil War memorial was built to honor Col. William Kinsman, commanding officer of the 23rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
“Even though it’s a cemetery, Fairview is considered a walking area. A lot of people go there to walk their dogs,” Freudenberg says. “It’s an incredible view of downtown Omaha. It’s beautiful. You’re way up high and that is nice.”
A trip down Oakland Avenue features the Burke-Woodward House, a brick mansion located at 510 Oakland Ave. It was the former home to attorney Finley Burke and later John G. Woodward, founder of the Woodward Candy Co.
A few streets in the neighborhood still bear the turn of the century brick-paved streets. A sleepy weekend day finds many homeowners out tending to their yards. Visitors are treated to pleasing Victorian polychrome paint schemes on the houses, which vary in architectural styles: Richardsonian Romanesque, Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Foursquare and Craftsman. “It’s a collection of older homes and neat landscape,” Freudenberg says.
Some may find it surprising that the same artist who created the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln in our nation’s capital, Daniel Chester French, also has a piece of art in the neighborhood—the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial. Chester was commissioned by the daughters of Grenville and Ruth Anne Dodge to create the famous cast bronze sculpture, otherwise known as the “Black Angel” statue.
Their mother, who was dying of cancer, had a reoccurring dream about an angel with a bowl of water who encouraged her to drink. After the third occurrence of the dream, Mrs. Dodge took a drink and died not long after.
“She is just incredible. She is just a fabulous work of art,” Freudenberg says. Her laurel-wreathed winged beauty stands on a pink marble pedestal among hushed gardens, her fingers outstretched while a fountain bearing the “water of life” quietly bubbles from her bowl. The Lincoln Fairview Neighborhood Association also coordinated efforts to place a security camera overlooking the sculpture, a longtime source of urban legends, and regularly does cleanups of the area.
Freudenberg remembers that a group once sued the city of Council Bluffs trying to get the statue moved back East. They claimed it “wasn’t appreciated out here in the Midwest and that it was too small of a town and that it needed to be someplace back East in a place of prominence so that more people could enjoy it.”
“Of course, the city of Council Bluffs won,” he says. As do the residents of Lincoln Fairview keep on winning in their efforts to preserve the charm of their historic home and the monuments within.
Visit 712initiative.org for more information about the historic neighborhoods of Council Bluffs.
This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of OmahaHome Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.