Once upon a time, the property on which this house is located at 275 Morningside Ave. was a dairy farm. That’s the story.
Although no written proof was found, there was plenty of evidence to support the story. Besides an original one-and-a-half-story house, there was an old barn, a well and a concrete structure in the shape of a trough in the area where the cattle would have been kept, and — scattered throughout the timber — milk cans and their lids. There were paths, which could have been cow paths, leading down the hill.
A dairy farm located here would not have been unusual; small dairy farms were plentiful, providing milk and cream for the owner and the local area with the rest delivered to a central location to be made into butter or cheese.
Records indicate the owners of the property, prior to the platting of the Morningside Addition, were Benedict Hagg and John Johnson, buyers and sellers of real estate. No record was found that would identify the owner of the dairy farm business.
Enter the McGee family: H.G., J.E.F., and their sister, Anna — the subjects of this column. All were involved in real estate in Council Bluffs. When H.G. McGee acquired the property to develop the Morningside Addition, he sold this parcel to his sister, Anna, and her husband, William Cooper.
The Coopers acquired ownership on Oct. 22, 1890. (A nearby street is named “Cooper Street.”) It is likely that the large front addition to the older one-and-a-half-story house was built at this time, given its then-popular Queen Anne style.
On July 2, 1894, Anna Cooper sold the house to J.P. Allensworth. William and Anna Cooper later developed property near Big Lake which included Rainbow Gardens. (The History We Live In, April 7, 2019).
Allensworth does not appear to have lived in the house; according to city directories, he lived near Carson. Perhaps it was a rental property until Allensworth sold it to John Killins on Jan. 8, 1904 — the first year the houses on Morningside were given house numbers. “Morningside near Judd” became 275 Morningside.
Killins was a salesman for the H.H. Van Brunt Co., makers of wagons, carriages and farm equipment. Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Allensworth of Carson were frequent guests of Mr. and Mrs. John Killins, as reported in Nonpareil social news.
On Sept. 19, 1918, a fire, caused by burning rubbish, damaged the wooden barn, which was later demolished.
On Nov. 29, 1941, sparks from a chimney ignited a fire that caused $892 in damages. Charred timbers are still visible in the attic.
A kitchen, a new porch and a second-story sunroom were added on at this time, replacing a porch that could possibly have been the front porch of the original house, before Morningside Avenue was created. The entrance to the property is reached from Judd Street to the driveway leading to the back of the house. A road that passed between the house and the barn leads down Fern Street, through Cedar Lawn Cemetery to Keeline Avenue.
On Oct. 30, 1944, Edith Killins sold the property to Frances and Walter Pyper, president and treasurer of Pyper Co. Inc. The Pyper family included four children: Grace, Jerry, Tom and Walt.
On May 23, 1964, Pyper sold the property to Joyce and Jim Gorman, parents of eight children: Colleen, Ed, Teresa, Joe, Dan, Mike, Steve and Chuck.
Fifty-five years later, members of the Gorman family still occupy the house. Mike and Kim, the present owners, purchased the property on May 15, 1990, and have made several renovations and alterations — always maintaining the historical and architectural character of the house — as did its previous owners.
— Thanks to the Council Bluffs Public Library; the Pottawattamie County Auditor’s Office; Clear Title; Cal Petersen; and members of the Gorman family for assistance with this story.