“Things are not always what they seem,” a favorite quote by the Greek philosophers, could easily apply to the house at 119 S. Eighth St.

It was first built as an ornate Queen Anne Stick Style single-family home. In 1926, the house was moved back on the lot and two-story wings were constructed in the Craftsman style on each side.

The front of the house, facing S. Eighth St., was remodeled in the Craftsman-style design to match the style of the new wings, while the remaining three facades of the house retained the original design, with minor changes such as replacement of windows.

The 1926 remodeling and construction was done by then-owner George Hansen who had formerly worked as a travel agent, then as a jeweler for a short time. After the S. Eighth St. project, his occupation as listed in the city directory was “real estate”. The apartment complex became known as the Hansen Court Apartments.

In a recent survey undertaken to determine the eligibility of the South Eighth Street neighborhood for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, it was determined that the property as it appears today (the original house, the wings and the garage), is counted as contributing to the nomination.

Ferdinand Wies was born in Germany on April 20, 1831, and immigrated to the United States in 1851. John Beresheim arrived in 1855, and the two operated a general mercantile business known as Beresheim & Wies.

The Council Bluffs souvenir booklet of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 outlined the westward expansion of the country following the close of the war in 1865. The high price of lands in the eastern United States; the free lands given by the government to veterans; the Homestead Act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln to encourage western migration by providing settlers 160 acres of public land in exchange for their residing on the land for five years — resulted in the formation of farms that required farm machinery to operate.

H.H. Field wrote, in his “History of Pottawattamie County” published in 1907:

“Council Bluffs has become a great market for all kinds of agricultural machinery as well as wagons and carriages of every description. Among the first to engage largely in this business were Beresheim & Wies.”

Back in the early ’60s when freighting by wagon was the only means of transportation, the Schuttler wagon had achieved an enviable reputation for enduring the long, dry, hot trips without shrinking.

“For shrinking to occur and wheels shed their tires a hundred miles from any repair shop was a serious proposition and freighters were not slow to select the article that was proven to be the best.

Beresheim & Wies secured the exclusive agency for that wagon for this point and extending to all points from Nebraska to Sioux inclusive, and reaped a rich profit.”

Bereshseim eventually sold his interests in the company and Wies went into business with Eli Shugart and others to form the Pioneer Implement Company. The 1889 city directory lists Ferdinand Wies as president.

In 1892, the company was reorganized and Fred Davis became president of the new Pioneer Implement Company, with trade covering western Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and reaching far down into northern Missouri and Kansas”.

But to return to Ferdinand Wies and the house at 119 S. Eighth St.:

Gustava Sellard was born in Pennsylvania on March 8, 1844. Federal census records show the family to be living in Canton, Pennsylvania in 1850, and by 1860 they had moved to Illinois. Ferdinand Wies and Gustava were married in 1867 — it is not known where — and had one daughter, Ivy.

The 1880 federal census shows the family living on 18th Street in Omaha.

An article, “The Year’s Growth,” appearing in The Daily Nonpareil on January 1, 1884, lists the “larger and more costly residences” built during 1883 and includes ”F. Wies, an elegant residence on Eighth street, cost $7,500”. An 1888-89 article about S.E. Maxon, a noted Council Bluffs architect, identified Maxon as the architect of the Wies house.

Fred Davis, president of the Pioneer Implement Company, and Ada Terwilliger were married in 1891.The Wies home at 119 S. Eighth St. became their first home. The 1900 federal census lists the address of Ferdinand Wies as 611 Willow Ave. Later, the family relocated to Des Moines.

The 1910 federal census lists Ferdinand Wies as “president”, employed by a wholesale heavy hardware business, and owned his own home at 1416 W. Ninth St. in Des Moines. Household members identified were Ferdinand, 79; Augustava, 66; Ida Seybert, 42; Karl Seybert, 20; and Selma Johnson, 28 (presumably an employee).

Ferdinand Wies died on Jan. 31, 1918. Gustava died on July 27, 1923. Both are buried in Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines.

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