She wears a white nightgown with long sleeves and a high neckline, this Victorian lady who occasionally visits the large upstairs bedroom. Those who have seen her say she is a friendly ghost.
Sybelle and Willoughby Millard married in 1855, came to Council Bluffs in the 1860s and purchased this property in 1867. The consultant who prepared the nomination of the Park/Glen Avenues district to the National Register of Historic Places lists 1867 as the date of construction and Eclectic as the architectural style, noting the various changes to the house through the years.
According to the nomination, “The two-story front-gabled house is a mixture of stylistic influences and may be an older house with a series of very late 19th to early 20th century updates. The open front porch has three-quarters height square posts that sit on brick piers, with decorative Gothic Revival brackets. The brackets and the upper portion of the posts suggest a much older construction style, while the three-quarters height of the posts and the brick piers are early 20th century in style. It may be that the older porch posts rotted at the base and were cut down and placed on brick piers in the early 20th century. A side-gabled ell shows more of a Queen Anne influence in the canted corners of the first story, while Craftsman details were added to the house in the front door type and the cantilevered bracketed porch hood over a rear doorway.
Recent modifications to the house have included the insertion of a small octagonal window in the front gable peak, a porch railing on top of the porch, faux shutters on the front windows, and a board infill with an eagle plaque over the front door transom window. Note: This house and the adjacent house at 148 Glen Ave. are angled more to the southwest on their respective lots than the properties north and south on this block. This would suggest that these two houses were built before the rest of the block was developed.”
In 1870, Millard was a salesman for a wholesale grocer. The household included Millard, his wife, Sybelle, their three children, two servants and two boarders – Mary Buckey (25), and F.O. Gleason (31).
The 1889 city directory listed Millard and his family at this specific address, 144 Glen Ave.; early directories, when Park Avenue was still Market Street and Glen Avenue was not yet established but known simply as Glendale, listed them “in the same neighborhood as the George Pfifer family”, who were known to live at this end of Glen Avenue (136). Millard had a grocery story on West Broadway.
During the 1860s and 1870s, they continued to be listed at this address: Willoughby Millard, his wife, Sybelle, and their three daughters: Lillie, Jennie and Lucy. According to the lot transfers, Sybelle Millard acquired this property in 1867 and retained possession until 1913 when it was conveyed to her daughter, Lucy B. Spooner, who had married George F. Spooner – a teller, then a cashier at First National Bank. George Spooner continued to live at this address until his death in 1934. Lucy died the following year. The couple had two children: Lucy, and George A. Spooner who became a noted Council Bluffs architect.
In 1900, according to the U.S. Census, household members were George F. Spooner (34), Lucy (35), Willoughby and Sybelle Millard (both 69), Lucy (9), George A. (7) and a servant. The two generations shared the home until 1935. The property had remained in the Millard and Spooner families since 1867 – nearly seven decades. Both families are buried in Fairview Cemetery.
Today, this historic treasure welcomes visitors from downtown to the neighborhood all dressed up in her coat of Sherwin Williams’ “Renwick Heather”.
– Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research. Mary Lou McGinn can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.