The city of Council Bluffs was platted in 1854 on a wide bend of the Missouri River. To the east was a series of high bluffs cut into by deep, narrow valleys. As the city grew, it spread farther out onto the river plain to the west, and at the same time its residential districts developed on the bluffs and hills to the east.
It was the railroad that established the importance of both Council Bluffs and neighboring Omaha, Nebraska, just across the river. In 1863 President Lincoln selected Council Bluffs as the eastern terminus for the transcontinental Union Pacific line. The first train crossed the Missouri on a temporary bridge in 1867.
While the city has lost its wonderful nineteenth-century courthouse and many of its older business blocks, it has been able to retain a large number of its nineteenth-century houses. Council Bluffs is home to several of the state's major monuments, including the Lewis and Clark Monument and Daniel Chester French's well-known Angel of Death. Other community assets are the public parks, especially the 45-acre Fairmount Park; it occupies a high point of land with views over the city, the river, and Omaha in the distance.
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