Charles Emlen Bell (1858-1932), Architect

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Council Bluffs, Iowa; Helena, Montana; Minneapolis, Minnesota

Charles Emlen Bell was born March 31, 1858, in McLean County, Illinois. He completed his education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the West Town Boarding School (Society of Friends), where he learned carpentry and building. He then studied architecture for seven years while working as a carpenter, one year of which was under the tutorship of his brother, Mifflin E. Bell. In 1883 or 1884, he went to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to work for the government on the post office building. [3] By 1887, he had established a local practice in with J. W. Allen in Council Bluffs, following which he was partnered with George A. Berlinghof, with offices in both Omaha and Council Bluffs, until the crash of 1893.[1][a] Following the recovery, Bell continued in practice in Council Bluffs and Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he is said to have designed many county courthouses in Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.[3][5:25] Bell married his wife Helen(or Nellie) Wickham in 1880, and they had 5 children together.[10] He died May 10, 1932.[6]

This page is a contribution to the publication, Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. See the Format and contents of Nebraska architect entries page for more information on the compilation and page organization.

Compiled Directory Listings

Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1888-1892

Educational & Professional Associations

1883-1887: work on Post Office in Council Bluffs, Iowa.[1][a]

1887-1889: Allen & Bell, Architects, Council Bluffs, Iowa.[1][2]

1890: Bell Creedon & Berlinghof, Architects, Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

1890-1893: Bell & Berlinghof, Architects, Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa.[1][2]

1894-1904: Bell & Kent, Architects, Council Bluffs, Iowa and Montana.

1904-1907: Bell & Detweiler, Architects, Minneapolis, Minnesota. [3]

1908-1913: Bell, Tyrie & Chapman, Architects.[3]

1914-1932: Charles Emlen Bell, Architect. [3]

Buildings & Projects


Shelby County Courthouse (1893), 7th and Court Sts., Harlan, Iowa.[3][c]

Delaware County Courthouse (1894), Manchester, Iowa.[3][b]

E.E. Warren opera House & Store (1896), Greenfield, Iowa.[8][b]

Woodford County Courthouse (1897), 115 North Main St., Eureka, Illinois. [3]

Deer Lodge County Courthouse (1898), Anaconda, Montana. [7][11][b]

Montana State Capitol (1898), Helena, Montana.[5:25][7][b]

Hotel Havre (1900), Havre, Montana.[7][12][b]

Cass County Courthouse (1904-1906), S 9th Street btwn Second and Third Aves., Fargo, North Dakota.[3]NRHP

Flathead County Courthouse (1905), Kalispell, Montana.[7][12][b]

South Dakota State Capitol (1905), bounded by Broadway, Washington, and Capitol Avenues, Pierre, South Dakota. [3][5:25]NRHP

Martin County Courthouse (1906-1907), 201 Lake Ave., Fairmont, Minnesota.[3]NRHP

Brown County Courthouse (1908), Green Bay, Wisconsin.[3][c]NRHP

Gov. S. H. Elrod House (1908), 301 N. Commercial St., Clark, South Dakota. [3]NRHP

Marshall County Courthouse (1908), 911 Vander Horck Ave., Britton, South Dakota.[3][c]NRHP

Koochiching County Courthouse (1909), 4th St. and 7th Ave., International Falls, Minnesota. [3]NRHP

School District #1 Building (1909-1910), Great Falls, Montana.[9][b]

Grant County Courthouse (1915), jctn. of Park Ave. & Main St., Milbank, South Dakota. [3][c]NRHP

Brin Glass Company Warehouse (1919), 600 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, Minnesota.[5:25][5:104]


One or more works in Harlan Courthouse Square Commercial District (ca. 1880s-1890s) 6th, 7th, and Court Sts. & Courthouse Square, Harlan, Iowa. [3]NRHP

Columbus Public School (n.d.), Columbus, Montana. [7][b]

Several Business Blocks (n.d.), Glasgow, Montana.[7][b]


a. Bell was probably in Council Bluffs to work on the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, a building his brother, Mifflin E. Bell, designed. His role was possibly that of superintendent. It was completed in 1887 or 1888.[4] In one part of Bell's narrative he gives the year 1883 for the establishment of his practice in Council Bluffs; in another part, he states he came to the city in 1884.[1]

b. These buildings were designed by the firm Bell & Kent, Architects.[7]

c. These buildings were designed by the firm Bell & Dentweiler, Architects.[3]


1. Biographical History of Pottawattamie County (Iowa) (Lewis Publishing Co., 1891), 485-86.

2. Council Bluffs, Iowa, City Directories.

3. “Charles E. Bell,” in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed January 12, 2017,

4. “Mifflin E. Bell,” in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, accessed January 27, 2013,

5. Rolf Anderson, Principal Investigator, Minneapolis Warehouse District Designation Study (Minneapolis: City of Minneapolis Community Planning & Economic Development Planning Division, October 28, 2009), accessed April 24, 2013,

6. "Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002" certificate no. 019208. Online at, accessed April 24, 2013.

7. Kirby Lambert, Patricia Mullan Burnham, Susan R. Near, Montana's State Capitol: The People's House (Montana Historical Society, 2002), 10.

8. Brittany Noel Dieleman, "The historic rehabilitation of the E.E. Warren Opera House in Greenfield, Iowa: Design of a cafe, chamber of commerce, and art gallery focused on wayfinding and adaptability" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 13741.

9. "Montana," American Architect and Architecture, Volume 95 (American Architect, 1909), 14.

10. Martin J. Kidston, "Family Affair: The Work and Life of Charles Emlen Bell" Independent Record (June 30, 2002). Accessed April 25, 2017 via

11. "Images for Deer Lodge County, Montana" 2016. Accessed January 12, 2018 via

12. "History of the Courthouse" Flathead County MT Accessed January 12, 2018 via

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Page Citation

D. Murphy & Catherine Cramer, “Charles Emlen Bell (1858-1932), Architect,” in David Murphy, Edward F. Zimmer, and Lynn Meyer, comps. Place Makers of Nebraska: The Architects. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, January 12, 2018. Accessed, December 9, 2018.

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