SOME OLD HOUSES.
SOME REMAIN AND OTHERS HAVE GIVEN WAY TO BETTER ONES - THE FIRST FRAME HOUSE IN IOWA - THE FIRST HOUSE IN DAVENPORT - DR. JOHN EMERSON'S BRICK RESIDENCE - MANY OLD RESIDENCES OF STRONG HISTORIC INTEREST - STRUCTURES THAT INCITE REMINISCENCE - A BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN SKETCH OF THE HOSPITABLE HOMES OF OHER DAYS.
Pictures included with this chapter are: The Claim House - Home of John J. Davies - House Built by Dr. John Emerson, owner of Dread Scott, at No. 219 East Second Street - The Thorington Home on Site of Public Library - Home of Willard Barrows, Historian - Home of D. C. Eldridge, Where Masonic Temple Stands - Home of Hon. Hiram Price in 1843 - Homes of Hiram Price on Brady Street and Judge John F. Dillon on Seventh Street - The Ebenezer Cook Home - Residence of John P. Cook, Sixth and Brady Streets - Home of James Grant - Home of John Mullen.
The very first habitation errected in Davenport disappeared long ago, It was a hastily constructed shack, habitable if one was not too particular, and nobody was in pioneer days. It was in the spring of 1830 that Antoine LeClaire came from his comfortable log home on Rock Island to try a summer in the Indian village on the Iowa side. He was accompanied, so the story goes, by Baptiste Sauvage, a dischared soldier named Ephraim Barton and a dumb Indian. Living in wickiups until better shelter could be made they cut logs on the bluffs and made their shanty, selecting as a location the neighborhood of Farnam and Fourth streets. Mr. LeClaire did not remain here but returned to his more comfortable quarters on the island. When the treaty of 1832 was held and his Indian friends asked Mr. LeClaire to build his home on the spot where the treaty was signed, this spot being near Farnam where Fifth would intersect, he put men at work to construct what was called for some time "the big house," to distinguish it from the shack above mentioned. It was completed in 1833 and occupied by Mr. LeClaire. This home was of block or hewed log construction, clapboarded over, contained three rooms, each twenty feet square and had a fine portico in the front and one in the rear.
The people who daily walk along Fifth street and glance between the houses numbered 418 and 420 at the building also bearing the number 420 situated on the alley do not appreciate the fact that they are looking at the oldest house in the city, but so it is. There is only a part of the house there. Its single story has been raised and another story built under. It has been shorn of its hospitable porches. Only two of the original dormers are left, but it is the original house, where Antoine LeClaire entertained his friends, where dancing parties furnished pleasure to the few frontier young people, the house where missionary priests set up an altar and held religious services, the house which was used as the first station of the first railroad west of the Mississippi after Mr. LeClaire had builded his handsome mansion of the bluff and removed thereto. It is doing duty as a tenant house for two families now, one below, one above, good citizens, but not particularly interested in history.
Mr. LeClaire was fond of his old home for its associations, and while in its day of usefulness he employed Jonathan Wilde, the artist, to engrave an exact fac-simile on stone, giving a south and west view with the surrounding trees and shrubbery. This engraving was done in the office of Dr. Barrows, about 1841. Mr. LeClaire permitted but one impression to be taken from the stone and that was framed and kept in the family. After Antoine LeClaire's death his widow, Mrs. Marguerite LeClaire allowed Dr. Barrows to take a photograph of the lithograph. In this way was preserved the appearance of Davenport's oldest house which still stands in sadly altered form totally unwept, unhonored and unsung. Many times the statement has been made in print that this house was destroyed to make room for a railroad depot better fitted for the work, but aged contractor, Louis F. Arnould will tell you that he moved the house to its present location and that the structure, although changed, is the same.
During these first days in Davenport Mr. LeClaire took up some claims, one near the foot of Ripley street which in a spirit of generosity he traded to his brother for a yoke of calves. Another tract he laid claim to was below the bluffs and west of Harrison street. In this venture he had a partner Baptiste Sauvage. With his usual generosity Mr. LeClaire gave his share to Sauvage, taking in exchange for right, title and good will, "one shot gun and one small wagon." Sauvage was thrifty and held to the princely estate for some years, disposing of it to G.C.R. Mitchell, and it became the foundation of the Mitchell wealth.
THE CLAIM HOUSE
Another house of rare interest may be seen anyday at 557 College avenue. The somewhat observant citizen who strolls out this street to the unsettled tract beyond may notice that its architecture is quaint, plain and not at all complex, but it is doubtful if he realizes that the little houme is filled with historical interest, that its years outnumber those of any frame house in Iowa, that it was built away back in 1832 when this was Wisconsin territory and before any part of Iowa was open to settlement.
This knowledge was the possession of a few people well along in years and widely scatered until 1905. It is doubtful if Davnport people would have know of this historical treasure for so it is, had it not been that J. E. Calkins in preparing matter for the Half-Century Democrat struck a clue and pieced together evidence with Sherlock Holmes ability until the case was made out. This old house was built by George L. Davenport, son of Colonel George Davenport, when fifteen years old, on a claim taken up by him before the Indian had surrendered the land known as the Black Hawk purchase. This was possible because George was a favorite with the Indians, had been adopted into the tribe by them and given the Indian name of Musquakie. He was given privilege accorded to no one else. This claim adjoined on the east what is now the McClellan Heights tract. George had a good eye for property, the claim he selected and laid off before the Indians relunquished title being as handsome a stretch of real estate as could anywhere be found. It is said that Dr. John Emerson some years after also took up a claim, lying to the east of this first claim, and erecting a habitation put his slave Dred Scott therein to hold possession.
To return to the house-it was constructed of materials brought from Cincinnati by river, and was at first a structure about sixteen feet square. Later additions were made, one of them being a leanto kitchen. In the illustration a batten will be noticed between the first and second windows, counting from the north. The original house is the portion south of this batten. Near the northern end of the original part is a modern brick chimney. This replaces a chimney of stone which furnished draft to the original heating plant. The broadside of the cottage with its three windows faces College avenue. The door is on the side, but in the original house the southermost front window was a door. This house was bought to its present location from the original site in 1867 or about that time, having been carefully dismembered and restored.
In this house occurred the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. B. B. Woodward, later to take a prominent position in Davenport industries and social sphere. Their later home was the handsome building now occupied by J. R. Nutting. In this house the late Mrs. John B. Phelps was born.
It is well here to repeat the paragraph with which the article closed in Half-Curtury Democrat: "In some places, we might say, some states, great care would be taken to preserve a relic of such comparative antiquity and of such prime interest. In this instance the present site is of no interest. The house is all there is to consider. If it were becomingly placed in - say Central park - and were kept in its present good state of repair, and were cared for as the beginning of civilization on this side of the river, it certainly would not lose value for the people with the passing of the years."
In 1836 the first public house was opened on the corner of Front and Ripley streets, by Messrs. LeClaire and Davenport, and named the Davenport House. It was later renamed the United States, but was never the cause of great pride. A few years later the LeClaire House was built and the new arrivals had something to wonder over. When this beautiful hostelry became out of date, the city renewed it enthusiasm over the Burtis House, one of the best appointed hotels of its day. Here were held the great banquets and other entertainments which made the landlord Dr. Burtis famous. Here army officers were so numerous during the war of the rebellion that it was called army headquarters. This building at Fifth and LeClaire streets is now a portion of the plant of the Cresent Macaroni Company.
HOUSES HERE OR EASILY REMEMBERED
In the summer of 1838 the first brick house in the city was built where th Masonic temple now stands. It was built by D. C. Eldridge, merchant, hotel keeper, postmaster. On the same lot he built a small one story edifice which was used as a postoffice, the first building to be given such exclusive use in the state. Shortly after the completion of Mr. Eldridge's home the little brick church and school building of St. Anthony's was in readiness for the multiplicity of uses to which it was put.
The Webb residence, which Mr. Barrows says in his history was considered "one of the most extravagant investments of the age," was built in 1841. It was later the home of John E. Henry and E. S. Carl and is now the church building of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
It was also in 1841 that Strong Burnell, the wealthy lumberman, erected his home, still standing, on the southeast corner of Brady and Sixth streets. Another little cottage of the '40s is standing on the lot on the north side of Sixth street just west of the Cora-Lee-Roy apartment house. It used to stand on a lot next south of the First National bank building, and was the property of John Mullen. It was moved to its present location to make room for the brick block standing on its original site.
The finest specimen of colonial architecture in the city is the fine old house formerly the home of Dr. E. S. Burrows, corner of Sixth and Rock Island streets. It is of the native limestone, one of the few so built. On the corner of Sixth and LeClaire streets is the comfortable old home of Willard Barrows, the historian. This location is that of one of the early cemeteries from which all bodies were removed in 1848. It was here that Dr. John Emerson, ower of Dred Scott, was buried.
What is left o Austin Corbin's old home has been made over into the garge, located on Main street above Fourth street. Two houses built by Hon. R. Lowry more than fifty years ago are standing on the east side of Main street above Sixth. The southern one was the Lowry home and there Miss Annie Lowry and Hon. C. M. Waterman were married.
In the brick house on the northwest corner of Fifth and Rock Island streets, Judge James Grant extended true southern hospitality in the olden days. Later he built his handsome home on Seventh and Iowa.
Before building his colonial mansion on the western bluff near Lookout part, which later he trasferred to Geo. L. Davenport, J. M. D. Burrows lived in the house still standing on the southwest corner of Second and Rock Island streets.
On the present site of the public library stood the Thorington home, facing Fourth street. Here many Davenporters received instruction in one of the early schools.
Not so many years ago on the northeastern corner of Fourth and Ripley streets there was a rambling one story building with a fine yard. Fifty years ago it was the home of John L. Davies, mayor, business man and manufacturer. Now the Walsh apartment building furnishes homes for thirty-six times as many families in this same location.
On Fifth street just east of Perry time has spared the little brick home in which Hiram Price made his home in 1842. In 1855 he built a fine residence at Brady and Seventh streets. Later it was the Berryhill home. In 1909 it was demolished to make room for the new home of the Register Life Insurance Company. Just to the east of this lot on Seventh street stands the residence where Hon. John F. Dillon made his home until he removed to West Davenport where Dr. E. H. Hazen later lived.
At the corner of Rock Island and Fourth streets Ebenezer Cook built his handsome home and on the corner of Brady and Sixth his brother the congressman, John P. Cook, built one of equal beauty. These houses were models of elegance in their day, with handsome exterior and beautiful interior decoration.
The present headquarters of the Rock Island dining car service on Rock Island near Fifth street housed the Collins family a half century ago. One of the choice homes of its day built to face the river was that of J. M. Bowling, corner of Harrison and Front streets. The old-fashioned brick residence on East Second street east of the McNeil block, corner of Perry street, was for many years the home of the early merchant, John Dalzell.
THE EMERSON RESIDENCE
At No. 219 East Second street stands a brick house which is of national interest. It was built by Dr. John Emerson, owner of Dred Scott, the slave whose freedom was sought because he had been brought into this free territory. The famous decision which ended the suit aroused the nation and hastened the Civil war. In this house were held the first services of Trinity Episcopal church. Here resided the rector, Rev. Alfred Louderback and before old Trinity was built at Rock Island and Fifth streets services were regularly held in the old brick residence still standing. A son of Rev. Alfred Louderback, named D. H. Louderback came to Davenport as the representative of a syndicate of Chicago, rebuilt and made metropolitan the street car system. He later taught the people of London how to do the same thing.
ALONG THE ROCKINGHAM ROAD
At this point the impulse is irresistible to go again to the Half-Century Democrat and take therefrom this finely written recollection of Octave Thanet whom her townspeople know as Miss Alice French. As a widely read author they honor her; as a Davenporter they love and admire her. The sketch which is transplanted to this work is headed "Along the Rockingham Road - The Homes and Families that Once Made it Noble."
In the late '70s of the last century Davenport had a line of country villas on the river hills, above the Rockingham road; and the memory of those houses beautiful still clings to many a heart. Recalling them, I feel, after a dispassionate survey, that it is not only the glamour of youth and the past that illumines them with so fair a light. They were, in truth, radiant centers. They made for a true and simple yet wide culture, for good citizenship, and for warm hearted neighborliness.
All the householders were gentle folk; all of them kept close relations with the great world; all of them had an uncommon amount of interest and attraction in their own personalities.
The line - at least to the writer - began just outside the city limits of the time. Within it were the homes of the Davenports, the Glaspells and the McManuses; but it was without that the real Rockingham road ran along the foot of the hills. Farthest from the town were two estates laid out with such liberal taste and skill that they are still stately country seats. "Fairview," the farther to the west, was the property of Colonel William Allen, associated with his brother, Thomas Allen, of St. Louis, in the earliest control of the Iron Mountain railway; the other, "The Elms," was built by his partner, Colonel Mandeville. Here was a union of the north and the south, Colonel Mandeville being a southerner and Colonel Allen descended from an illustrious New England family and having won his title in the Federal army during the Civil war. Yet in this case, curiously enough, it was the northerner who was frankly genial with a finished courtesy of manner; it was the southerner who was gravely polite, silent, reserved, yet capable of deep and strong attachment to a few. Both were alike in their stainless honor, their generous hospitality; both were good citizens in every sense of the word. Too recently have we lost the genial mistresses of the household to need to recall their delicate and gracious charm. They who were as differently moulded as were their husbands in most respects were alike in this as they were in their sympathy gift of diffusing pleasure.
Nearer the town was the picturesque Stuyvesant bungalow (the name was not then arrived, but the wide, low, roomy veranda, winged story-and-a-half cottage was surely the forerunner of the bungalow) where a retired naval officer and his wife had brought the spoils of many cruises in strange lands. Captain Stuyvesant, in the southern phrase, was kin to most of old New York, his wife (born a Crowninshield) to most of old Massachusetts. They had not so wide a circle of friends as the other Rockingham road gentry; but within their circle they showed the same generous hospitality. Often kindred or friends from the great world came to them, some of them most interesting, all with the same air of simple and quiet distinction which was our first impression of their hosts.
A goodly space of leafy country highway ran townward between the Stuyvesant bungalow and the three beautiful homes on the crest of the hills where the road rises. Nearest town was "Leafland," so modestly yet affectionately described by Judge Dillon in his memoir of his wife. There the great jurist spent some happy years. The charming house was planned by Mr. Dillon and "planned for comfort." At this time Mrs. Dillon was in the flower of her compelling fascination and beauty, a devoted wife and mother, a most tender and loyal friend; a woman of power and charm who loved the country beauty with almost a human passion and had with all her vivid traits a very keen and sane sense of humor. It was here the Dillons celebrated their silver wedding after twenty-five happy years together; and here the three cities welcomed the bride of their eldest son, Hiram. But "Leafland" was the scene of innumerable other gatherings, large and small, for the daughters of the house were then brilliant and beautiful young girls, and all the Dillons loved to gather their friends about them.
In no greater measure, however, than did their nearest neighbors of "Woodlawn," the Putnams. The charming English cottage, long since ashes, was then overflowing with young life. We all remember vividly the noble and beautiful mother of that large family who yet found time out of her devotion to her children and her abounding hospitality to magnetize a careless western community and inspire them to rear an institution devoted to pure science. She began the work for the sake of her son. Young as he was, Duncan Putnam had done work of recognized value the world over; and he did the best of it conscious of his sentence of death, but working doggedly with his last strength. To comfort him his mother threw all her splendid vitality and energy into his plans. But when he died she did not abandon her work; rather more lavishly she poured her time, her means and herself into it; and before she died had the happiness of knowing that her academy was in its own home, with assured foundations. But while one cause was dearest to her, every good work and deed found her willing support. "Woodlawn" was the scene of some of our most notable fetes for charity, indeed, the most notable of all. The stranger never found a more open-handed welcome than within its gates; and we all know how that high tradition has descended to her daughter and her sons.
The next place on the road, like "Leafland" and "Woodlawn," nestled among rich shade on the crest of the hills, is the sumptuous park that will always keep green the love of our city for the name which it bears. The last of that name, the daughter of the Hungarian gentleman whose home it was, and who had, himself, given the city much, gave the spacious Hungarian mansion and the fields and orchards and glowing hillsides to our city. Now it is the most beautiful of our parks; but for many years it was the most beautiful of homes. Years before a noble Hungarian exile had come with his wife and his two children, a boy and a girl, and had builded him a miniature Hungarian castle, the doors of which ever stood wide, not only to his kindred and countrymen from over the seaa, but to all his friends. There never was a stauncher friend of America than this guest whom the dissensions of his own country drove in despair to us. Our city never had a better citizen. Yet none of the family whom we loved so well, and of whose old-world distinction and inextinguishable elegance we were always proud, ever lost a whit of its loyal devotion to Hungary. The pictures of the rooms, the papers and magazines, the very cookery of the kitchen, bore evidence to the exile's love of home. But how gracious, how exquisitely courteous and forbearing, how void of comparison and offense, was this ardent Magyar patriotism! We only loved them the more for it. At the time of which I write, Mr. Fejervary, his wife and his daughter, were the family; the son, a youth of extraordinary promise, died years before. To how many of our people does that time come with a rush of memories! How much pleasure, how much happiness did they convey to everyone who came near them! Nicholas Fejervary's character, his chivalric courtesy, his generous bounty, his scrupulous conscience in small matters as well as great, illumined the Hungarian nature to us. Mrs. Fejervary's virures made one worldly soul exclaim with a touch of reverence, "She ought to have been St. Francis' sister!" Mother and daughter we loved as much as we admired. When the father and mother died, and the daughter went back to her country and her kindred, a romantic and alien charm left our hills, but not our hearts.
They are all gone now; all those pleasant places that delighted our youth are in stranger hands. Of the old owners, some have been claimed by the great world out of which they came to us for a season, the descendants of others are still in our city, worthy bearers of their honored names, but though their homes are more luxurious, they are no more on the old dear spots; and of all those fair and gracious women, the mistresses of the old-time mansions of the road, not one if living; but "their very memory is sweet and bright and our sad thoughts doth cheer."