Fore!: Golfing in the Hotel Blackhawk

Winter is settling in around us in Davenport.  It is almost a surprise to realize that December 21st, the oh-so-wonderful first day of winter, has only just past.  The warmth of spring seems a long ways away this week. 

Fortunately, Quad-Citians and visitors alike have a “new” wonderful indoor place to explore this winter (and for years to come).  The Hotel Blackhawk has been restored and once again opened its doors to the public on December 15, 2010.

We have blogged before about the hotel which played a major role in the social lives of many Davenporters since it opened for the first time on February 16, 1915 (please click here or type Hotel Blackhawk in our search engine for more stories).  The hotel is a place filled with history around every corner and we are always finding wonderful stories we would like to blog about. 

When the hotel first opened in 1915, it was a magnificent seven story building.  Within a few years business was booming and more space was needed.  On April 27, 1919 the Davenport Democrat and Leader newspaper announced plans were being drawn up for two more stories to be added to the structure.  On July 26, 1920 the newspaper announced that building was about to commence on not two, but four new floors for the hotel bringing the building to eleven stories.  The Blackhawk Hotel Corporation hoped the rooms would be ready by January 1, 1921.

The owners could not have foreseen work strikes, labor competition from the construction of the Kahl Building a few blocks away, and other setbacks that would delay progress for months.  Construction was not finished by January 1, 1921.  Then the owners announced they hoped the new addition would be completed by May 1st of that year.  When that deadline passed, it seems a different approach was used for opening the new floors.  Instead of opening all the floors at once, each floor would be opened on an as needed basis.  

The eighth floor was the first to be opened in the new addition on October 17, 1921.  The opening of the ninth floor followed in January 1922.  By May of that same year conventions were being held on the tenth floor of the Hotel Blackhawk.  That left only the eleventh floor.  When it did open it offered a look completely different from the famous elegance of the floors below.

The eleventh floor’s nickname said it all.  It was called “the Barn”.  During the 1920s the floor was left relatively unfinished with exposed rafters adding to the “barn” look as late as 1928 according to the Davenport Democrat and Leader.  But its lack of elegance did not mean the eleventh floor was not used.  Groups that rented the space included fraternities and sororities for socials while the American Legion held stag parties there.  Not only parties filled the room, but in the winter months a golf school opened.  Imagine golfing while looking over Davenport and the Mississippi River below!

It appears that the first school was opened by Mr. Tom Macrorie in January 1923. Mr. Macrorie was a professional golfer who worked at the Rock Island Arsenal Golf club.  His golf school included a practice course, the latest equipment, and two nets – we can only imagine protecting the windows to some degree.  By 1926, Mr. Art Andrew, golf professional at the Davenport Country club, operated the indoor golf course.  Many social and professional club members would go upstairs to practice or play tournaments at the conclusion of their club meetings downstairs. 

By 1928, a Mr. Waldo Johnson operated the indoor course.  His business on the eleventh floor was probably short-lived.  On February 19, 1929 the Davenport Democrat and Leader reported that the Blackhawk Hotel Corporation was refinancing and would convert the tenth and eleventh floors to kitchenette apartments immediately.  It appears the days of college socials, stag parties, and golfing over the city of Davenport in “the Barn” were nearing an end; but what an amazing experience it must have been while it lasted!

 “The Barn” would eventually become a floor known for fine dining.  The private Davenport Club featured elegant dining from the late 1970s until 1993.  Before that the Skyline Room, which opened in the 1960s, offered guests the chance to dine while looking over the twinkling lights of Davenport, Rock Island and the Mississippi River.  Maybe some of those diners could remember the days of the golf course on the eleventh floor?  Imagine the memories!

Congratulations to the Hotel Blackhawk on their reopening and may the eleventh floor be filled with elegance (or even golfing) for years to come.

(posted by Amy D.)

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