Build A Better Davenport: The Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home 1865 – 1975

This week we are continuing with the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center’s resources and records of local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and other building material suppliers.

Our focus this week is on the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home complex. Later renamed the Annie Wittenmyer Home after its founder; the Orphans’ Home ran from 1865 – 1975. 

The site originally began as Camp Roberts, later renamed Camp Kinsman, during the early days of the Civil War. The property was given to Annie Wittenmyer to become the new home for the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in December 1865.* 

Plat of the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans Home. Designed by H. F. Liebbe. June 16, 1904.

Mrs. Wittenmyer found a barrack style system of cottages with separate dining area. This separate cottage-style system would be continued through the orphanage’s existence.

Cottage System – First Floor Plan

Cottage System – Second Floor Plan










The original campus, including a farm, was once around 300 acres. The property today is about 32 acres and still includes many buildings from the Home.

Campus – 1932

The cottage system was felt to create a home-like atmosphere for the children. We have one photo from the early days of the orphanage.  These barracks would eventually be replaced by structures that resembled cottages.

Image 135 from the Evans’ collection. Labeled View at the Orphans’ Home, Davenport, Iowa.

Over the years the campus grew to include an Administration Building, kitchen/dining room, laundry building, school rooms, gymnasium, chapel, and small hospital. Each building standing separately. This system provided an unexpected benefit when fires destroyed the Administration Building, kitchen/dining room, and laundry buildings over the years. Instead of a massive loss, the fires were contained to the individual structures.

Gymnasium – Built 1921

One building still standing today is the Administration Building designed by architect John W. Ross. Mr. Ross also designed Davenport’s City Hall. This is thought to be the third administration building on the property. At least one previous building was destroyed by fire. 

Administration Building designed by John W. Ross c. 1890-1891.

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center houses many more plans and pictures for this amazing complex. The records of children who lived at the orphanage starting in 1910 are still retained by the State of Iowa Division of Adult, Children, & Family services.

*For those who may know the story, the orphans arrived in November 1865 to move into the site from their former Orphans’ Homes in Farmington and Cedar Falls, Iowa. 

(posted by Amy D. and Cristina)


Annie Wittenmyer Blueprints, map case 3 drawer 8

vm89-0002584  View at the Orphan’s Home, Davenport Iowa. South side of the square. No. 135. Evans’ Western Views, ca.1865-1870 from DPL Photograph Collection

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Build A Better Davenport: Gordon-Van Tine and the World War II Housing Boom

This week we are continuing with the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center’s resources and records of local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building material suppliers.

This week our focus is on the Gordon-Van Tine Company and a photo collection of its 1943 housing development in Bettendorf, Iowa.

The Gordon-Van Tine was a Davenport-based early manufacturer of “kit houses,” predating Sears Roebuck in the business by six years. We encourage you to read this Gordon-Van Tine blog to learn more about the history of this company.

In 1943, World War II was raging and war manufacturing was at an all-time high at the Rock Island Arsenal. Families were moving into the area to take up war jobs and affordable, rapidly-built housing was desperately needed.

Gordon-Van Tine quickly took up this challenge. During the summer of 1943, the company built 34 houses along Grant Street in Bettendorf between 20th and 21st Streets. These small, usually four-room houses were quick to build, inexpensive to purchase, and marketed to families coming to work at the Arsenal. 

Davenport Daily Times, September 4, 1943. Pg. 13.

These photographs were taken at several stages of the project and form a part of our City of Davenport Community Planning and Economic Development Department collection (#2008-20).

Gordon Van Tine Print #05. 2008-28.

Gordon-Van Tine Print #15. 2008-28. 

Gordon-Van Tine Print #40. 2008-28.

Gordon-Van Tine Print #19. 2008-28.

Gordon-Van Tine Print #37. 2008-28.

Gordon-Van Tine Print #30. 2008-28.

(Posted by Amy D.)


Davenport Daily Times, September 4, 1943, p. 13.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 31, 1943, p. 43.

Davenport (Iowa). CPED Collection2008-28. Box 83.


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Build A Better Davenport: The Hunzinger Construction Company

Summer is upon us and, with it, the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, this year titled “Build a Better World.” Here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center we have many resources that fit well with this theme, including the records of Davenport-based and other local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers. Through the months of June and July, as you work to “build up” your reading log, take some time every week to check in with us for a new profile of one of these collections.

This week we are featuring the Hunzinger Construction Company, founded by four brothers from a local Iowa farming family. According to the company’s website, “…[t]hey began modestly by building one-room schoolhouses and homes using mule teams to do everything from hauling materials to digging basements.” John H. Hunzinger headed up the Davenport branch of the operation (there was one in Iowa City as well) from the offices in the Security Building on 3rd Street. In 1928, Frank and Fred Hunzinger left Iowa for Wisconsin and began the Hunzinger Construction Company that is still in business today outside of Milwaukee.

Here are some of Hunzinger’s projects in Davenport:

The Austin Crabbs Incorporated plant (concrete block manufacturing)

An advertisement in the Davenport Morning Democrat Centennial October 4, 1955 Sec. 1, p. 9.

A rare “under-construction” photograph of…

The W.D. Petersen Memorial Music Pavilion in LeClaire Park!

Curious to learn more? Stop by the Special Collections Center at the Main Street branch and ask for the Hunzinger and Company Photographs and Scrapbooks collection (#1992-07)!

(posted by Jessica)

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A L’oste Davenport Vineyard is Found Again

When we learned this week from Jack Cullen’s article in the Quad-City Times that a local couple was “reviving a piece of the past” by installing grape vines on the same site as George L’oste Davenport’s Clifton Vineyard, active in the 1870’s, we were prompted to see what more we could discover about the history of the property and the enterprise.

William K. Haight, describing Scott County activities in the Report of the Secretary of the Iowa State Agricultural Society for the Year 1870, noted that G. L. Davenport,  the “fortunate possessor of Clifton Vineyard” during a season”…particularly favorable for grapes,” was an especially clever winemaker. Using a “machine of his own invention which picks the grapes from the stems and performs all the operations without the necessity of using the wine press,” Haight reported, Davenport was able to produce two thousand gallons of wine. If only we could find an image of this machine or learn more about how it worked!

Thanks to the David Rumsey Map Collection, we do have a sense of how the six thousand grape vines were laid out on Davenport’s estate.  A high-quality reproduction of page 82 of A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa (1875), also shown in the Times article, is now easily accessed online (we do not even need to get out of our chairs to look at one of the 10-plus copies of the atlas held here in the RSSC Center).

The Rumsey resource allows detailed views such as these: a carriage driving up the bluff past the grapevines and the Davenport house.

G. L. Davenport is listed as one of the patrons of the Andreas’ atlas, so it is no wonder his home is prominently featured within.

The house itself, known as “Clifton,” was originally built by merchant J.M.D. Burrows in the early 1850’s. This fine example of a “dialogue between the Greek Revival and the Italianate” architectural styles came to the Davenport family via city founder Antoine LeClaire after Burrows was ruined in the Panic of 1857. Apparently the image is reversed in the atlas, so the small hip-roofed building attached by a covered walkway was actually on the east side of the property.

The “South West Quarter of the Map of the City of Davenport, Iowa” on pages 60 and 61 of Huebinger’s Atlas of Scott County, Iowa (1894), also available via the Rumsey Collection, shows that the bluffside property (1533 Clay Street) was still owned by the Davenport family twenty years later.

But George L’oste was not the only vintner in Davenport in the post-Civil War period. The Fritz Schmidt family ran Black Hawk Vineyards, also on the west side of town, near Black Hawk Creek. Their operation was larger than Davenport’s, producing nine thousand gallons of wine in 1870.  Also according to the Report of the Secretary of the Iowa State Agricultural Society for the Year 1870page 523, the Schmidts preferred the Delaware and Norton’s Virginia varieties of grapes, while Davenport considered the “Catawba grape superior to any for wine.”

We must agree with Mr. Haight, the Scott County reporter to the Iowa State Secretary of Agriculture in 1870 that the “…development of any new enterprise, like wine-making, that adds wealth to a community, should be fostered and encouraged” remains true in the present day. Best of luck to the twenty-first century grape-growers on Riverview Terrace!

(posted by Katie)

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Davenport City Cemetery: Preserving and celebrating the past

Davenport City Cemetery est. 1849

In honor of National Cemetery Month and Memorial Day, we are taking a moment to highlight the history of Davenport City Cemetery and this Saturday’s dedication of headstones for veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars.

Located on Rockingham Road between South Sturdevant Street and South Division Street, City Cemetery is the oldest existing cemetery in Davenport.

The original five acres of land were purchased from Asa and Electa Green on May 10, 1843 by the City of Davenport. The sale of private burial lots began in September of that year. A section of the cemetery was also designated as Public Burial ground where families could choose to either bury a loved one themselves for a small fee or pay a slightly higher amount for the Sexton to dig the grave.*

Many of the individuals buried in the Public Ground may have only had small handmade markers that have vanished over time due to Midwestern weather, flooding, or vandalism. Today this section (on the east side of the cemetery) looks like an open green space, but is actually the burial ground for hundreds.

In 1849, the descendants of Asa and Electa Green sold an additional 6.48 acres of adjoining land to the City of Davenport to expand the cemetery. In January of 1863, he first lot was sold in the “New,”or west, section of the cemetery.

Over the years, City Cemetery became the final resting place for thousands of local citizens including:

  • Early German immigrants to the area
  • Members of successful families whose last names are still recognized in Davenport today (such as the Beiderbecke family)
  • Some infamous by association (Dr. Michael and Catherine Horony, the father and stepmother of western legend Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Horony)
  • Victims of cholera and other epidemics
  • Veterans who fought for the United States at home or overseas

The last burial in City Cemetery is believed to have taken place around 1986. The cemetery is no longer managed by a Sexton; it is now under the care of the City of Davenport Parks and Recreation Department.

Though the burials have ended, caring and maintaining the cemetery for those who rest there and their families has not.

The Davenport Parks & Recreation Department and a group of dedicated volunteers continue to make improvements to the cemetery. From road and walkway improvements to the replacement of missing or damaged headstones, their work helps preserve the history of Davenport and Scott County.

The newest contribution to the preservation of the cemetery is the unveiling and dedication of 20 headstones for veterans of the Civil War and one headstone for a veteran of the Spanish-American War. The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend this event, which is being coordinated through the Veterans Recruitment and Services at St. Ambrose University.

The headstones were received for free through the Department of Veterans Affairs program. Volunteers Kory Darnall and Coky Powers spent hours going through burial information to identify veterans, searching for supporting documents, and working with the Davenport Parks & Recreation Department to submit all the requiried materials to the program.

In addition to the dedication at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, there will be volunteers available Saturday through Monday, May 27, 28, and 29 from 12 to 4 p.m. to answer questions and discuss the history of the cemetery.

We hope to see you there!

*A City of Davenport Ordinance passed May 10, 1849 stated graves must be dug 5 feet in depth and length to allow a coffin or rough box to buried. The Sexton was paid by the City Council $2 for the burial of a person 11 years or older, $1.50 for ages 2 – 10, and $1.00 for ages 0 – 2.  An additional dollar was charged for digging a grave at night. Friends or relatives were allowed to dig a grave themselves as long as they stayed within the above-given dimensions. The Sexton received a $ .50 recording fee for those burials.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Now Available: The Port Byron Globe Newspaper

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center is pleased to announce the acquisition of the weekly newspaper the Port Byron Globe (Port Byron, IL, 1884-1992) on microfilm!

Delve into the lives of Port Byron, Illinois residents and their Scott County neighbors across the Mississippi in Le Claire and Princeton, Iowa as far back as 1884!

Print indexes to the Port Byron Globe are also available to researchers at the Center. The Rock Island County Historical Society compiled an obituary index to the March 8, 1884 through August 12, 1971 issues; and two volumes (12 and 16) of local genealogy enthusiast Janet Pease’s Genealogical Abstracts from Rock Island County, Illinois Newspapers contain indexes to “all items which I felt to be of genealogical value – vital records, visits from out-of-town relatives, probate abstracts, marriage licenses…” for 1890 through 1897.

Take home a little Port Byron area history free of charge using our digital microfilm reader-printers and your storage device!

We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. M. Lawrence Shannon for donating this wonderful resource to our collection.

(posted by Karen)

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A Forgotten Oasis: The Pavilion at Central Park

In May 1899, plans were unveiled for a new addition to Central Park (renamed Vander Veer Park in 1912). Architect E. S. Hammatt had been hired by the Davenport Park Commissioners to design an open-air structure to serve as a bandstand and gathering area in the park.

The location for the new building was the northern edge of the park, just south of the greenhouse near the large pond. It was described in the newspapers as being 50 x 70 feet with enough space for large groups to gather. It was a story-and-a-half in height with bathrooms and storage areas in the lower section. The upper open-air section was accessible by large stairways on all four sides. (1)

The Pavilion at Central Park before a portion of the upper level was enclosed. Postcard #Parks VV PC 004.

Soon after the structure was built, the Park Commissioners decided to enclose the central part of the upper section and add a restaurant. (2)

 Large pond in the front and greenhouse to the right of the Pavilion. Postcard #Parks VV PC 036.

Closer postcard view of the Pavilion after changes to the upper level.  Postcard #Parks VV PC 029.

What a delight it must have been to sip a lemonade under the shade of the Pavilion and gaze out over the picturesque pond and greenhouse! 

In the annual report for 1919-1920the Park Commissioners informed the Davenport City Council that the “…decision to take down the pavilion in order to save coal, repairs and painting was carried out; the heating pipes and radiators were stored; the toilet fixtures moved to the basement in the Utility Building; the steel ceiling to the Comfort Station in Fejervary Park; the lumber, frames, doors and windows to Credit Island; the foundation stones to Fejervary Park and will be used for filling in the deer and elk yard.” (3)

We were amazed to find such a complete description of what happened to the building and its materials!

This final look at the Central Park Pavilion comes courtesy of our collection of images from the Hostetler Studio in Davenport:

Central Park Pavilion by Hostetler Studio, Davenport, Iowa. 1902 – 1918. Image hostetler-vanderveer1. DPL Volume 31.

Enjoy a relaxing summer at Vander Veer and other City of Davenport parks!

(posted by Amy D.)


  • (1) Davenport Weekly Leader, May 16, 1899, p. 6.
  • (2) Davenport Daily Leader, July 2, 1899, p. 8.
  • (3) Annual Reports of The City Officers of the City of Davenport 1919 – 1920, p. 96.
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May the Fourth: International Firefighters Day

Geeks everywhere know what day it is. That’s right, it’s International Firefighters Day!

Did you know that Davenport, Iowa is home to the International Fire Museum?

The Museum is located in the old Hose Company No. 4 at 2301 E 11th Street in the Village of East Davenport. 

 Hose Station No. 4 was built in 1931, replacing the previous Hose Company No. 4 headquarters at 15101 E 12th Street. The Italianate style building was designed by Howard S. Muesses, architect and former Davenport city building commissioner. 

The Davenport Fire Antique & Restoration Society, founded in 1984 by members if the Davenport Fire Department, worked with the city to open the Museum in 1986.

The museum is home to artifacts, photographs, and fire-fighting memorabilia from around the world, including a 1951 Mack pumper purchased from the city of Riverdale, Iowa. 

And what’s a Firefighter’s Day without photos of firefighters posed proudly with their engines?

Subjects identified as Erwin “Red” Freese, Charles Garvey- chauffeur, Lt. Charles Hintze, Walter “Tang” Beckmann- chauffeur, Captain Don Johnston, John Ward. Identified by Cliff Beckman, a retired firefighter in 1993.

Be sure to check out the museum this weekend while you are at the 5th annual Village in Bloom Arts Festival!


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Jazz Appreciation Month: Freegal Music Service

Ever wish you had more Bix in your music collection? 

Use Freegal Music Service to download 3 free songs per week! 

Click on the link under Online Resources on our website and log in with your Davenport Public Library card to start downloading all that Jazz!


(posted by Cristina)

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Look Alike Day: The Putnam & Parker Buildings

April 20th is National Look Alike Day, and we’ve decided to share Davenport twins!

Downtown Davenport has two buildings with similar facades: the Putnam building at 215 Main and the M.L. Parker building at 104 W 2nd. Here are some facts about each building: 


Putnam building

  • Year built: 1910
  • Address: 215 Main (2nd & Main)
  • Size: 8 stories high, 60 ft X 140 ft.
  • Use: Retail on 1st floor, the rest was an office building
  • Architect: D.H. Burnham & Company, Chicago
  • Developer: W.C. Putnam Estate
  • Davenport’s first skyscraper
  • Toilets: There were toilets for men on each floor. On the 8th floor there was a “special women’s toilet with a rest room”, which was a “new” feature in office buildings  



The M.L. Parker building

  • Year built: 1922
  • Address: 104 W 2nd (NW corner of 2nd & Brady St.)
  • Size: 7 stories, 108 ft X 142 ft
  • Use: M.L. Parker department store on 1st floor, the rest was an office building
  • Architect: Modified version of Burnham’s design
  • Developer: W.C. Putnam Estate
  • Built on the site of the LeClaire House Hotel








Not exactly alike, but definitely in the same family!


Works Cited

About the Putnam Block. (2007, September 25). Quad-City Times, p. A2.

Brown, M. (1981, January 21). Parker Building bounces back. Quad-City Times.

(1983). Profile of the Parker Building. Davenport, Iowa: W.C. Putnam Estate.

Putnam Building. (1910). Davenport, Iowa: W.C. Putnam Estate.

Willard, J. (2003, January 10). Putnam Building has storied history. Quad-City Times, p. A2.

Work of Wreckers Proves Attaction: Many Watch Men Tearing Down Old Putnam Building. (1910, March 08). The Daily Times, p. 4.


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