The Origins of Davenport’s Friendly House

Friendly House has been serving the citizens of Davenport since 1896. With services such as childcare, an in-house food pantry, organized local outings, and events for seniors, Friendly House is a space specifically designed to aid and engage people of all ages and backgrounds within an affordable communal setting. Perhaps you know of someone who takes advantage of its services on a regular basis, or maybe you have driven past the building at 1221 Myrtle Street and wondered how Friendly House came to be?

Noting that a number of people in Davenport lacked day-to-day necessities when the city was undergoing major development, the Reverend Edward D. Lee founded a small mission in 1895. The following year, on April 27, 1896, the organization became the People’s Union Mission. The “Ned Lee Mission,” as it was known (in honor of its founder), rented space at 207 East 2nd Street. In 1903, a new building at 313 East 2nd Street was purchased.

Davenport Daily Leader, March 19, 1896, 3.

The primary aim of the Mission was “the improvement, moral, educational, industrial and religious, of such persons in the city of Davenport, Iowa, as it can reach and bring under the influence of its work.” Some of the many services and amenities provided were a gymnasium, kindergarten and Sunday school classes, outdoor events, and space for meetings and religious services. For a time, the Mission also provided clothing, meals, and lodging for people in need.

By the turn of the century, the Mission faced considerable debt due to its very success. Judge Nathaniel French came to the rescue in January of 1906 with both organizational and financial assistance.

The year 1911 saw Ned Lee’s resignation and the beginning of Harry E. Downer and Alfred C. Mueller’s leadership. At this point, the board dropped the organization’s religious affiliation. On November 17, 1911, the Mission was officially renamed “Friendly House.”

The following year, Friendly House moved to a new location: Claus Groth Gilde Hall at Third and Taylor Streets. Judge French once again contributed significantly to the purchase of the $13,000 property. The new location included a branch of the public library, public baths, playrooms and game rooms, a gymnasium, and a theater (the latter of which was used for outside organizations, gatherings, and a polling place, in addition to dramatic productions). Some of the many programs offered included athletic and dramatic clubs, Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls, Saturday motion pictures, kindergarten and English classes, and classes in sewing, cooking, folk dancing, dressmaking, knitting, crocheting, and chorus singing.

Students using the deposit collection at the Friendly House, 1916. (VM89-002206)


On January 16, 1925, at 3:30 A.M., disaster struck Friendly House. A fire nearly burned the building to the ground.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 16, 1925, 1.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 15, 1926, 14.

 Thanks to the support of the German Free School and a memorial gift from the family of Judge French, a new building was constructed. The “Nathaniel French Memorial” opened in June of 1926.  

Higher attendance in the late 1920’s (87,157 people in the first year after re-opening!) and into the Great Depression years led Friendly House, once again, into financial difficulties. The Civic Planning Committee provided some stability, but many of the employees still felt it necessary to give up part of their pay to keep Friendly House afloat. Harry Downer acknowledged their sacrifices:

“Friendly House has a galaxy of unselfish friends who are inspired by a wish to help others and give freely of their time and talents that the world may be a better place in which to live. No one who works casually and on impulse is of value in this sort of thing. Those who glorify this welfare service are those who give regularly this time and thought to philanthropy, sustained by self-forgetfulness and the earnest desire to aid other folks, and find their reward in the consciousness of unselfish efforts.”

In December of 1938, Friendly House celebrated its 25th anniversary. By that time, the Downers had resigned as Head Residents and Ella Meisner had taken over. The organization continued its outreach in Davenport through the next several decades, moving its location to 1221 Myrtle Street in 1993.

Today, Friendly House still offers many services for youth, families, and senior citizens alike. There are preschool and afterschool care programs, educational scholarships, emergency assistance, volunteer activities, local outings, the Childcare Food Program (CACFP), family literacy nights, and rentals of the facility’s community room, gym, and pavilion.

Friendly House’s current aim, “to respond to the needs of children, families and seniors through quality, affordable services that will enrich lives and strengthen our neighborhoods and the community…” remains faithful to Reverend Lee’s original 1895 mission statement.

As Alfred C. Mueller famously said, “Friendly House is a neighborhood settlement – but its neighborhood is Davenport.”

For more information about Friendly House today, be sure to visit their website at

(posted by Anna T.)



A Short History of Friendly House. Davenport, Iowa: Friendly House, 1946.


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Aliens Among Us: Davenport’s German Immigrants and the Alien Enemy Registration Act of February 1918

One hundred years ago, in January of 1918, life during wartime was changing daily for local residents. A stream of federal and state government regulations arrived in Davenport and Scott County. Local officials began preparing for the registration of German alien enemies,* as directed by President Woodrow Wilson’s November 19, 1917 proclamation. This would have a tremendous impact on the German immigrant population in the area.

Many German-born local residents had, in fact, already registered with the U.S. Deputy Marshal when war was declared in the spring of 1917.  At that point, it became illegal for alien enemies to be within a half-mile of a military installation or a factory producing supplies for the war. For those German nationals who were employed at the Bettendorf factory, the Davenport Locomotive Works, Sears Saddlery Co., Western Flour Mills, Phoenix Milling Company, the local armory, or the Rock Island Arsenal, a special permit was required in order for them to continue working.

The Daily Times, June 1, 1917. Pg. 7.

The half-mile rule also meant the local bridge connecting Davenport to Rock Island was off-limits to any German national without a permit, as the bridge ran through land belonging to the Rock Island Arsenal. Permits, once approved, were to be carried at all times and presented upon demand.

Local officials soon learned that the November 1917 Presidential Proclamation would require any German male citizen aged 14 years and older to register at his local police station if he lived inside the Davenport city limits; and with the local postmaster if he lived in Scott County. This included any German male who had already received a permit to be within a half-mile of a military-related business or installation.

In the weeks leading up to registration, confusion reigned. Letters arrived from the government indicating that the Davenport Police Department would be the single registration location. Then, fearing an overload of applicants, the location was switched back to the city police stations and country postmasters. How many photographs registrants were required to submit, and on what type of paper, was another subject of dispute. There were rumors, later proven false, that registrants would be charged money to apply for alien enemy status. Another rumor in circulation at the time, also false, was that property owned by German citizens would be confiscated by the local government.

Davenport Mayor John Berwald worked with local officials to determine which pieces of information were correct. The Davenport newspapers reported daily on the changes.

On January 17, 1918, the Davenport Democrat and Leader announced that alien enemy registration would be held fromFebruary 4th to the 9th. Failure to register would mean prosecution by federal authorities. Registrants would be fingerprinted and asked to provide four unmounted, 3×3-inch photographs of themselves. Applicants were prohibited from moving to a different area during the registration process. Once a registration booklet was issued, the alien enemy was required to carry it with him at all times. If he wished to move after registering, he would have to apply in writing to the local U.S. Marshal for permission.

The Daily Times, January 30, 1918. Pg. 7

Although registration did begin on February 4, 1918, the large numbers of German citizens applying all across the country forced the federal government to extend the registration period through February 13th. The names of the registered alien enemies in the Davenport area were printed in the local newspapers.

This list included those German immigrants who had not applied for naturalization, as well as those whose naturalization applications were in process when war was declared. A surprising number of area residents who immigrated from Germany as young children were forced to register as alien enemies because they did not have their fathers’ naturalization papers to prove they were U.S. citizens. Most were registered to vote, some had held local public offices, and one was even serving on the draft board until it was discovered he did not have the necessary proof of citizenship!

The Daily Times, February 11, 1918. Pg. 8.

In the end, 250 males registered in Scott County as German alien enemies. Approved registration booklets were delivered to the point of registration about 2 weeks later. Recipients were instructed to carry them at all times.**

Another registration was held in April of 1918 for women who held German citizenship. That registration created a new set of questions for the government: What was a woman’s status if she was married to a citizen? What was it if her husband had served in the military?

As the winter of 1918 turned into spring, new regulations and registrations would visit the area home front as more local men set off to serve in the Great War.

Check back here on our blog to find out more about the experiences of Davenport and Scott County residents during World War I!


*Individuals of German birth living in the United States who had not become naturalized citizens of this country. This only included citizens of the German Empire. It did not include citizens of countries that were allies of Germany.

**Draft registrants during this time were also instructed to carry their card with them at all times.

(posted by Amy D.)



  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 31, 1917. Pg. 13.
  • The Daily Times, May 28, 1917. Pg. 7.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 21, 1917. Pg. 14.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 3, 1918. Pg. 15.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 17, 1918. Pg. 10.
  • The Daily Times, January 18, 1918. Pg. 8.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 21, 1918. Pg. 8.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 22, 1918. Pg. 15.
  • The Daily Times, January 23, 1918. Pg. 9.
  • The Daily Times, January 30, 1918. Pg. 14.
  • The Daily Times, February 9, 1918. Pg. 18.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 12, 1918. Pg. 11.
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 14, 1918. Pg. 13.
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Be A Tourist In Your Own Backyard

January 12th through the 15th is Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard Weekend

Each year, the Quad Cities Convention & Visitor’s Bureau partners with area businesses to offer deals on hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. 

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center has tourist guides from years past filed in our Ephemera Collection. 

Take a look at these brochures from 35 and 45 years ago. 

“Quad Cities USA: More for you to see and do” [1982]

“Points of Interest” [ca.1972]

Quad Cities USA: More for you to See & Do (Quad-City Development Group, ca. 1982).

Points of Interest (City of Davenport, Iowa, ca. 1972).

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Fun in the Snow, 1960’s Style

Happy New Year from the staff at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

These images from our Davenport Parks and Recreation Department collection show locals enjoying winter weather apparently not as harsh as that of January 2018!

The photographs were taken at Duck Creek Park and Fejervary Park during the winter of 1960-1961.

Acc#2003-09 Davenport (IA) Leisure Services and Facilities, Box 52, Folders 609-610, Sheets 6-7.

Stay warm!

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Advertising in the Great War: Supporting “Meatless” and “Wheatless” Days

One hundred years ago, as December 1917 ebbed into January 1918 the United States had  officially been in the Great War since April 6, 1917. 

As more U.S. soldiers entered military training camps and went overseas, the need to ration food sources increased. By October 30, 1917, the State of Iowa introduced voluntary meatless and wheatless days. Pledge cards were sent to homes, restaurants, hotels, and businesses asking for participation.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 24, 1917. Pg. 15.

























As the months went on, updated “Home Cards” were sent to those who pledged to join the rationing. These new cards included additional items to conserve for the war effort.

The Daily Times, December 14, 1917. Pg. 8.

























Food companies soon promoted their “meatless” and “wheatless” products. Many of these companies had Domestic Science Departments creating recipes that a housewife could obtain through the mail to support these days.

The Daily Times, December 14, 1917. Pg. 20.


Reminders were frequently posted in local newspapers about the United States food administration’s requests.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 17, 1917. Pg. 6.

























By January 1918, advertising promoting “meatless” and “wheatless” cooking to help the men on the front lines of the war was routine. Restaurants and hotels also promoted their efforts to support the war effort on the home front.

Following are examples from local Davenport newspapers of the time.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 2, 1918. Pg. 9.
























The Daily Times, January 7, 1918. Pg. 2.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 8, 1918. Pg. 12.

The Daily Times, January 23, 1918. Pg. 9.

The Daily Times, January 28, 1918. Pg. 16.
















































There was one bright spot during the holidays that year.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fell on Tuesdays in 1917 and 1918. As turkeys were not part of “meatless” Tuesdays; those who chose to celebrate on those days with a traditional turkey dinner had no worries about depriving soldiers on the front with needed food.

A small moment of festivity during that time of uncertainty.

We wish you all a Happy New Year.

(posted by Amy D.


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Crowdsourcing for Christmas

Consider a gift of knowledge to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center this holiday season! Help us identify this circus performance at “Santa’s House” that we believe took place at the Davenport Municipal Stadium in the late 1940’s.








These images from our collection are available online at the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive.

PLEASE NOTE: All Davenport Public Library locations will be closed December 25th & 26th and January 1st & 2nd.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

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Shopping Local for the Holidays in Downtown Davenport

2nd Street was the place to be for holiday shopping in Davenport, say these images from our collection, available via the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive:

2nd Street between Brady and Main Streets, c. 1920’s (VM89-000499)

Second Street between Main and Harrison Streets, c. 1940’s (VM89-000498)

2nd Street between Brady and Main Streets, c. 1940’s (VM89-000957)

Learn more about downtown Davenport shops and department stores, such as Harned and Von Maur, below, by viewing our December display on the lower level of the Main Street Library.

Harned and Von Maur building,  223-229 West 2nd Street, c. 1890 (VM89-000846)

Articles like this one from the 18 March 1887 Morning Democrat (all of the Davenport newspapers are available at the Center on microfilm) help us trace the fascinating history of downtown business development:

As a break from your holiday shopping in downtown Davenport, drop in here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center (321 Main Street) and find out how it was done in days past!

(posted by Katie)

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In Memoriam: Eldon Leroy Baxter of Davenport, Survivor of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Eldon Leroy Baxter was born on August 22, 1920 in Buffalo, Scott County, Iowa, to Jesse Burton Baxter and Mable Laura Porter.  He attended the Davenport schools. As a teenager, he worked as a newspaper carrier for the Davenport Democrat, a batboy for the Davenport Blue Sox, and both a player and a coach for the W.G. Block Co. baseball team of the Davenport Park Board’s twilight league.

Mr. Baxter enlisted in the Navy on September 17, 1940 when he was twenty-one years old. He was working as a storekeeper aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia on the fateful day — December 7, 1941 — when the Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor.

On December 16th , Mr. and Mrs. Baxter received a telegram from Rear Admiral C.M. Nimitz, informing them that their son had been killed in action.

Imagine the expressions of surprise and delight at 1301 Arlington Avenue, just before Christmas, when the Baxters opened this letter:

“Dear Folks:–

Yes, I still have my skin unpunctured.

I could probably write one of the greatest adventure books ever written if it were allowed.

I drove a truck for a little over a week, and yesterday I was called to take temporary duty on a new ship.

I am in G.S.K. which is like a hardware store, and I am working with a brand new bunch of swell storekeepers.

I (several words censored) I had except for a (one word censored), but I drew some clothing and things I needed yesterday.

Your son,

Eldon” [1]

Eldon Baxter returned from foreign service on October 23, 1945. He married Wilma Joyce Helbling on November 23, 1946. He was a member of the Naval Reserve and also served during the Korean War. He worked for Iowan Dairy Co., International Harvester, The Times Co., and Roederer Transfer and Storage.

Over the next 70 years, Eldon Baxter would share his firsthand account of the bombing of Pearl Harbor with other members of the Mississippi Valley chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Eldon Leroy Baxter died on Monday, December 4, 2017 in Davenport. [2]


  (posted by Cristina) 


1.”Happy Day! Davenporters Reported Killed in Action Now Revealed Safe,” Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Dec. 25, 1941.

2. Ickes, Barb,”Q-C’s Last Known ‘Pearl’ Survivor Dies,” Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA), Dec. 5, 2017.

3. Image accompanying newspaper article: Hoffman, Harvey, “It Happened 10 Years Ago, But Vets Remember Pearl Harbor,” Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Dec. 6, 1951.


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Don’t forget to purchase your 2018 Special Collections Calendar!

The Davenport Public Library’s Main Street building in downtown Davenport celebrates it’s 50th anniversary in 2018. The mid-century modern “Library of Tomorrow” was designed by renowned architect Edward Durrell Stone, who also designed the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. 

Staff at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center compiled historic photographs and facts about Davenport to create a fundraising calendar for 2018. Calendars are available for purchase at all Davenport Public Library locations. We are currently running a special promotion for the holidays: purchase a calendar for $10 and receive a Library tote for free from December 1 – December 15!

Check out this Historypin​ tour featuring photographs published in our new 2018 calendar. Click on the Street View guy to see what they look like now!

Click here to take a virtual tour!

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Turkey Notes: A Living Memory View

It’s time! It’s time!

It is Turkey Note time!

Yes, we get very excited in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center right before Thanksgiving as we prepare for our annual Turkey Note blog.

If you haven’t heard about this fun Quad City tradition, please read about the history of Turkey Notes here.

For many individuals growing up in the Quad Cities, writing Turkey Notes may have been a tradition in school or at home.

I have memories of writing Turkey Notes on Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving Day with my siblings. Thinking back as an adult, it was a wonderful way for us to keep busy while parents or relatives prepared for the big Thanksgiving meal.

The rules for Turkey Notes were (and still are) simple:

  • Write a short, three- or four-line poem, using “Turkey” as the first word of the first two lines.
  • Originally, we were taught to use colors for the second word of the first two lines. Some Turkey Note writers stick to this premise while others now use words outside of the color box.
  • After the poem was completed, Turkey Notes were rolled in colorful tissue paper and tied at the ends with ribbon with the person’s name written on it. Fringing the ends of the tissue always looked nice.
  • The main thing about the Turkey Note is how it is written. If you want to decorate it, roll it in tissue, hand it out flat, or anything else, that is up to the author.

What do you write about in a Turkey Note? In one word – anything.

My siblings and I were always told to write a compliment or something positive about a person (they were relatives, teachers, and friends after all). We always worked to focus on a positive character trait, accomplishments, or a hobby that was enjoyed.

We have read other Turkey Notes that focus on school or sports rivalries, the turkey’s opinion on the holiday, things that have happened during the year, and even insults.

Our family tradition held that Turkey Notes were read aloud after Thanksgiving dinner started. Depending on the year, Turkey Notes were handed out by children to adults after everyone was seated or the Turkey Notes were put out beforehand as creative place cards.

We do add one word of warning about Turkey Notes. Depending on your guests’ sense of humor, handing out insulting Turkey Notes may create a very long (and uncomfortable) Thanksgiving gathering.

Now once again, Special Collections staff have created a few Turkey Notes for you to enjoy.

Turkey Red,                                                                                                                                    Turkey Blue,                                                                                                                                  Turkey says,                                                                                                                                              “I love you!”

Turkey Oak,                                                                                                                                    Turkey Birch,                                                                                                                                Turkey says,                                                                                                                                        “Come to Special Collections for family research!”

Turkey Go,                                                                                                                                      Turkey Come,                                                                                                                                Turkey says,”Where are you from?”

Turkey Yellows,                                                                                                                              Turkey Greens,                                                                                                                                          Turkey says,                                                                                                                              “Wouldn’t you rather eat more beans?”

Turkey Turquoise,                                                                                                                                Turkey Teal,                                                                                                                                    Turkey says,                                                                                                                                              “Don’t eat to much of your Thanksgiving meal.”

Turkey Pie,                                                                                                                                            Turkey Square,                                                                                                                              Turkey says,                                                                                                                                      “Run, there’s a bear!” 

Turkey Work,                                                                                                                                  Turkey Play,                                                                                                                                      Turkey says,                                                                                                                                “Welcome Kathryn K.!”*

And one last special Turkey Note to Bill Wundram at the Quad-City Times for keeping the Turkey Note tradition alive each year in his column:

Turkey Health,                                                                                                                              Turkey Thrive,                                                                                                                              Turkey says,                                                                                                                                  “Thank you for keeping my tradition alive!”

We wonder if anyone in recent years has passed down this tradition? We would love to hear from you! Write your own Turkey Note in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving.

(posted by Amy D.)

*The Davenport Public Library and Richardson-Sloane Special Collections staff welcome new Supervisor Kathryn Kuntz. We are excited to have her join our team!

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