Back to School: A Letter From Immaculate Conception Academy, 1873 – Part I

At this time of year, as many students return to school, we thought it appropriate to share one of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s latest acquisitions: a March, 1873 letter from a student at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport to her father, E.M. Sala, in West Point, Iowa.

Imma Conception, Davenport, Iowa, Mar. 5, 1873

Dear Pa,

I received your kind letter and was so glad to hear from you, as it was the first letter I had from you since you were here.

We were examined last week, and I will get a certificate in all of my studies; when we receive our certificates I will send you mine, for I know you will be glad to see one.

Lizzie Blacksmith is coming to live with Mary, because she is not able to do her own work. I think I will write to her this week. Please excuse the shortness of this letter, as I have nothing more of interest. I will conclude with fondest love to all.

Your loving child,

Ada Sala

This letter raises some interesting questions about both the relationships among Sala family members and the experience of a student at the Immaculate Conception Academy in the early 1870’s. In seeking answers, we may demonstrate the use of some of the resources available here in the Special Collections department of the library. This week, we uncover some information about the family; next week, in Part II, we will discuss the Academy. Grab a pencil and paper — it’s time to be “schooled” in family and local history research!

Ada Sala is about 15 years old when she writes this letter to her father in 1873. We know this because we have searched her name in the Ancestry Library Edition database (available to patrons at all three Davenport library locations) and found her listed in the US Federal Census records for 1860 at age 2 and in 1870 at age 12. Therefore, she was likely born in the year 1858.

The census data for these years gives us further information about her father: his first name was Eli,  he was a physician by profession, and about 57 years old when he received Ada’s letter. We also learn that both he and his wife Susan were born on the Pennsylvania/Ohio border; the family included four boys and three girls; in 1860, they resided in West Point, Iowa, and by 1870 they had moved to Patch Grove, Wisconsin.

A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875.

Historical Atlas of Wisconsin…Milwaukee: Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., 1878.

Wondering why Ada’s letter was addressed to only one parent, we searched Ancestry for “Susan Sala” to find that she had died on February 18, 1872, about a year earlier. This piece of information comes from the images of Grant County, Wisconsin (the location of Patch Grove) probate records made available on the database.

Information from Ancestry has also helped us to determine that the “Mary” Ada refers to in the letter as being “not able to do her own work,” was likely her older sister, then struggling with her first pregnancy. Marriage records from Grant County, Wisconsin show that Mary Sala married a Henry Boggess in Patch Grove in 1871. The 1880 US Federal Census shows Henry Boggess living in Rock Island, Illinois with his wife Mary and 6-year-old daughter Vinnie. A family tree created by an Ancestry user (another feature of the database) gives Vinnie’s date of birth as August of 1873 in Rock Island, five months after Ada’s mention of Mary’s difficulties.

Library of Congress Map Division

Was the “Lizzie Blacksmith” who Ada said was “coming to live with Mary” the Elizabeth Black Smitte from a German immigrant family living in Franklin (1870 US Census), the town adjacent to West Point in Lee County, Iowa who later married Joseph Greenwood (on September 7, 1873, according to county marriage records) in Rock Island, Illinois? Perhaps Lizzie and Mary had been friends from when the Salas lived in West Point, or Lizzie was otherwise known to the family (as a servant?) through Ada and Mary’s older brothers still living there? Again, with the many types of records it provides, the Ancestry database allows us to suggest these possible relationships.

A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875.

We continue our lesson next week with a closer look at the Immaculate Conception Academy at the time when Ada Sala wrote her letter. Until then, please complete this homework assignment: visit the library and explore your own family history with Ancestry Library Edition!

(posted by Katie)

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Total Eclipse of the Sun: August 7, 1869

As we prepare for the upcoming solar eclipse, we thought we would take a look back at the Solar Eclipse of 1869 as viewed by Davenporters.

The last solar eclipse of the 19th century occurred on Saturday, August 7th, 1869. It was a clear, lovely day here in Davenport. The central line of the eclipse bisected Iowa, entering 18 miles south of the NW corner of the state and leaving it 2 miles north of the east extension of its southern boundary in Lee County. The belt of the country totally eclipsed was 158 1/2 miles wide at the NW corner of the state and 156 miles wide at the SE corner. The central line was near halfway between the northern and southern limits of the eclipse. The area covered by the belt of the total eclipse was 44,000 miles. Des Moines & Burlington were chosen by astronomers for observation, being at the center of belt totality.

In Davenport, special glasses made with smoked glass were sold for 5 to 10 cents each, according to size and perfection of coloring. Telescopic views of the eclipse were held at Dr. Hazen’s office over Harrison and Stark’s drug store. Admission cost 50 cents and as many people as could get in were admitted. The reflection of the eclipse was captured through a telescope and projected on a screen, and its several stages were accurately represented to a room full of spectators. 

Observations in Davenport were sponsored by the Davenport Academy of Sciences, under the direction of Professor Thomas Lighton/Leighton of Rock Island.  An observatory was established on the roof of the Davenport National Bank building. P. B. Jones’ Photograph Gallery

One telescopic camera was used by Paul B. Jones (magnifying power of 30 diameters) for taking photographs; the was other was used by Prof. Lighton (magnifying power of 150 diameters) for observation. The lenses were arranged so images could vary from 4 to 16 inches; negatives could be made in any size in-between. 

The cameras were mounted on a stand that could incline in any direction. This allowed observers to follow the sun without causing any jarring or shaking. The strong wood frame was mounted on Equatorial plates firmly fixed and edged with 630 teeth and a steel screw, which caused the upper plate to move freely. On top of the plates were two sweeps supported on two columns in which the telescopes were placed so that the equator could be followed in a single motion.

Every three minutes, Jones took an image on a 4-inch glass plate negative and immediately developed it. This resulted in 24 impressive photographs:

The eclipse began at 3:57:53pm, as the moon approached the sun from the Northeast quadrant. Spectators noticed an instant change in the atmosphere. Swallows and doves flew back and forth as a result of the unexpected darkness. The strange light caused a change in hue of forest on the island and trees to a darker green, then vapory yellow, then “so deep that shades were lost across the tops and the woods were of the deepest shade of green.”

At 4:20pm, half the sun was obscured. The landscape looked as it does in dim twilight. Swallows and pigeons disappeared. You could not see the people standing on rooftops. As the sun was reduced to a crescent, the crowd “observed protuberances on its shining surface and a shimmer on the disc of the moon itself in 2 or 3 places”.

The Davenport Gazette attempted to describe the totality:

“Darkness” was not darkness. The strange light produced was about of the degree of darkness prevalent at the interval between setting of the sun and appearing of the moon when that orb is in full. Yet it was far different, too: softer in effect upon senses, pervading landscape, and filling the atmosphere with a wonderfully delicate influence of grayish rosiness. 

In the Heavens, it was the light of earliest day when stars are going out. On Earth is was a light denser than that of the full moon, but less dark than that of moonless starlight – a combination of the two, with a sublimity, awful in character, that is never observed in either. 

Stars burst suddenly into view the instant the sun was hidden. Mercury […] came prominently into view right near the sun. Venus shone as one may see her whenever she is the evening star and Regulus, too came like the great star he is, a shining light in the heavens. 

And also the corona: 

The moon looked as if it were hung in the Heavens in bold relief, detached from all governing power. At its round edges there was the faintest tint of something that looked like struggling light. But all around it there was light. Now the corona was shaped like a many-cornered star; then it was round with almost even edges- but so beautiful in contrast with the black disc it glorified. There was a pinkish hue visible in it for a second, then a rainbowish appearance just one instant, and then it glowed in changes of hue. There was a superior brightness on one side at one instant, and then its glory was uniformly shaded, in a brief second to be radially striated.

The corona lasted just 63 seconds, starting at 4:57:27pm.

“There were loud cheers from spectators, some who saw Bailey’s Beads distinctly and a shooting of red light from the moon. 

The wildlife took notice of the unexpected change in light. Birds disappeared. Bats and night hawks came out. Flies nested on ceilings. Farmers reported that the sheep sought repose.

Before totality, not a cloud was visible anywhere. During the corona, multi-colored clouds illuminated the western half of the Horizon. They lay in streaks and were pink, light purple, and gray at first but soon exhibited about all the colors of the rainbow, though of light shade. 

The thermometer in the shade varied by 5 degrees, falling from 70 degrees to 65 degrees. The barometer was stationary during the whole of the phenomena, remaining at 29.62-100 from 4pm on Saturday until 8am on Sunday. There was no variation of magnetic current.”

The immersion of the moon occurred at 4:58:31pm.

“Instantly, all the Earth changed. The stars disappeared, and the hues of day were shed upon every object. The change was more sublime than the darkening. Birds came out and sang a welcome to daylight, trees assumed a natural hue. The moon seemed glad to get away and hurried off the disc of the sun more rapidly than she ventured to travel across it.”

The eclipse was over at 5:57:27pm.

In the weeks after the eclipse a “wild boy” was spotted a number of times in East Davenport, in the back of Judge Grant’s farm near Bettendorf. A hunter who spotted it described it as having “light sandy hair covering its naked body,” a “revoltingly ugly” face and “brutal appearance.” Could he had been suffering from the effects of the eclipse?

(posted by Cristina)


“The Solar Eclipse: it’s Importance to Science.” Daily Gazette, 07 Aug 1869, p. 4.

“The Solar Eclipse: Observations of the Phenomenon in Davenport,” Daily Gazette, 09 Aug 1869, p. 4.

“A New Peter The Wild Boy,”Daily Davenport Democrat, 24 Aug 1869 p. 1.

Photographs of the Eclipse of the Sun, August 7, 1869 Taken by the Academy of Natural Sciences, Davenport, Iowa. Griggs, Watson & Day, Printers, 1869

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Celebrating 50 years: 2018 Calendar by the Davenport Public Library

We are proud to announce a very special project from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

A 2018 calendar featuring photographs of Davenport and Scott County, Iowa from our collection is now on sale at all three of the Davenport Public Library locations. 

Front Cover of the Davenport Public Library’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center 2018 Calendar.

What inspired this endeavor? Next year is the 50th anniversary of our Main Street building, designed by world-renowned architect Edward Durell Stone.* It is also the Davenport Public Library location that houses the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Narrowing down which photographs to place in the calendar was a daunting task…so many excellent ones to choose from in our collection! In addition to photographs, the calendar includes important dates in the history of the local area, such as this one: On June 29, 1863, the First National Bank opened at 201 W. 2nd Street in Davenport, the first bank in the nation to open under the National Banking and Currency Act (passed by the United States Congress that same year)!

Back cover of the Davenport Public Library’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center 2018 calendar.

Calendars are $10 each, with proceeds going to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center in support of the library’s local history and genealogy collections.

It is a wall calendar design with a hole at the top to allow for hanging. Folded, it is 8 1/2 x 11 inches; open, it is 11 x 17 inches. The photos are in black and white.

We also created a virtual tour of the locations in the photographs on HistoryPin!

If you have any questions, please contact The RSSC Center of the Davenport Public Library at (563) 326-7902 or

*Some of the landmark projects by Mr. Stone include his work as principal designer of the Radio City Music Hall (New York City, NY. 1932). With Philip Goodwin, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City, NY. 1937). Later independent works include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C. 1962) and the United States Embassy in New Delhi (India. 1954).

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Build a Better Davenport: The Priester Construction Company

We conclude the Davenport Public Library’s summer reading theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s resources on local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers. Our final installment: The Priester Construction Company.
1919 was a big year for two Davenport brothers – Walter and Oscar Priester. World War I was over, and the recent civil engineering graduates of Cornell University were ready to invest in their futures and their community. With a financial assist from a cousin, the brothers opened a general contracting firm, Priester Construction Company. They worked with some of the best and brightest architects, landing the honor of being featured in the publication Architecture and Design in November, 1940.



They proudly boasted successfully completing over 200 contracts for companies from Davenport to New York City in that short twenty year span!








The men raised their families, serving prominently in Davenport’s civic affairs until they passed, Walter in 1965 and Oscar in 1966. By then, sons Walter K., Thomas W. and Dudley had assumed operation of the company. This generation successfully guided construction of the Davenport Public Library on Main Street, Modern Woodman of America headquarters, WOC (now KWQC) building, Assumption High School and their own office building at 601 Brady Street in 1966 – recently added to the National Register of Historic Places for its Mid-Century Modern style architecture.

The company was doing $25 million a year in construction with 150 employees until the 1980’s economic decline. They gambled on building Paul Revere Square, a $7.5 million office-shopping center at Kimberly and Jersey Ridge roads that offered spaces for lease or sale. The company figured they would be ready with this brand new building once the economy improved. Unfortunately, economic recovery took longer than expected and in 1990 the lender foreclosed on the construction loan. The company found themselves in a difficult position.

In 1993 Priester Construction Company reorganized, joined by new partner Dicon Inc. For nearly a century now, this Davenport company has been engaged in scores of major construction projects in the Quad-Cities and beyond. The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center is proud to be the repository for many of the Company’s project drawings, blueprints, etc. These items have proved invaluable as interest in renovating some of these buildings has increased. We are forever grateful for the call from Dudley Priester on that hot July day in 2009 when he said come and get em. And we did!

Accession #2009-10 Priester Construction Company
The Story of Iowa-The Progress of an American State Vol. 3 (1952); pages 79-80; by Wm. J. Petersen
Times-Democrat; 20 Apr 1965 p.5; Obituary Walter A. Priester
Times-Democrat; 10 Dec 1966 p.11; Obituary Oscar F. Priester
Quad City Times; 14 Nov 1993 p.17a; “Priester builds new tradition-Q-C construction company reorganizes” by John Willard
Quad City Times; January 2017; online access; Obituary of Dudley Bell Priester

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Build a Better Davenport: Improve Second Street!

We are continuing with the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s resources on local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers.

This week we present the developers of Davenport’s East 2nd Street commercial properties in early 1930’s: Mr. William Goodwin Renwick and the East Second Street Company.

William G. Renwick was the only surviving child of (Pamela) Helen Goodwin and highly successful lumber businessman William Renwick. He was a “comforting companion to his mother” following his  father’s death in 1896. Mother and son lived together in the house at 901 Tremont Street, the “Renwick Mansion,” through William’s early childhood. His importance as an heir to his father’s fortune is suggested by the fact that his name is listed in the 1894 and 1896 Davenport city directories, when he would have been only 8 and 10 years old, respectively. By 1900 the pair had moved to Claremont, California, where Helen G. Renwick became an notable patron of Pomona College. There, “Wild Bill” completed his undergraduate studies and gained a reputation as a reckless driver of expensive automobiles (his first, purchased in Germany at the end of a round-the-world trip with his mother, was possibly also the first in the city). He married and went on to Harvard Law School; he and his wife Mary Mead afterwards settled in the Boston area. In addition to his occupations as a lawyer and a military man, William became a world-renowned collector of historic firearms and armour. (1)

Although he lived most of his life elsewhere, Renwick remained connected to his hometown of Davenport through his real estate holdings. In May of 1929, he announced plans to re-develop the commercial block on the north side of East 2nd Street between Brady and Perry Streets, property inherited from his father on land that originally been sold to Colonel George Davenport by Antoine LeClaire. He hired the Burnham Brothers of Chicago (designers of the famed Carbide & Carbon building) as architects and negotiated a lease with Sears & Roebuck Company for the long-term rental of the first of two new buildings. (2)




The RSSC Center’s collection of architectural plans includes those drawn up by the Burnham Brothers’ firm for Renwick. The elevation drawing below shows the design for the facade of the building at 114-118 East Second Street, occupied by Sears, Roebuck & Co.:

Wm. G. Renwick Buildings, Davenport Public Library Architectural Drawings Collection, #2007-19.

The “as-built” facade and Renwick’s second building to the west may be seen in these postcard views from the 1930’s and ’40’s:

Davenport Public Library Postcard Collection, #PC 025.

Davenport Public Library Postcard Collection, #PC 021.

One of the first businesses to occupy the second building was Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (#108) in 1931.  Meat cases, wrap tables, shelves, a candy counter, a bread table, and other features of a grocery store are located on this plan:

Wm. G. Renwick Buildings, Davenport Public Library Architectural Drawings Collection, #2007-19.

According to the Davenport city directories for 1931 and 1932, Renwick tenants contemporary with the Great A&P included Janet Frocks at #110 and National Chain Store, Inc., a millner’s, at #112.

The south side of 2nd Street was developed by the East Second Street Company (1929-1960), established in September, 1929 by George, Benjamin, and Edward Putnam, trustees of another prominent Davenport family’s estate. The RSSC Center is the fortunate custodian of the Company’s papers (DPL Archives and Manuscript Collection #2012-23).

This photograph of 119-121 2nd Street accompanied a September 1932 letter from Edward K. Putnam to the Kline Brothers’ Company of New York City. In hopes of finding a tenant in the recipient, Putnam asked: “When a retail chain can secure a location where its line exactly fits, which is in the path of of growth and at a reasonable rental, is it not time to grasp the opportunity?”

East Second Street Company Records, Papers, 1929-1960, Davenport Public Library Archives and Manuscripts Collection, #2012-23.

Although they did not succeed in attracting the Kline Co. to Davenport, the Putnams found other commercial renters for the south block, including the Huebotter Furniture Company:

East Second Street Company Records, Papers, 1929-1960, Davenport Public Library Archives and Manuscripts Collection, #2012-23.

These two photographs of East Second Street from our image collections can be found online in the the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive, a database created by the Davenport Public Library in partnership with other Quad-Cities area repositories for historical materials. The first shows the Sears building still under construction, the empty lot awaiting Renwick’s second building, and the as-yet undeveloped south side of the street; the second shows both Sears and Huebotter’s up and running, as well as the absence of streetcars.

Davenport Public Library Image Collection, #VM89-001132, v. 155.

Davenport Public Library Image Collection, #VM89-000876, v. 171.

We again draw upon our postcard collection for a glimpse of the commercial life on East Second Street before William G. Renwick and the East Second Street Company began to transform it:

Davenport Public Library Postcard Collection, #PC 010.

Share with us your memories of shopping on East Second Street in the comments!

(posted by Katie)


(1) A series of articles on Helen Goodwin Renwick by Judy Wright in the Claremont Courier, July, 2002.

(2) Davenport Democrat and Leader, 21 May 1929, pages 1 and 18.

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Build a Better Davenport: The Mueller Lumber Company

Quad-City Times, 23 July 1971.

We are continuing with the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s resources on local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers.

This week we present the 143-year history of Davenport’s Mueller Lumber Company in timeline format:

March 1850 – Strong Burnell opens the first saw mill in Davenport at Front & Scott Streets.

1852 – Christian Mueller, a Schleswig-Holsteiner and veteran of the Revolution of 1848, arrives in Davenport, Iowa. He begins working at a lumber yard for $1.25 per day, and eventually becomes the supervisor at the French & Davies mill.

1854 – After adding a sash, door,  and blind factory the saw mill is renamed Burnell, Gillet & Co. The production of  lath and shingles begins.

18 May 1863 – Lorenzo Schricker and Louis Dessaint purchase the mill property and the firm becomes known as Schricker & Dessaint.

04 April 1868 – Christian Mueller buys Dessaint’s interest in the firm, then renamed Schricker and Mueller. In these early days, Mueller was manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of lumber products, wood lath and shingles.

1870 – The steamboat St. Croix is built. Before that, logs floated down Chippewa River on huge rafts navigated by men with large oars.

October 1883 – Mueller purchases the Schricker interest after Lorenzo Schricker’s death in July. Frank and Ed C. Mueller, sons of Christian, join the firm. Another son, William L., joins a few years later.

15 December 1885 – A fire causes $30,000 in damages.

August 1886 – A new mill begins operation with the lumber that survived the 1885 fire.

01 January 1895 – The firm reorganizes. Christian’s sons are taken in as full partners and the name is changed to Christian Mueller and Sons.

January 1897 – The firm acquires land in the Chippewa Falls area of Wisconsin. The LeClaire Navigation Co. begins towing the Mueller log rafts downriver.

1898 – A branch yard opens in Moline, IL. Later, branches are opened in Rock Island, East Moline and Durant.

10 September 1901 – Christian Mueller dies.

25 October 1901 – The saw mill at West River Drive & Scott streets is destroyed by fire. Loss $110,000.

25 January 1902 – The Articles of Incorporation are filed in Scott County for the Mueller Lumber Company.

07 April 1902 – A new saw mill is constructed on Cook’s Point near Credit Island.

1907 – The mill is dismantled when logging in the North Woods ceases. The manufacturing portion of business shut down. The property at West 2nd & Scott streets continues to be used as a storage facility and retail lumber yard.

1916 – Ben C. Mueller enters the family business. Mueller Land and Timber Co. purchases land in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho and Oregon.

06 September 1940 – The firm becomes 1/3 owner of Davenport Homes Inc.  1,000 homes are built during the first 25 years.

23 January 1942 – The firm’s Davenport Garden Homes Corporation begins to build houses during WWII.

27 October 1951 – Two corporations are formed – one operating the retail lumber business and the other holding all of the land, buildings and investments. The charter is amended and the name is changed to “Christian Mueller Realty Co.” A new corporation is formed and named Mueller Lumber Co.

1956 – Robert Horton, husband of one of Christian Mueller’s great-granddaughters, joins the firm.

June 1960 – The roof truss manufacturing business of Bettendorf Distributing Co. is purchased and expanded. The Components Department also begins manufacturing wall panels for houses.

1961 – The Moline Lumber Yard combines with the Swan-Bahnsen Lumber Co. of Moline, forming the new Mueller Bahnsen Corporation, located near the Quad City Airport. The old lumber yard in downtown Moline is closed.

1979 – A large manufacturing plant opens in Mt. Joy.

1986 – The name is changed back to Mueller Lumber Co.

3 November 1988 – The Mueller Lumber Co. is dissolved.

August 1992 – The retail lumber business is sold to the Great Plains Supply Inc., of Minnesota.

Chamber of Commerce News, March 1955. 


Some “Then and Now” comparisons of  Mueller Lumber Co. projects with images from our Mueller Lumber Company collection (Acc#1995-01):

Top: 2634 Esplanade Ave. in 1940. Bottom: Milo H. Parizek, 1331 West 36th Street.

Davenport Garden Homes on Pacific Avenue, 27 Oct 1943.

Earl C. Harper, 217 West 30th Street (n.d.)

Color renderings of model homes, complete with plans: 










(posted by Cristina)


Arpy, Jim. “A Century of Lumber Business With A Davenport Firm,” Times-Democrat, 28 March 1968, p. “Green Streak.”

Wells, Georgette. “Family sells 143-year-old lumber firm,” The Leader, 24 February 1993, p. FF16.

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Build a Better Davenport: Temple and Burrows Architects

We are continuing with the Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s resources on local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers.

This week the Davenport architectural firm of Temple & Burrows, active between 1895 and 1949, takes the spotlight.

Local architects Parke T. Burrows and Seth J. Temple designed some of Davenport’s most iconic buildings and residences. The RSSCC preserves over 60 sets of original plans for structures in Davenport, Burlington, and Iowa City, Iowa, as well as those for projects in Illinois. Glass plate negatives, progress photographs, and oversized photographic prints in our image collections also document the firm’s outstanding work.

Parke Tunis Burrows (1871-1953) was born in Davenport, Iowa. He received his B.S. from the University of Illinois in 1892, worked for three years in Chicago, then returned to his hometown to partner with Frederick G. Clausen in the Clausen & Burrows architectural firm. From 1910 to 1925, the firm gained and lost partners, and the name morphed from Clausen, Hubbell & Burrows to Temple, Burrows & McLane, ultimately becoming Temple & Burrows.

Seth Justin Temple (1867-1949) was born in Winona, Minnesota. He received his Ph.D. in architecture from Columbia University in 1892 and subsequently began teaching at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. He then studied in Rome and Paris on the Columbia Traveling Fellowship, returning to the U.S. in 1896 to teach at the University of Illinois. He joined the Davenport architectural firm of Temple, Burrows & McLane in 1904, practiced independently after Burrows’ retirement in 1925, and formed Temple & Temple in 1940 with his son Arthur. Seth J. Temple remained active with the firm until his death in 1949.

Architectural drawings for Temple & Burrows projects available in the RSSCC include these elevations of the Outing Club’s Club House (1902) at 2109 Brady Street:

 …and a detail drawing of the Cafe in the Blackhawk Hotel at 200 East 3rd Street, 1913:

This image depicts the Davenport Commercial Club (now the Executive Square building) at 4th and Main Streets, designed by the firm in 1905:

Other notable Temple & Burrows buildings for which the RSSCC holds drawings include the Scott County Jail (1897), the Music Hall, Chapel, and Library at the Immaculate Conception Academy (1905), the Davenport Hotel (1906), St. Luke’s Hospital (1917), the J.B. Young School (1917), “Three Intermediate Schools” (1918), and the Isolation Hospital (1943). 

Discover more about the built environment in your community in the Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library’s Main Street location!

(posted by Karen)

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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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