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)

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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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