Tracking the Tracts: Researching the World War I Government Housing Project in Davenport

As a follow-up to Alma Gaul’s story “Homes for the Homefront: 600-plus homes were built for war workers” in the Quad-City Times this past Sunday, we would like to share these two panoramic photographs of the Black Hawk Addition (or McManus Tract) in Davenport. This tract was developed during the First World War by the United States Housing Corporation in response to the increase in the number of war production workers employed at the Rock Island Arsenal and other Quad-Cities companies.

Black Hawk Addition looking north, Acc#1998-28 Hostetler-Free Studio of Photography Collection, #dplpanoramic052


A workcrew at the site of the Black Hawk Addition, Acc#1998-28 Hostetler-Free Studio of Photography Collection, #dplpanoramic053

All of the 172 Black Hawk Addition houses shown in these photographs, built in late 1918-1919, are still standing today. This is according to the architectural survey conducted by James E. Jacobsen in 1998, a copy of which is available here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. For those interested in greater detail about “Iowa’s only example of emergency defense housing,” including the King and Park Lane Tracts in Davenport (unrealized), it is a rich resource. The Center also holds a set of photocopies of the photographs documenting the progress of the UHSC project from the National Archives.

Related sources available here at the Center include the records of Temple & Burrows, the architectural firm tasked with the design of the eight house types in the Black Hawk Addition (Acc#1998-29, Temple & Burrows and Acc#2013-25, Seth Temple, Architect). 

Press coverage of the project can be traced using our historical newspaper collections on microfilm; City of Davenport building permits help plot later changes to the homes; city directories identify the succession of homeowners up to the present day.

“A Walking Tour of 1918 Government Housing” from our Ephemera Collection gives the history of the houses designed by architect Olof Cervin for the neighborhoods developed in Rock Island as part of the government project.

Dig deeper into the history of city’s urban fabric here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library!

(posted by Katie)

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