The Hotel Davenport

In 1907, a modern era of buildings began in the growing city of Davenport with the completion of a new hotel on the corner of Main and Fourth Streets. This hotel poised mid-way between Union Station and the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad stations at the prime location of 324 Main Street in LeClaire’s 1st Addition boasted six stories and other attractive features for its guests. Designed in the Renaissance Revival architectural style, the delicate terra cotta adornments on its corners and the symmetrical layout of the building, were eye-capturing to the public.

Before the ground was broken on April 11, 1906, the businessmen and the financial supporters of this venture had Temple, Burrows, and McLane Architects draw up plans for this fire-resistant building.

A statement from Temple and Burrows, Architects- P.T. Burrows, Architect in charge

Erection of the Davenport Hotel inaugurated a period of building that would bring Davenport’s central business district fully into the era of the “tall buildings.” Despite loss of the original cornice, Temple & Burrows’ hotel retains a very high degree of integrity and continues to be an import feature of the City’s commerical center.

Bowers, Martha, and Marlys Svendsen-Roesler. Architectural/Historical Survey.

Below are image captures of two sheets of plans for this new hotel.

The building materials used consisted of brick over steel and concrete. The interior materials were purchased from local businesses and businesses across the region. The cost of the build was approximately $260,000, even though the exact numbers were not shared.

Its distinguishing features include modified distyle in antis main entrance. Additionally, the hotel offer amenities that fit the needs of all its guest and visitors. There were bedrooms with and without a bath, sample rooms for the traveling salesmen, and a relaxing dining environment. From the 1983 Architectural/Historical Survey, Bowers and Svendsen-Roesler state,

It eclipsed the older establishments like the Kimball and St. James. The hotel’s modern features included sample rooms for traveling salesmen, elevators, a dining room, some private baths, and fire proof construction throughout.

Davenport Hotel’s reputation as the city’s finest accomodation was not unchallenged for long. In 1915 the Blackhawk Hotel was built and business at the Davenport was seriously and permanently injured. In 1916, the Davenport was sold to the Black Hotel Company.

Bowers, Martha, and Marlys Svendsen-Roesler. Architectural/Historical Survey.

In the October 31st, 1907 article about “The Magnificient New Hotel Davenport”, the author describes in detail the features of this impressive structure.

At its opening, the owner was the Davenport Hotel Company. The lessees and proprietors were James F. Gorman and William Hudson Harrison. The rest of the hotel staff were skilled workers brought from hotels in Des Moines to Chicago.

James F. Gorman, one of the lessees and proprietors, was born in Davenport on May 11, 1857, to Irish immigrants, Francis and Elizabeth (Curry) Gorman. He wedded Miss Mary Doheney on February 2, 1897, in Chicago, Illinois. They had two children, William and Arthur. He passed away on March 12, 1924, in Davenport, and interment was made in St. Marguerite’s cemetery. He worked at many hotels during his career as a hotel keeper.

“James F. Gorman, Well Known Local Hotel Man, Succumbs to Long Illness.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader. March 13, 1924, page 15.

William Hudson Harrison, a nephew and business partner to Mr. Gorman, was born in Davenport on August 6, 1866, to Thomas and Anne (Gorman) Harrison. Mr. Harrison married Caroline Delaney in 1903. He attended Sacred Heart Parochial School and St. Ambrose University. He started his career at the Hotel Kimball (renamed the Perry Apartments and later the Vale Apartments). He and his uncle took over the lease of Hotel Kimball and the Hotel Davenport. After his work with the Hotel Davenport, Mr. Harrison moved to Chicago for two years. He worked at the Fernwood Hotel. As a community leader, he served on City Council as alderman of Davenport’s Fifth ward. He passed away on June 30, 1922.

“Wm. H. Harrison Well Known Hotel Man Is Dead; Ill Long Time.” The-Daily-Times. June 30, 1922, page 1.

In 1915, Hotel Davenport saw its first change of hands as its first proprietors sought retirement and new management opportunities. Over a few days in December, the fate of this hotel was up in the air because, on December 8, David Morrison was slated to be the new proprietor because he had the best financial backing, but a few days later on December 16, 1915, The Daily Times announces that Miller Hotel Company closed a deal for Hotel Davenport. This hotel company also owned the Hotel Blackhawk and the new Kimball. They planned to make extensive improvements throughout the Hotel Davenport.

Whoever managed this magnificent hotel wanted it to succeed, so they attempted various ways of sharing information about its offerings. To attract guests, hotels would put advertisements into the local city directories and newspapers. These are a few examples of ones showcasing the charm and features of Hotel Davenport.

“Great Hotels.” The Daily Times. April 15, 1916, page 12.

A fire broke out late in the day on January 3, 1939, on the two top floors of the hotel. Two employees sustained burns from the conflagration. The hotel was repaired and the building is still standing today as an apartment complex on the top floors and businesses on the first floor.

“Davenport Hotel Is Hit by Flames, Dies Report Condemns Labor Dept.” The Daily Times.January 3, 1939, page 1.

Below are images of this still impressive building from the 1980s.

Bibliography

Images. Architectural Survey 2002: Building Files 1 – 19: Block 13: Davenport Hotel

Bowers, Martha, and Marlys Svendsen-Roesler. Architectural/Historical Survey. Wehner, Nowysz, Pottschull, and Pfiffner. Davenport, Iowa, 1983.

“Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871–1920.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010. Illinois Department of Public Health records. “Marriage Records, 1871–present.” Division of Vital Records, Springfield, Illinois.

(posted by Kathryn)

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