Historic Places: “Riverview”

This month Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities, the non-profit Cancer Support Community, announced they were moving out of the iconic mansion at 1234 East River Drive and would be relocating and expanding to 2 locations: Genesis West Campus in Davenport and Unity Point – Trinity Moline.

Let’s take a look at the history of this 150-year-old building and the families that have called it home.

Abner & Mary Emma Davison, 1852-1909

Abner Davison was born on January 3, 1820, in Oswego Co., NY to Chester and Lorena Davison. He attended Fredonia Academy and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY in 1845. He moved to Davenport in 1852. He became one of the leading lawyers in Davenport, first with the firm of Davison & True (1854-1873) and later with Davison & Lane (1874-1900). Abner’s son Charles and James’s son Joe continued the law firm after their respective parents’ deaths, and the firm continues to this day as Lane & Waterman.

Abner Davison married his cousin Mary Emma Davison in January 1854 in Davenport. The couple had seven children: Ella, Charles, Alice, Frances (Mrs. C.A.) Ficke, William, Mary (Mrs. F.J.) Waltz, and Jessie (Mrs. W.R.) Weir.

Mary Emma Davison was born on February 28, 1835, in Cooperstown, N.Y. She died in Pasadena, California on February 28, 1909. Abner Davison died at his home on May 17, 1900.

The Davison home was built in the mid-1850s on Cottage Avenue (street name changed to Front Street in 1867, and River Drive in 1934) between Bridge & College Avenues in A.C. Fulton’s Addition to East Davenport and was platted as “Riverview.” It was originally a 2 story Tuscan Italiante style house made of brick with hipped-roof, tall narrow windows, a main entrance porch with fluted Doric columns and pilasters, and an ornate Victorian Gazebo near the southwest corner.

Davenport Democratic Banner, August 20, 1852
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1892
Davenport Democrat and Leader, October 25, 1909

Charles H. & Mary Gilchrist Crowe, 1910-1933

Charles Henry Crowe was born in Peterboro, Ontario, Canada on July 15, 1873, to Charles and Margaret Jane (Hall) Crowe. He married Miss Mary Gilchrist on October 15, 1908, in Davenport.

Mary Gilchrist Crowe was born in Rapids City, Illinois on March 13, 1881, to John W. and Caroline Gilchrist. The family moved to Davenport in 1900 and Mary attended St. Katharine’s school and the University of Illinois.

Mary died on November 19, 1933, at the family home. After his wife’s death, Charles lived with his brother-in-law, Charles Gilchrist at 812 Bridge Avenue. Charles H. Crowe died in Sacramento, California on November 30, 1937.

Mr. Crowe was a member of the Davenport Zoning Board and Commission, former president of the Rotary Club, was active in the Sunshine Club, Davenport Lodge No. 208, A.F. and A.M., Zarephath Consistory, and Kaaba Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Mrs. Crowe was a member of the Chi Omega sorority of the University of Illinois, the Davenport Garden Club, and the Tuesday Club.

The couple came back to Davenport in 1910 when Charles took a job as secretary of his father-in-law’s company, the Alden Coal Co. He purchased the Davison home, which was next door to his in-laws on East River Drive. During this time the home underwent a major renovation of the original rear wing, the addition of a west wing, prairie style windows, and gray stuccoed exterior.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, September 2, 1912
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1910-1950
Mary Gilchrist Crowe portrait by J.B. Hostetler, ca. 1910
City of Davenport Iowa Building Permits

C. Arthur Ruhl, 1934-1953

Mary Gilchrist Crowe’s sister and brother-in-law, Caroline “Midge” Gilchrist and Charles Arthur Ruhl moved into the home in 1934.

Charles Arthur Ruhl was born March 15, 1897, in Davenport to Mr. and Mrs. John Ruhl. He served as a 1st Lieutenant in Battery B 185th Field Artillery and served in the Mexican border in 1915-1916 and in the United States Army during WWI. In 1920 he became affiliated with the firm of Ruhl & Ruhl. He married Caroline “Midge” Gilchrist on January 25, 1924, in Davenport. The couple had 3 children: John G., Charles A., and Mary Challed.

Caroline “Midge” Gilchrist was born in Gilchrist, Ilinois to Mr. and Mrs. John W. Gilchrist. She graduated from St. Katharine’s school and attended National Domestic Arts and Sciences School in Washington, D.C. She died on November 13, 1973.

Mr. Ruhl was a senior member and president of the Blackhawk-Perry Corp, vice president of the First National Bank Corp., past president of the Davenport Association of Insurance Agents, past president of the Iowa Insurance Agents Association, a charter member of the Davenport Country Club, the Town Club, Davenport Club, 40 and 8, American Legion Post No. 26, the 720 Club, and the Outing Club. He died on January 21, 1959.

Caroline “Midge” Gilchrist Ruhl portrait by J.B. Hostetler, ca. 1917
The Daily Times, January 10, 1933
1940 Federal Census
City of Davenport Iowa Building Permits
The Daily Times, January 22, 1959

Don S. Challed, 1960-1972

Caroline Gilchrist and C. Arthur Ruhl’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary Ann Ruhl and Don Challed, moved into the home in 1960.

Don Challed was born on May 25, 1932, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Dr. Don and Olga Miller Challed. He attended McKinley High School in Cedar Rapids, Carleton and Coe Colleges, and the School of Business at Northwestern University. He began working for Ruhl & Ruhl Insurance in 1957 and retired in 1995 as past president and chairman of Ruhl & Ruhl Incorporated.

Don was married to Mary Ann Ruhl on October 29, 1955, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The couple had 4 daughters: Catherine Ann McPeek, Caroline Anne Fix, Anne Marie Saveraid, and Elizabeth Mary Polaschek.

Mr. Challed was a charter life underwriter, past president of the Davenport Association of Insurance Agents, regional chairman of the Hartford Insurance Group, regional chairman of Continental Insurance Companies, past president of Rotary International Davenport Noon Rotary Club, Davenport Chamber of Commerce, Davenport Club, the Outing Club, Rod & Gun Club, Visiting Nurses Association of Davenport, Crow Valley Golf Club, and served on the vestry and as senior warden for Trinity Cathedral.

The Daily Times, October 29, 1955
City of Davenport Iowa Building Permits

David Cole, 1973-1979

The 1973-1979 Davenport City Directories list David Cole at 1234 East River Drive. All we’ve been able to find on David C. Cole is this photograph and a classified ad for a 1972 Ford Gran Torino that ran in the Quad-City Times from 1976-1979.

Quad-City Times, March 14, 1973


In the early 1980s, the house was advertised for rent by Ruhl & Ruhl. Names listed in the Davenport City Directories at this address during this time include Robert Q. DiVita, John D. Reynolds, William A. Knott, Louis L. Gunthorp, and Brenda L. Traylor.

Quad-City Times, June 25, 1984

River Oaks Inn B & B, 1987-1997

William & Suzanne Pohl and Ronald & Mary Jo Pohl purchased the home in 1986 and turned it into Davenport’s first Bed & Breakfast, River Oaks Inn. They also refurbished the carriage house behind the home into an auxiliary Bed & Breakfast.

William Frank Pohl was born July 29, 1943, in Davenport to Ernest Francis Pohl and Mary Marie (Farris) Pohl. He graduated from Assumption High School in 1961 and received a teaching degree from the University of Iowa. Bill married Suzanne A. Dessert on July 12, 1975, in Davenport.

Mr. Pohl taught at Monroe School in Davenport. He was an Air Force Veteran and Peace Corp volunteer stationed in Colombia. Mr. Pohl died on September 1, 2003.

Quad-CIty Times, March 4, 1986
Quad-City Times, August 3, 1986
Quad-City Times, February 7, 1991

Gilda’s Club, 1998-2020

On August 15, 1997, Ron & Mary Jo Pohl deeded the property to Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities. Named in honor of comedienne Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer in 1989, the first Gilda’s Club opened in New York City in 1995.

Gilda’s Club of the Quad-Cities provides emotional and social support for people living with cancer, their families, and friends. They offer various support groups, lectures, art therapy, and social gatherings. In 2003 they added space just for kids called “Noogieland”. All of these services are offered free of charge.

Ephemera – Organizations – Gilda’s Club [2003]

(posted by Cristina)

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