‘Twas the night before Christmas at The Davenport Club

While looking for holiday items in the archives we found this festive poem in our ephemera files. It was written in December 1957 for members of The Davenport Club, a social organization active between 1945-1993.

The poem starts with the familiar “‘Twas the night before Christmas” line from “A Visit from St. Nicholas” published in 1923 by Clement Clark Moore.

'Twas the Night before Christmas,
When all thru the Club,
No lights were burning,
Not one single bulb.

The tinsel and pine boughs,
Were hung with great care,
As the image of members,
Appeared everywhere...

The poem then lists over 400 club members’ last names from A-Z in a rhyming pattern. Some familiar names include Adler, Bawden, Bettendorf, Bechtel, Figge, Foster, Lagomarcino, Landauer, Lujack, Mueller, Palmer, Priester, Richardson, Ruhl, Runge, Sunderbruch, Von Maur, and Waterman.

The Davenport Club was incorporated on January 29, 1945. Warren L. Langwith, a Pontiac-Cadillac-Packard car dealer, was president. Kirk A. Hills of General Electric Co. was vice president, and Kenneth C. Hartman of the Davenport Bank & Trust Co. was secretary-treasurer. Other members of their board of directors included Hamlet C. Hall of Equitable Life Insurance Co., lawyer Edward A. Doerr, George Kirby of the J.C. Penney Co., Thomas J. Frank of Frank Foundries Corp., Charles Gilchrist of the Alden Coal Co., L.J. Dougherty of the Occidental Life Insurance Co., Albert Uchtorff of the Uchtorff Co. (metal stamping, tool and die works), and Wallace P. Peterson of the Peterson Paper Co.

They leased space in the basement of the Chamber of Commerce building at 402-404 Main Street and hired Seth J. Temple to design the club’s headquarters. The club rooms included a private dining area for its 300 members to network and entertain visitors.

In September 1979, The Davenport Club moved to the 11th floor of the newly remodeled Blackhawk Hotel. The new space featured panoramic views of the Quad-City skyline with a large bar and dance floor, the Grill Room, a library, and various meeting rooms. Club membership jumped from 531 to more than 750. Members paid an initiation fee of $750 and annual dues of $525.

With the move, Anthony Kowalczyk was named executive chef in 1980. Chef Tony had been executive chef at The Bakery in Chicago for 12 years before coming to the Quad Cities in 1979 to work at a restaurant called Huffs in Milan, Illinois. He was the first chef in the Quad Cities to be certified by the American Culinary Federation and organized the Chefs de Cuisine Association of the Quad Cities.

After 14 years at the Black Hotel, The Davenport Club disbanded and closed its restaurant in August 1993. There were many reasons why the club failed at that time. There was the loss of the noon luncheon business after Northpark Mall was built and businesses moved from downtown. The riverboats opened in 1991 and many of the club members entertained visitors there instead of at the club. The flood of 1993 made parking even more difficult than it already was and the new municipal parking ramp had not been completed yet. The Club never made a profit from the food it served and depended on the bar sales instead, but people’s drinking habits changed. The kitchen equipment was outdated and not set up for healthier cooking techniques, and the club could not afford to replace it. The air conditioner and windows needed to be replaced but the hotel did not plan to make an investment in updating the physical plant.

In our collection, we have a menu from The Davenport Club dating from 1992. It features a variety of meal options for its members and guests.

The Davenport Club letterhead, 1993

The Davenport Club was a gathering place for the business owners of the city for many years, but with all the changes it could not compete. Other organizations and societies have taken The Davenport Club’s place to help local business owners network. Now we are seeing businesses coming back to the downtown district but too late to help the club. This development has helped revitalize and preserve downtown Davenport. Organizations like the Downtown Davenport Partnership are attempting to provide downtown businesses with opportunities to collaborate and network but without the delicious eating spot.

(posted by Cristina)


  • ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas At The Davenport Club, December 1957
  • The Davenport Club menu, ca. 1992
  • Kamp, Thomas N. Letter to Davenport Club Members with question-and-answer sheet. November 11, 1993
  • “Davenport Club Files Incorporation Papers.” The Daily Times, January 29, 1945
  • “New Club Signs Lease for C.C. Sub-Basement.” Davenport Democrat, February 1, 1945
  • “Named Directors, Committees for Davenport Club.” Davenport Democrat, April 18, 1945
  • “Davenport Club Gets A Lift.” Quad-City Times, September 14, 1979
  • “Lure Great Chef to Quad-Cities.” Quad-City Times, May 6, 1979
  • “The view from the top…” Quad-City Times, August 25, 1981
  • “The créme de la créme.” Quad-City Times, June 4, 1991
  • “Davenport Club ends 48-year run.” Quad-City Times, August 25, 1993

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