“The Patch”: An Early Irish Neighborhood

In March, we see the glimmers of spring with new plant growth and holidays that allow us to reflect on the past as well as the future. Today is one such holiday that is as intertwined with American culture as the Fourth of July. St. Patrick’s Day is a day that celebrates Celtic culture, specifically Irish culture.

With this in mind, we began researching the Irish who made Davenport their home starting in the 1840s. There were many pockets of Irish settlement in Davenport from the west to the east ends. “The Patch”, one such Irish neighborhood was established in the mid to late 1800s by those who were employed in work relating to river transportation, railroads, and the early telegraph lines. The neighborhood extended Iowa and Federal Streets to the Mississippi River. It received its appellation of “The Patch” because the residents who lived there grew vegetable gardens in their yards. This garden patch neighborhood was extant until the early 1900s when the Irish moved to other parts of the city and the buildings took on more commercial residents.

Image from Davenport, Where the Mississippi Runs West: A Survey of Davenport History and Architecture, prepared by Marlys A. Svendsen, John Pfiffner, and Martha H. Bowers.

The map featured above showcases the development of the growing city of Davenport through its ethnic neighborhoods including those settled by the Irish, Germans, and Swedish. Most of these neighborhoods are lost in history with little artifactual evidence of their existence. “The Patch” is remembered through stories told of its residents, as well as a natural disaster that struck the area in 1901.

Articles have been published in our local newspapers about these once-thriving neighborhoods that give us insight into what life was like there.

Times staff writer, Mildred Brennan, wrote two detailed articles about “The Patch”. In the first article, she discussed the community of people who lived there and the various activities they participated in. She also describes the fire that took place on July 24, 1901. It destroyed nearly 30 acres and around 50 homes. It was a swift-moving fire, but luckily most of the families could escape the engulfing flames.

In the second article, she tells us the story of “The Patch” through the perspective of the ‘wee-folk’ or leprechauns. It is a delightful recounting of this Irish neighborhood.

In 2008, the Celtic Heritage Trail marked areas in the City of Davenport important to Irish and Celtic history and culture. They selected 10 locations from churches to residences. One location they chose was “The Patch” solidifying its role in the Irish history of Davenport and the Quad Cities.


(posted by Kathryn)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Brennan, Mildred. “Davenport’s Irish Remember Varied Tales about ‘Patch’.” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Mar. 17, 1954, page 31.

Brennan, Mildred. “Sure, The Wee Folk are Busy Here!” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), Mar. 17,. 1958, pages 1 and 5.

Gaul, Alma. “Up with the Celts.” Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA), Mar. 18, 2008, pages 31 and 34.

Svendsen, Marlys A. Davenport, Where the Mississippi Runs West: A Survey of Davenport History & Architecture. Davenport, IA: City of Davenport, 1982.

Tibbetts, Ed. “Davenport’s early Irish: Melding into the melting pot.” Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA), Mar. 17, 1993, pages 1-2.

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