Downtown Davenport Iowa Walking Tour
A work in progress, this tour begins at the Central Fire Station and includes many of the landmark historic buildings of the city. the tour concludes at the German American Heritage Center.
The German American Heritage Center is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of German-Americans and their contributions in the Midwest. It was established in 1994 and is located in the historic Germania-Miller/Standard Hotel building, which was constructed in 1871 by businessman John Brus. It is an excellent example of Late Victorian commercial architecture and features an elaborate metal cornice (decorative molding at the top of a building's exterior) and arched windows. The museum features a permanent exhibit and two rotating exhibits. There is also a theater and two restored hotel rooms. Visitors can even try on period clothing German immigrants would have worn. The museum also offers a variety of classes, workshops, and programs related to the German-American experience and culture.
The LeClaire Park Bandshell has been a key landmark on Davenport's riverfront since its construction in 1924. Its official name is the W.D. Petersen Memorial Music Pavilion and it was one of several band shell pavilions in the city; it is the only one that remains. The pavilion is one of the state's only examples of Spanish Revival architecture and it is modeled after one built for the Panama California Exhibition in San Diego in 1915. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Performances and events take place here throughout the year, including the Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, which is one of the largest of its kind in the country.
Built in 1924, Union Station is the only passenger depot still standing in Davenport. The adjoining freight house was built at the same time and currently houses an Ethiopian restaurant. Constructing the two buildings was a joint effort of three railroad companies: the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad; the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; and the Davenport, Rock Island and Northwestern Railroad. Union Station is a good example of the Classical Revival style but is primarily significant for its association with railroading in Davenport. As of early 2022, it is used as an office building.
Situated at the eastern edge of LeClaire Park, the Dillon Memorial is a monument dedicated to lawyer and judge John Forrest Dillon (1831-1914), who, for a time, lived in Davenport and served on state and federal courts. Notable posts include serving on the Iowa Supreme Court and being appointed Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eight District by President Ulysses S. Grant. The memorial was built in 1918 and consists of a column topped by a bronze lantern, a basin at the bottom which functions as a water fountain, and bas-relief panels depicting lion heads and John Dillon. In his will, he requested that the memorial be built at this location. As such, it complements the Civil War Soldiers Monument located twelve blocks to the north. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The Figge Art Museum is the premier art exhibition and education facility between Chicago and Des Moines. With soaring glass walls reflecting the constantly changing sky, the museum’s expansive galleries and intimate rooms are home to some of the Midwest’s finest art collections. Studio-style classrooms allow young and old to participate in the creative process.
The former First National Bank building is one of most striking landmarks in Davenport. A fine example of Renaissance Revival architecture combined with elements of the Chicago style, it was constructed in 1924 and features a stone exterior, an arcade of arches and fluted pilasters with capitals on the lower level, a recessed arched main entrance, a 1918 clock (not original to the building) mounted on the northeast corner, and wide overhanging cornice at the top. The main entrance is especially noteworthy. It consists of an ornate cast bronze doorway and carved-stone figures above and in the arch. The doorway features classical symbols, figures, and objects to represent commerce, banking, law, agriculture, industry, and labor. The building is now known as the U.S. Bank Building and a bank branch is located on the first floor. The remaining floors are used as office space.
The River Music Experience (RME) is a non-profits arts center housed in the historic J.H.C. Petersen's Sons' Store building, which was built in 1892. RME was established in 2004 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting the musical heritage of the Quad Cities. To this end, RME offers a wide array of educational programming and opportunities to learn about and play music. It hosts live performances throughout the year as well. As for the building, it is a fine example of commercial "department store" architecture. It was designed in the Romanesque style as a smaller version of the Burnham & Root's Rookery Building in Chicago. In addition to its architecture, the building is significant for once being the flagship store of what is now the Von Maur department store chain.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, Hose Station No. 1 is a historic fire fighting station built in 1877. It was constructed for the volunteer Fire King Engine 2nd Hose Company, the predecessor to the city's first paid fire department in 1882 (they changed their name to Hose Company No. 1 at this time). Local architect J.W. Ross designed it in the Italianate style with a red brick facade. Interesting features include arched windows and a tower. The building is Ross' earliest recorded project; he would go on to design other important buildings in the city including Scott County Courthouse. The building is also the oldest fire station still standing in the city. As of March 2019, it appears that the building is vacant.
The Blackhawk Hotel, located in downtown Davenport, Iowa has been a luxury hotel since the day it opened on February 16th, 1915. At the time, it's all-brick, "fireproof" structure was touted as one of the finest of its day. At its peak, it offered 400 luxury rooms with 10 total floors. The hotel cost approximately $1 million to build and included the most modern equipment at the time, including cold drinking water from the tap. Over the years, the hotel has hosted presidents, celebrities, as well as international dignitaries. The Blackhawk Hotel has had a tumultuous history, due to economic factors impacting staffing and renovation efforts. The 2010 renovation work is the most recent. A new entryway, atrium, elevators, swimming pool, and bowling were added.
Now called the Mississippi Lofts and Adler Theatre building, this historic structure used to be named the Hotel Mississippi-RKO Orpheum Theater. Chicago architect A.S. Graven designed it in the Art Deco style and it opened in 1931. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 for its architecture and importance to the city's commercial activity. It was the largest apartment residence and theater built before World War II in Davenport.
At 255 feet tall, the former Davenport Bank and Trust building is the tallest structure in Davenport. It was built in 1927 by the American Commercial and Savings Bank, which was established in 1869 and originally called German Savings Bank. Its architecture combines Beaux Arts and Neo-Classical styles and the building is topped by a three-story clocktower, which features four six-foot tall statues of eagles. The main lobby is two-stories tall and features murals, wrought-iron teller cages, ornate Black walnut woodwork, and a marble floor. A modern parking structure was built next to the building in 1971. Today, the old building is a luxury residence known as the Davenport Bank Apartments. It also houses office and retail space. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
When it was completed in 1907, the former Davenport Hotel was regarded as one of the finest hotels in the Mississippi River Valley. Designed in the Renaissance Revival style, it features six-story towers surrounding a two-story main entrance, which resembles a portico. It also features decorative panels at the tower corners. The hotel boasted modern amenities including elevators, a dining room, private bathrooms, fireproof construction, and sample rooms for traveling businessmen. Its construction signaled the beginning of a period when other tall buildings and hotels were erected in the city. Today the old hotel is now an apartment building and also houses a community theater called the Mockingbird on Main.
St. Anthony's Catholic Church is the first church congregation established in Davenport and the second oldest Catholic church west of the Mississippi River. The congregation was founded in 1837 and the original two-story church building was erected the next year. Today, it is used for religious education programs. The second and present church building used by the congregation was constructed 1853. The two buildings comprise a historic site called the St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church Complex, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1895 to replace the original city hall which had been built prior to the Civil War. This four story building is constructed of sandstone in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The heavy stone appearance is deceptive as the weight of the building is born by a steel frame. This reduced the cost of the structure.
Built in 1901, Central Fire Station serves as the headquarters of the Davenport Fire Department. It is the oldest continuously used fire station west of the Mississippi River. It was designed in the Italianate style and also incorporates elements of the Neoclassical style. The building's most notable features are the two towers over the main entrance; fire hoses are hung to dry in the taller one. A large addition was built in 2016 to provide more space for administrative offices, bedrooms, and a new lounge. The original part of the station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.