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by Jessica Waytenick • January 11, 2017

JANUARY 2017 Quad Cities – Thousands of years ago the landscape of the Quad Cities looked quite different.  Even the mighty Mississippi River was only a few feet deep, compared to the 30 to 40 feet channel of today.  Nevertheless, you can still catch glimpses of life in the Quad Cities when it was just starting out.

Start where the Native Americans called home at the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, Illinois.  The Black Hawk site was first occupied by Indians as long as 12,000 years ago.  For nearly a century beginning about 1730, the Sauk and Meskwaki Indians made their home near there.  Saukenuk (est. pop. 5,000), the capital of the Sauk Nation, was one of the largest Indian centers in North America.  Hike over six miles of trails in the quiet, un-disturbed forest, and imagine living there along the Rock River.

Inside at the Hauberg Indian Museum at the Black Hawk State Historic Site, follow the Sauk and Meskwaki people through the four seasons in a year and learn about their typical activities.  Many authentic artifacts are displayed.  The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed 12-1 p.m.).  From November to February, the museum closes at 4 p.m.

George Davenport arrived in the area in 1816 as part of a U.S. Army regiment to establish Fort Armstrong on this large island in the Mississippi River (now called Arsenal Island).  The island was purchased by the government in 1804.  George Davenport became the first European settler to stay in the area.  He became a wealthy businessman as a sutler for the Army to procure supplies, managing lead mines, leading a fur trade business, and becoming namesake for the City of Davenport, Iowa.  In 1833, he built a mansion of its time for his family on Arsenal Island, and the same Colonel Davenport House is open for guided tours from May to October, Wednesday to Saturday 12-4 p.m.

Along with the Colonel Davenport House, visit the Rock Island Arsenal Museum to explore the history of the island in exhibits and photos, featuring a model of Fort Armstrong.  The Rock Island Arsenal has played a major role in the supplying of troops since the Civil War.  The Arsenal Museum is the second oldest U.S. Army Museum in the country.  The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 12-4 p.m.

Make sure to stop in at the free Mississippi River Visitor Center and learn about the river while you watch barges lock through Lock & Dam 15 and see the world’s largest Roller Dam, opened in 1934, hold back the mighty waters of the Mississippi.  During the summer months, guided, outdoor tours of the Lock & Dam are given.  The visitor center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day, they’re open 7 days a week, and closed Sunday and Monday the rest of the year.

During the Civil War, the Union Army established Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa.  It was near where the Village of East Davenport was already established.  This six-square-block district is the third largest historic district in Iowa.  Today the Village of East Davenport contains many of its original Civil War era buildings that house specialty shops, restaurants, taverns, and other businesses that make it a perfect place to enjoy a lunch or dinner and an afternoon of shopping.

Even as the railroad was changing the American landscape, the stage coach was still a popular mode of transportation.  Visit this former stage coach stop of the 1860s for a glimpse into pioneer town life.  The Walnut Grove Pioneer Village in Long Grove, Iowa, boasts 18 historic buildings where you can visit and tour a one-room schoolhouse, apothecary, general store, firehouse, and more.  It is open April to October 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The historic Hauberg Center in Rock Island, Illinois, is now open for regular guided tours.  Located at 1300 24th Street, this unique historic home was built in 1909 in the popular Prairie School style.  The gardens were designed by famous landscape architect Jens Jensen and are open all year.  The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designed by Chicago architect, Robert C. Spencer, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Learn more about the history of the home, the architecture, and the Weyerhauser family that lived there on a 45-minute guided tour.  Tours: Tuesday & Thursday 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the start of the hour.  Admission is $10 per person, 12 and under are free.  For groups of 10 or more, please make a reservation.  For more information, contact 563-265-2753 or www.haubergcenter.org

William F Cody “Buffalo Bill” (1846-1917) was born in LeClaire, Iowa.  His career as a frontiersman, U.S. Army Scout, and later as a showman touring throughout the U.S. and Europe with his “Wild West Congress” show, has made him a favorite figure among the many generations of visitors to the museum.  The Buffalo Bill Museum houses Buffalo Bill memorabilia, the wood-hulled steamboat "Lone Star" (the last working one of its kind on the Mississippi River), riverboat pilot exhibits, Sauk and Meskwaki artifacts, and displays of pioneer life from the region.  It also features exhibits on two "famous sons" - - James Eads, the world famous engineer of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, MO; and James Ryan, the inventor of the Flight Data Recorder or the "black box."  The museum is open Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m.  (From December to March, the museum closes at 4 p.m.)

It was the Mississippi River’s transportation access that John Deere wanted when he moved to Moline, Illinois, in 1848.  Also he needed the nearby land and resources that were available to start the steel plow manufacturing business that revolutionized the farming industry.  Moline is still home to Deere & Company’s World Headquarters.  Now at the John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline, you can learn about the early days of farming to the latest technology farmers are using today through interactive exhibits for all ages.  The John Deere Pavilion is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 12-4 p.m.  You can also tour the homes of John Deere’s son and granddaughter.  The Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman houses in Moline were built in the late 1800s, and are open for tours by appointment.

After exploring the Quad Cities’ marvelous history, an evening out to the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Illinois, can cap off the day.  This former Vaudeville theatre was saved from being razed in the 1970s and renovated into a beautiful dinner theatre, now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  In 2001, the historic theatre underwent a major renovation to mark its 25th season which included repainting the entire theatre and showcasing the Sauk and Meskwaki Indian symbols the theatre’s original architect Ben Horn used in his design.

Staying at the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport, Iowa, brings to mind The Great Gatsby.  Built in 1915, the historic hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation to restore its former glory and re-opened in 2010.  Truly the grand dame of Davenport, the Hotel Blackhawk has a stunning two-story lobby with an immense stained glass skylight, striking architecture features, a restored bowling alley on the lower level, luxurious rooms with modern amenities, and an indoor pool.

Discover these and many more historic marvels on the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities.  Contact the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-747-7800 or visit their website at www.visitquadcities.com.

The Quad Cities is located on the Mississippi River and is made up of the riverfront cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois.  The area is just a 2-½ hour drive from Des Moines, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois. It is easily accessible via I-80, I-74, I-88 and several major state highways.

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Media Contact – Jessica Waytenick, Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, 309-736-6827 or jwaytenick@visitquadcities.com

Photos & Media Trips: For High-res photos or for information about media tours, please contact Jessica Waytenick at the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-747-7800 Ext. 827 or jwaytenick@visitquadcities.com.  

 

 

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