I recently had a the rare pleasure of a private tour of Quarters One on the Rock Island Arsenal. A friend of mine is one of the few people who have keys to it, often giving tours as part of his job as archivist, historian, and educator.
Now, as some of you may know, I am madly in the love with giant, old houses. I currently live in the one I grew up, and take the opportunity to tour them when I can. Quarters One was completed in 1871.
I toured the LeClaire House over in Davenport earlier this summer for the River Action Educational series. If you’re curious, here’s my article about it. I look forward to doing more local historic homes in the area soon. While some of you may accuse my interest in this as growing old, but it’s more continued curiosity and love for the Quad Cities Area.
I do not understand why our educational programs don’t include more local history. One of my favorite things about both of these tours was connecting history that I learned in school to on-goings of my community. I believe is this experience would have happened to me while growing up, I would have taken a more vested interested in my history classes. And then, perhaps, my community….at an earlier age, that is.
On this tour, I learned a lot and tried to retain/write down as much as possible. Here were my favorite tidbits I walked away with.
Brig. General Thomas Rodman built the 20,000 square foot home for future leaders to live in, to entertain visiting dignitaries, and host traveling soldiers. He was sent here as a form of punishment; his past post that also involved building a lavish home for the same purpose. His first one was 10,000 square feet, but he was accused of improper allocation of funds and sent to Rock Island.
What I loved about this place, and many homes built in the late 1800’s, is that things were thought out and had a purpose. For example, below is a leather-lined door that goes between the dining room and the kitchen. It is so pad the noise coming from the bustling of servants in the pantry behind it.
There was also information given during the tour that was a clear indicator of the times. Below are pictures of the Mirror Parlor. Two identical parlors side by side, but could be separated by a hidden door, when it came time to separate the genders; women going into one room, the gentlemen into another.
The parlors, dining room, and library are all on the first floor. This is where the business and entertaining of guests would take place.
The second floor is where the family would stay. Because one is often further along in their military career, and many of the Commanders who resided here was not amongst many. It was often the Commander, his wife, servants, and maybe a teenager or two, younger children didn’t really live here.
The third floor is where the soldiers’ quarters were. The layout of the house, separation of floors as well as from front to back, is also a tell tale of the times.
The front half of the house the ceilings are higher, the stairways are wider, and the types of materials used are much more lavish, than the back half, where the servants’ quarters were located.
As the house was so big, there was a communication system set up, connecting the servants with the most important rooms of the home. The below picture contains the timeline of technology is how its’ inhabitants reached out to one another from room-to-room throughout the years.
It is hard to pick a favorite part of the tour, because it was all so beautiful and fascinating. However, the look out tower and the rooms leading up to it were so cool!
Then we went all the way down to the basement which was obviously creepy. One interesting thing, though, is that the kitchen of the house was in the limestone basement, to keep the heat out from the upstairs of the home.
There was also a courtroom and a couple of cement rooms off to the side, presumably, jail cells.
Now, I’m certain that there have been many an article written about this house and the amazing history it contains. General Taft, General Pershing, and Charles Lindberg all were guests at one time. Commanders stopped staying in the house in 2008 because it becomes too expensive. The metal posts leading up to the house were made out of melted cannonballs.
However, I took so much more away from it then the nitty gritty details of what went on inside. Did you know that a Visitor’s Pass to Arsenal Island is free? And good for a year? It gets you access to the Confederate Cemetery, the Rock Island National Cemetery, and the Rock Island Arsenal Museum as well as few other cool places.
This beautiful place is available for us to enjoy, to appreciate our area’s history and it’s role in the development of our nation of yesterday and today. I encourage you all to take a day to go check it out!