Town Square Publications

Rock Island


We welcome you to Rock Island, Illinois! The first city of the Illinois/Iowa Quad Cities, settled over 160 years ago, Rock Island prides itself on preserving neighborhoods built during our rich and colorful past within a community enthusiastically embracing the future. We are home to a healthy and diverse business community of professionals, service centers and industry which work in partnership with a progressive local government to factor positive growth and change. Our public and private schools - from elementary through college levels - win national recognition for excellence. Downtown Rock Island is home of "The District" - the arts and entertainment center of the greater Quad City metropolitan area of over 350,000 people.

The quality of life here - to live, to work and to enjoy yourself - is outstanding. We look forward to welcoming you, your family, and your business to our community

May the pages that follow serve as an invitation to join our commitment to "preserving the past, while being dedicated to the future."

Mark W. Schwiebert


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OvervirewThe Quad Cities area is emerging as a favorite destination lot visitors from all over the Midwest in fact, from all over the nation. Besides the fair of festivals and special events year round the excitement of riverboat gambling. the parks and outdoor recreational attractions, the array and variety of shopping, the hundreds of tempting restaurants... the fine museums, the cultural amenities.. and everything else that makes Rock Island and the Quad Cities so appealing to so many, there's something more: history

Rock Island is the oldest of the Quad Cities. It was once the site of one of the largest American Indian settlements in North America, the western-most battle of the Revolutionary War was fought here, the first rail crossing of the Mississippi River took place at Rock Island, and the city has the oldest public library in the state.


The city also boasts a proud architectural history Buildings in Rock Islands many historic neighborhoods - Broadway, Highland Park, the downtown area and man), others - have been preserved or renovated, affording residents and visitors to Rock Island a glimpse into this historic city's rich heritage and culture.

The city, Its citizens, and several community groups have worked together For more than a decade in an effort to revitalize Rock Island's older historic structures and neighborhoods. The Rock Island City Council adopted 3 Preservation Ordinance in 1984 to establish the Rock Island Preservation Commission and procedures for designating local landmark properties and historic districts. The commission is made up of nine appointed citizens with expertise in historic preservation and/or related fields,

OverviewHomes and commercial buildings have been renovated and restored to original pristine condition and design. Neighborhood associations have been formed to help homeowner- renovate their homes and enhance city-wide preservation efforts. Business owners too, have used preservation to help create a unique and historic arts and entertainment venue in the downtown known as "The District".

You'll find handsome examples of some of America's finest architectural styles, Queen Anne, Italianate, Foursquare, Second Empires, Art Deco , Renaissance Revival, Romanesque, Greek Revival, Art Moderne, Colonial Revival…. the list goes on and on. A walking tour through any of Rock Islands historic areas presents a fascinating, up-close view of times past.

Through the pages of the Rock Island Profile we invite you to learn more about the city's past, as well as its present and future. The city has so much to offer - whether you're a visitor or resident, you'll find Rock Island an exciting place to be!

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Rock Island operates under a council-manager form of government. There is a elected mayor and seven elected aldermen. The city manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, Council meetings, open to the public, are held in City Council Chambers at City Hall located at 1528 3rd Avenue, the first four Mondays of every month at 6:45pm.

The Rock Island Police Department has adopted a community policing philosophy for its law enforcement operations. In addition to the normal law enforcement services expected from a full service police department, the Rock Island department has succeeded in building relationships with block clubs and neighborhood associations to work in partnering with citizens to make Rock Island a healthy and safe place for people to live. The department has an Elderly Services Officer who provides special services to the city's elderly. It supports a CAPE (Community Assisted Police Enforcement) program that targets services in areas of special law enforcement needs. The city also provides the DARE program in Rock Island schools.

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HistoryBefore European Settlers arrived in the 1830s, Rock Island - at the junction of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers - was the site of numerous Sauk and Fox Indian Villages. The great Sauk warrior Black Hawk lived here when the U.S. Army secured the upper Mississippi for white settlers. Ft. Armstrong, built in what is now Rock Island, served as both a trading post and military installation, attracting more white settlers and eventually leading to the fall of Black Hawk and migration west by the Sauk and Fox Indian nations. The Hauberg Indian Museum at Black Hawk State Historic Site houses archives and artifacts collected by turn-of-the-century Rock Island resident John Hauberg. They are displayed in life-like dioramas depicting the Sauk and Fox Indians' daily life throughout each of the four seasons.Growth of the Ft. Armstrong post came about due to its strategic location in a shallow area of the Mississippi River. This allowed riverboats large and small access to the growing community in and around Ft. Armstrong. Within a few years, the trading post became a thriving and growing frontier river town of several hundred families.

HiistoryThe original city plat was filed on July 10, 1835 and named Stephenson, it was renamed Rock Island in 1841.Rock Island's economy prospered in 1850 when the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad (the first to be robbed by Jesse James) built the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi. The railway brought industry to Rock Island: lumbering, pottery, manufacture of farm implement and railroad supplies, among others.River towns of the mid-19th century were known to be raucous, often unrefined and even downright rough-and-tumble communities, and Rock Island was no exception. River boats brought all kinds of new settlers, from gamblers snake-oil salesmen and carpetbaggers to families, industrialists and young entrepreneurs. And all had a hand, in one way or another, in contributing to the development of Rock Island into a robust center of commerce, industry, wealth and residence. The legacy of those earliest settlers remains today, evident in the city's still exciting attractions and leisure activities, still standing elegant homes and storefronts.Near the bustling downtown, some of the residential neighborhoods, which are being revitalized today include grand homes dating to the 1850s. These elegant structures were mostly custom-built for and by the community's wealthiest citizens smaller houses were also built and sold to local citizens, almost in the same manner as modern-day "tract" or production housing developments.

Even the simplest homes, though, were built of the era's finest quality, materials: virgin american lumber, stained glass, solid brass, gas and electric lighting fixtures of etched glass. Most importantly, homes were constructed wit expert craftsmanship and attention to detail from the foundation to the rooftop. Most of these neighborhoods' historic homes which are still standing are architecturally intact; many have undergone extensive interior and exterior renovation, in efforts to restore them as close to their original condition as possible, preserving for generations to come a took at generations past.

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Rock Island is the southwest "corner" of the Quad Cities area in western Illinois on the Mississippi River, 165 miles west of Chicago and midway between Minneapolis and St. Louis. The city of Rock Island is situated at the convergence of the Mississippi and Rock Rivers.

Rock Island's strategic location makes it accessible via land, air and water. "RiverWay" is the name given the 30-mile Mississippi River corridor of the Quad Cities. In the fast decade, efforts have been underway to redevelop the river's edge in the RiverWay region following the guidelines of the Quad City Waterfront Master Plan. This plan outlines the concepts and methods of implementation for growth and development of the RiverWay region, Businesses, developers, artists, conservationists, and citizens are working together to help preserve the natural resource of the Mississippi River and enhance the riverfront as a vibrant center of tourism and commerce.

U.S. Highway 67 runs north and south near the city's western border from the Mississippi River. It intersects interstate 280 on the west side of Rock Island and 67 at the Centennial Bridge to Davenport. State Route 5 running west through Moline connects to interstates 80 and 88. Several other interstates, federal and state highways run through and around the Quad Cities.

Freight rail transportation is provided by the Burlington Northern- Santa Fe, I&M RailLink and the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

Rock Island and the Quad Cities is served by the Quad City Municipal flights by American, TWA, United Airlines, and others.

More than half of the 50 local barge terminals on the Mississippi River are served by rail and interstate highway for convenient transportation of goods to and from Rock Island. The Quad Cities is a U.S. Customs Port of Entry and a designated Foreign Trade Zone in both Illinois and Iowa. International trade services include computerized paired port systems, customs bonded motor carriers, customs house brokers and international freight forwarders, and container freight terminal. The smaller Rock River, which flows south and then west to the Mississippi at Rock Island, is navigable for recreation only.

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HomesRock Island and the Quad Cities area is cited as one of the 25 most affordable housing markets in the nation among 173 metro markets, in a survey by the National Homebuilders Association. The ACCRA Cost of Living index also indicates the Quad Cities as one of the lowest-priced housing markets among all national metro areas (90.4 with a base average of 100), and a lower-than-average composite cost of living (96.2).

The average home sale price in Rock Island is $64, 100, compared to $87,900 in St. Louis and $147,000 in Chicago. Housing is available in every price range, from starter homes and condominiums to mid-range newer homes to elegant, meticulously preserved mansions throughout the city's historic neighborhoods to new housing divisions.


NeighborhoodsThere are a number of historic, architecturally significant neighborhoods identified in Rock Island, many containing landmarks and structures listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The diverse styles of the city's historic residential architecture span a time period from the early 1800s through the late 1970s.

Following established ordinances and guidelines, the Rock Island Preservation Commission works closely with home owners who want to restore, renovate, alter or repair their residences, to ensure preservation of the city's designated historic neighborhoods.

The commission has published "tour books," available at City Hall, for each of these neighborhoods. Each describes a suggested route for walking or driving through neighborhoods, and details the history and architectural style of significant structures and landmarks.

The oldest residential area in Rock Island is the area just west of downtown platted as the Old Town Addition and Chicago Addition. As a "mixed use" area, it was, and still is, a blend of Stately mansions, row houses, commercial and government buildings. The prominent style is Italianate.

NeighborhoodsThe Broadway Historic Area, south and east of downtown Rock Island, features the largest concentration of the city's landmarks. From 7th to 9th Avenue, buildings date back to the 1860s when the area first began to develop, south of 9th Avenue from about 1880 to 1910. Many of the homes here were built for prominent local business people of the era who worked downtown. A wide variety of architectural styles is represented, especially in the Spencer Place/15th Street area on 6th and 7th Avenues where homes were constructed between 1856 and 1930, the majority in the late 1800s. The main Broadway thoroughfare is 20th Street, along which the grand homes of some of the city's most prominent citizens were built from 1870 to 1910.

The Longview Historic Area, west of 17th Street, was developed in the 1890s. Homes here range from the more modest, on smaller lots, to the glorious Colonial Revivals, Queen Annes, Victorians and Vernaculars. The neighborhood is characterized by Queen Anne style dwellings and/or cottages notably influenced by the Queen Anne style.

NeighborhoodsHighland Park, bounded by 20th and 24th Streets and 16th and 18th Avenues, was platted in 1895 and was Rock Island's first recognized historic district. Several homes were designed and built by renowned architect George Stauduhan, including his own (at 1608 21st Street) which is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Foursquares, Colonial Revivals, Craftsmans and Dutch Revivals are the predominant styles.

The Ketstone Neighborhood is situated between the Mississippi River and 14th Avenue from 38th to 45th Streets and encompasses six sub-areas: Columbia Park, Fairview, Edgewood Park, Brooks' Grove, College Heights and Parkview. These areas were primarily settled beginning in the 1890s and continuing through the 1940s by the city's "working class" citizens, so homes, schools and churches are more modest in scale but nonetheless architecturally significant for the wide variety of styles built during Keystone's hall-century of development. Homes in this area primarily feature. Four Square, Queen Annes, Gothic Revival, Prairie, Craftsman Tutor, Venacular, Cape Cods, Spanish Revival, Bungalows, and Early Ranch.

The Western Downtown area has historically been dominated by public use, commercial and government buildings. The layout of the streets run parallel to the Mississippi River. The Centennial Bridge was built in 1940 and changed the physical appearance of the area, yet many historic structures, daring back to the mid-1870s, remain standing and are still in use today.

In 1917, developer and architect Olaf Cervin and Ben Hom saw a need for affordable housing for the families of Rock Island Arsenal's nearly 13,500 employees. Cervin and partner Ben Hom secured a contract from the federal U.S. Housing Corporation (a forerunner of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to build 400 homes in Rock Island, Moline and East Moline, 200 of which were built between 15th and 18th Avenues and 39th and 41st Streets in Rock Island in the winter of 1918. The designs we simple cottages and bungalows yet followed Cervin's philosophy of quality and durability, many homes feature architectural detailing borrowed from a number of turn-of-the-century styles.

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