January 3, 2013

In and Out of the Quad-Cities

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

The Intersection of Memory Lane and East 13th Street

Oh, the launch of another year. It’s the turning of another page in our lives. And, the New Year provides the perfect opportunity to set resolutions, create new habits and look forward. More importantly, this is the perfect season for reflection. We get just a bit teary-eyed when we think of all the great times we had in 2012. We could wrap all of our times with friends, adventures, travels and celebrations in a final verse of Guy Lombardo doing a shot of Auld Lang Syne. We could populate this publication with wall to wall Gail and Toni stories, but the editors would no doubt kick us to the curb. Instead of a stroll down Memory Lane, let us take you on a short walk through our neighborhood.

We live in the old section of Davenport. Our neighborhood has been a cool place to live since 1912, and we border up to the even older Village of East Davenport. Whenever we hear Frank Sinatra “blue eyeing” his way through my kind of town, we substitute “the village is” for Chicago. Now we’re not bad mouthing the Windy City, instead let’s just say Ol’ Frankie can keep his traffic jams, pollution and incessant street noise. We’ll take the quaint charm of our historic village nestled on the Mississippi any day.

Let us do a bit of show and tell about the Village. The Village was founded in 1851 as Upper Davenport (we take this to mean we really are uptown gals). Before the official platting of the town, people called it Stubbs Eddy, named in part for a hermit named James Stubbs, who lived in a cave nearby – and we didn’t make that up. Strangely, we suspect this has something to do with the current trend in man caves in the neighborhood. But, we won’t go into that phenomenon right now.

During the Civil War, the area was used as a major camp and training grounds for Union Soldiers joining up from all over Iowa. Later, over 300 members of the Sioux Tribe were held prisoner in a camp just down the street from our houses. But, that sad story is not the only connection to Native Americans. The area just past the bridge in the 2000 block of 11th Street has a sign announcing Indian Springs Park. And, according to one of the earliest works on Davenport History, this area was used in the 1840s as a campground by Native American trading parties traveling to the area for supplies.

The major industry for the town was the steam-operated saw mills which grew to enormous proportions. In 1901, the area had a gigantic fire. The lumber, which was stacked over six stories, provided fuel for a fire creating flames 300 feet high. Dav-enport was literally burned down from the East Village to the Tremont hill. (To give you a perspective, that’s a couple of blocks past the former Twinkie Factory.) Fortunately, a row of houses in the 2000 block of East 13th Street survived. And that brings us to our story.

Earlier this year, Gail and Current Trophy Husband Frank bought a second home. Unlike most people, who buy second homes in Florida, Arizona or on the Gulf Shores, they bought one on East 13th Street. It’s a small historic cottage made of pre-1851 era hand sawn lumber. Little did they know when they bought it, they were moving into one of the coolest new neighborhoods in the Quad-Cities. Within hours of taking possession, neighbors were extending invitations to “porch parties” and other social events.

Last month, we were invited to the East 13th Street Progressive Christmas Party. Each of five neighbors was assigned a specific part of the menu. Being ever the social maven of sangria, Toni produced a special Winter Sangria blend of Italian Prosecco and citrus. As the party migrated from house to house, we were blown away by the historic nature of the street. Most of the homes would qualify for listing on the Historic Register. We ended the evening at Sandy and Ed Winborn’s Bed and Breakfast. The group sat in amazement as Ed shared stories of his renovation of this pre-Civil War house.

Collectively, the group brought us along on a fantastic tale of the ongoing revitalization of this little corner of the Village. In 20-odd years this section of town has gone from so bad the pizza places wouldn’t deliver here, to an emerging showplace. But our old-time Holiday Season wasn’t just tied to our neighborhood.

Another high point of our Season came when we joined our good friends at the Area Welcome Club Christmas Luncheon. The setting: The Davenport Country Club, the entertainment: The North High Choir. This is always a magical event, but the music from this group was world class.

Before we go, a couple of words about the Area Welcome Club. For you internet savvy types go to http://www.qcawelcomeclub.org to get the whole scoop. First, you needn’t be new to the Quad-Cities to join; lots of the folks here have lived in the Quad-Cities for many years. A few were even born here. They have activities ranging from bunko to bridge to bus trips to Chicago. We love it, and the truth is the words you’re reading today wouldn’t be possible without the Area Welcome Club; this dynamic duo of folk art journalism came together because of Area Welcome Club.

Now join us in a toast (the dry white bread kind or a wet sparkling Prosecco), we’ll tip a cup of kindness now for days of Auld Lang Syne – Happy 2013 everybody. Aren’t you glad the Mayans were wrong about the end of the world?