For the first time in a decade, and in honor of the Rock Island Arsenal’s 160th birthday, visitors are invited to tour Quarters One and other historic homes on Arsenal Island.
The Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club (RIAWC) is reviving its signature Rock Island Arsenal Tour of Homes this year after a 10-year absence. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 30. Featured will be a “unique self-guided walking tour” that will allow visitors to explore many of the installation’s beautiful historic and newer modern homes, including iconic Quarters One, according to Mary Britton and Heather Kindberg of the RIAWC’s publicity team.
In addition, those on the tour are welcome to visit the Arsenal Clock Tower, the Col. Davenport House, the Mississippi River Museum, Lock & Dam 15, the Confederate Cemetery, Memorial Park and The Arsenal Attic Thrift Shop. There also will be 160th Anniversary Christmas ornaments of Quarters One available for purchase.
Tour tickets are $25 and available at https://riawc.com/toh/ or through EventBrite. The Lock & Dam Lounge also will be open for lunch, including an 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10 taco bar.
The Arsenal welcome club, which is made up of military spouses, is a nonprofit organization committed to providing scholarships to high school seniors and continuing education students associated with the Arsenal, as well as grants for local charities and military-affiliated organizations. Proceeds from Tour of Homes 2022 will go directly to scholarships and grants.
RIAWC first was known as “Stitch,” according to the club’s website. It was launched by a group of officers’ wives in the 1940s who met at the Arsenal Golf Course clubhouse to sew together rags to send to the Iowa City Veterans Home for use in making rugs.
The group was later expanded to include all services, all ranks and community members. Over the years, RIAWC has distributed $21,000 in college scholarships along with community grants. Ms. Britton said the club is hoping for a huge turnout to significantly increase those numbers in 2022.
Each year the club decides what kind of fundraiser will be held. For example, golf tournaments are popular. This year, RIAWC decided to revive the Tour of Homes because it had been so long since one was featured, and this year coincides with the Arsenal’s birthday, Ms. Britton said.
The beautiful, unique historic homes on the tour have special significance to the nation and the Quad Cities. They were designed by Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rodman, the developer of the Rodman Gun and the “Father of the Rock Island Arsenal.” He also designed the 10 stone shops that line Rodman Avenue and the officers’ quarters, which were built along the north shore of the island, the RIAWC said.
The most famous, of course, is Quarters One. It was designed by Gen. Rodman to be used as the home of the most senior officer stationed on Arsenal Island. Gen. Rodman himself would never live in the home, however. He died before construction was completed on the structure that has been called “a superior example of High Victorian Italianate-style architecture.”
With its 51 rooms and 20,000 square feet of living space, Quarters One also is the second largest single-family government residence in existence. Only the White House is bigger. It features an observation tower, twin parlors for ladies and gentlemen to retire to, separately of course.
The Who’s Who of visitors to the home includes famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (who has a bedroom named for him), Gen. William F. Sherman, Gen. Philip Sheridan, Secretary of War and future President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William H. Taft, then Lt. Col. and future President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John J. Pershing.
The size and grandeur of the home – listed as a National Historic Landmark – is a double-edged sword. It has made properly maintaining it as a residence a challenge. In 2008, Major Gen. and Mrs. Robert M. Radin were the last family to live in it. In the years since, parts of the ornate quarters have been available for events and rental and occasional tours are conducted through groups like RIAWC.
The welcome club is hoping that Quad Citians will come in large numbers to take advantage of this year’s tour since it is difficult to say when they will have another opportunity to explore the rich history of these unique structures. Before the 2012 tour, RIAWC hadn’t hosted one since 2005.
In addition to Quarters One, among the homes that will throw open their doors for the April 30 tours are: Quarters Two, built in 1873-1874; Quarters Three, built in 1871-1872; Quarters Four, built in 1872; Quarters Six, built in 1905; Quarters Seven, built in 1902; and Quarters 34, built in 1907.
The event is a self-guided walking tour, the RIAWC reminds visitors. That means ticket holders will be allowed to enter any of the listed homes and buildings at their own pace and in any order between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Docents will be available in all the homes to answer any questions. Visitors should note, however, the event is not handicap or stroller accessible, and there are no refunds. The tour will take place rain or shine, so please keep that in mind when planning for the day.
To gain access to Arsenal Island for this event, RIAWC said, guests will need to come through the Moline Gate. The driver will need to present a valid driver’s license and have current vehicle registration and proof of insurance on hand.
All passengers in the vehicle over the age of 16 must have a valid ID. If you do not have the Real ID driver’s license, the visitor center recommends you also take along a valid and accepted secondary IDs, such as a passport or Social Security card. Contact the visitor’s center at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have concerns about your access.
Designated Tour of Homes parking lots will be set up in the vicinity of Quarters One and Heritage Hall.
This article was originally published online on March 21, 2022.