The barn and silo on Davenport’s Northwest Boulevard are going to stay!
The circa-1917 buildings and the six-acre remnant farm they’re built on south of 53rd Street have been purchased by Joe Seng, an Iowa state senator who says he’s going to preserve them rather than turn the area into more residential housing.
I first wrote about this unusual farmstead seven years ago when the house was the painting studio and gallery of artist Connie Bieber, who lived there with her husband, Mike Brooks. In addition to her art, Connie tended to 60-80 chickens and five sheep in the outbuildings.
She and Mike loved the place, but as the years passed, the land around it became more developed and they decided to move to rural New Liberty where they could keep larger animals such as horses and a milk cow.
The house and a corn crib were sold to Rick’s House of Hope, a nonprofit that provides programming for children experiencing grief or trauma and their families. The house was renovated for institutional use and the corn crib was razed for parking.
I figured the rest of the farm buildings and six surrounding acres that belonged to Connie’s former in-laws, Otto and Corrine Bieber, were soon to go, too.
But they were purchased this summer by Seng who, in addition to being a Democratic legislator, is a veterinarian, an accordion player and a man-with-many-interests who apparently thrives on little sleep.
He envisions a more subdued use for the property, which is located just north of his home, a large white Italianate-style house with a tower sitting on 12 acres. He is in the process of purchasing property between his house and the farmstead so the two will be connected by a continuous stretch of land.
His ideas: Weddings and receptions in his house, barn dances in the barn and possible conversion of the silo into a home where newlyweds could spend the night.
“It would be something different for this area,” he said.
“I could call it CorrineOtto’s Hideaway,” he continued, referring to the first names of the former owners. Said together, the names sound like “Coronado,” a reference to the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, long considered one of the world’s top resorts.
Seng has experience in the wedding/reception business as the owner of the Renwick Mansion, 901 Tremont Ave., Davenport, which he rents for that purpose.
Seng has a soft spot in his heart for historic properties. In addition to the Renwick, he once owned the former Villa de Chantal in Rock Island — and for farms.
He grew up on a farm near Lost Nation and chairs the Iowa Senate’s Agriculture Committee. He recently restored his dad’s old McCormick-Deering tractor (made by the former International Harvester Co.) that he might pair with a haywagon for rides around the property.
“The neighbors have been fairly happy that I’m not developing it,” he said of his farmstead purchase.
He expects the property would be used for weddings/receptions/dances only six to eight hours once a week and that the music would not be loud.
How soon might all this happen?
“I expect to live another 20 years and this is in my 20-year plan,” he said.