Davenport reclaimed part of its past Tuesday with the unveiling of the Lady of Germania statue and the dedication of the gateway park at the foot of the Centennial Bridge.
The 8-foot bronze statue is an interpretation of the original Lady of Germania that crowned a fountain that once stood at the site, the former Washington Square Park. The park, which contained several monuments celebrating the city’s German pioneers, became the site of the Scott County Family Y in the early 1960s.
Speakers at the dedication ceremony hailed the new Centennial Gateway as a symbol of the city’s heritage and a link to its future. Davenport Mayor Ed Winborn said the project represents the “city’s front door” and introduced 11-year-old William Schwener. William wrote the city a letter about the gateway as a project for his Boy Scout citizenship and community merit badge. In the letter, he noted that his great-great-grandfather, Bernard Schwener, a German immigrant, once operated a market a few blocks away at 819 2nd St. “He started with nothing, but he achieved the American dream,” he said.
Carol Schaefer, the president of the neighboring German American Heritage Center, said the gateway represents the welcoming nature of a city that was home to thousands of German immigrants in the late 19th century and continues to attract immigrants. Dr. Jon Stauff, of the Davenport Sister City Committee, noted the city’s 40-year-relationship with its sister city in Germany, Kaiserslautern.
Schaefer said the German American Heritage Center, which restored the old Standard Hotel across the street from the park as a museum and assisted in the gateway, is proud to have helped improve what once was a blighted corner.
The Centennial Gateway includes landscaping, benches and Lady of Germania mounted on a pedestal surrounded by a circular garden of varying shades of red petunias. Providing a backdrop are 10 columns with “Davenport” inscribed on a horizontal bar topping them.
Mary Ellen Chamberlin, president of the Riverboat Development Authority, said the gateway, in addition to being an attractive park, marks the beginning of the Gaines Street corridor. The corridor includes other improvements up the hill, the restoration of the old Jipp Store and the “Stone Soup” mansion near 8th and Gaines streets by Gateway Redevelopment Corp., she said
“This is a link between the downtown and the neighborhood,” she said of the gateway. The authority funded the $45,000 cost of the statue.
Jeff Adams, of Oregon, Ill., who sculpted and cast the statue, said he studied three grainy photos of the original Lady of Germania at Washington Square to get ideas. Then he built on them to come up with his own interpretation of the lady, an ancient symbol that personified strength, unity and liberty.
Facing the Centennial Bridge, she has one arm out stretched in welcome and her other arm pointing. “The concept is that she is welcoming the past and pointing to the future,” the 46-year-old graduate civil engineer said.
John Willard can be contacted at (563) 383-2314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.