Kings and queens slept there. So did Charles Lindbergh, soon after his historic solo trans-Atlantic flight.
But soon no one will call Quarters One on Arsenal Island home.
Maj. Gen. Robert Radin and his wife, Sara Radin, welcomed visitors to the 51-room Victorian mansion on Arsenal Island on Sunday for the final open house at the historic home of senior officers.
An era is drawing to a close as the Radins prepare to move to Quarters Six on the island. The U.S. Army is exploring alternatives for the Italianate-style house after deciding in 2006 that it would no longer serve as a home. The home, the second largest government-owned residence behind the White House, needs about $3 million in work to bring it up to code.
“I think the history involved in this house and what it brings to the community is unique,” Maj. Gen. Radin said. “My big concern is that we make the investment to keep this structure a part of the history we can use.”
Visitors who attended Sunday’s open house came attired in their finest, and the guest list included high-ranking officers and civilians.
The home has hosted many important gatherings in its 137-year history. The first large gathering there was a funeral in 1871 for Gen. Thomas Rodman, then commander of the Rock Island Arsenal.
In 1869, Rodman
envisioned a house ornate enough to entertain guests and designed so a family and visitors could comfortably live there. He might have appreciated watching little Phillip Durrenberger, the youngest son of Gen. William and Polly Durrenberger, playing with toy tanks and helicopters in the reception hall during the mid-1960s.
Rodman’s plans culminated in Quarters One, but he died several months before construction was completed, leaving it to his successor, Lt. Col. D.W. Flagler (1872-86), to oversee the final details.
An English colonel compared the house to the castles of his homeland, according to a Davenport Times- Democrat, a predecessor of the Quad- City Times, from October 1953.
“I worked for two generals who lived here, and what is amazing about this place is its history. I think the most interesting part of this house to me is the watch tower,” visitor and retired Col. Tim Considine said.
Considine recalls Maj. Gen. Wade McManus (2000-04) telling him to become an amateur historian on Quarters One so he could serve as a tour guide.
Quarters One was designed for entertaining on the first floor with the twin parlors, dining room, library and vestibule, Sara Radin said. The second floor served as family headquarters and guest rooms, and the third floor was available for the waiting families of military officers on western travel, according to “Quarters One Rock Island Arsenal” by Mikhael Weitzel.
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The Radins moved into the house at the end of July, and their first official guests were golfers from the Illinois Senior Women‘s Golf Championship. The ladies were thrilled to see the fine craftsmanship evident throughout the house, such as the striped maple and oak hardwood flooring and original light fixtures, Sara Radin said
“I absolutely feel privileged. The military is full of tradition and to be able to pass down the annual open house and to share it with the community is awesome,” she said. “I hope that this house continues to embody the spirit of this part of the country.”
Upstairs on the second floor is the bed that aviator Lindbergh slept in during a visit in August 1927, Weitzel wrote. The pilot completed his historic hop from New York to Paris in May of that year. Naturally, each city’s mayor wanted to be the person to accommodate him during an overnight stay in what then was known as the Tri-Cities. Col. David King (1921-32) settled the matter by inviting Lindbergh to stay at Quarters One.
Maj. Gen. James W. Monroe (1995-98) and his wife, Charlyne, entertained Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at Quarters One in 1996.
East Moline Mayor John Thodos recalls his first visit to the house, just two years ago.
“I’ve lived in this town 43 years, and the first time I was in here was two years ago,” he said. “That was my first chance to see how beautiful the inside is. It’s an honor to have Quarters One here in the Quad-Cities.”