When David Cordes first laid eyes on the Lambrite-Iles-Petersen House, one of the most historically — not to mention architecturally — important houses in Davenport’s Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District, he hardly could believe what he was seeing.
“I stopped dead in my tracks, and I thought, ‘Oh my God,” said Cordes, who first saw the Italianate home at 510 W. 6th St. in 2001.
Cordes, 60, now of Rock Island, is one of 27 members of the Gateway Redevelopment Group, or GRG, that works to save abandoned buildings in the neighborhood.
The group worked to stabilize and market the long-abandoned home after the city of Davenport took it over from the former owner for $34,000. The house and all its contents currently are owned by the city, but the GRG is seeking someone to buy and rehabilitate the property.
While the trash is going out, and plastics, glass and papers are being recycled, everything else, from artwork to furniture, will go with the home when it is sold.
The city also will send out requests for proposals from those who might be interested in the home and have the wherewithal to restore it to its former glory.
Cordes knows something about historic homes. He spent 10 years remodeling an Italianate house in Mount Pleasant that was built in 1868. He also spent more than seven years as the administrator of the Terrace Hill National Historic Landmark, which is the Iowa governor’s residence.
Cordes, along with Jack Haberman, the president of the GRG, and other members were able to see inside the home for the first time Thursday as cleanup began.
With all the furniture and everything else still in place — aside from broken windows and a leaky roof — several people said the home looked as though someone simply shut the door and walked away.
But the beauty of the house remained.
“It was unbelievable,” Haberman said. “It was everything I’d heard about and a lot more. It just has that feeling.”
He said that stepping into the home also gave him a sense of relief that it will be restored to its former glory. “I never thought we were going to succeed,” he said.
Cordes said that when he entered the home for the first time, “I was completely overwhelmed with the skill of the architect and the craftsmanship. There is something absolutely incredible in terms of the space and the proportion.
“It’s not a large house, but at the same time, it’s absolutely a palace,” Cordes said. “It has one of the most beautiful staircases I’ve ever seen, and it has an absolutely incredible winding staircase that leads from the second floor to the tower.”
The Lambrite-Iles-Petersen House was built in 1856 by Joseph Lambrite, a lumber mill owner, according to a history of the home on the Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District website. Architect John C. Cochrane of Davenport, who also designed both the Illinois and Iowa state capitols, went on to become one of the most prominent in his field in 19th-century Chicago.
Later, physician Thomas Iles, who cared for Confederate prisoners being held at the Rock Island Arsenal during the Civil War, purchased the home. John H. Petersen, of downtown Davenport department store fame, owned the house after Iles.
After Petersen’s death, the home was purchased by the Schick family, who added the Craftsman-style porches and built the Craftsman-style bungalow on the west lawn, according to another history written by Cordes on the GRG website.
Cordes even found some marble from the steam heating system that he said was installed by either Iles or Petersen. “The marble is from Davenport Steam Heating, which came into being in 1881,” he said.
Ryan Rusnak, of Davenport's Community Planning and Economic Development Department, said that whoever buys the property will have to apply for Iowa historic tax credits, which result in a 25 percent rebate from the state.
“That will ensure that the home is restored in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation,” Rusnak said.
Davenport Alderman Bill Boom, in whose 3rd Ward the home is located, said he is happy to see work being done on the home. Boom saw the home several decades ago after it had first been restored.
“To get it back on a good glide path is very rewarding,” Boom said. “To know what it was like in its heyday and then to see it left to crumble was heartbreaking.”
Both Rusnak and Cordes say the main building is solid and definitely can be restored.
“It’s very much a home, but it’s absolutely extraordinary in the skill of the architect who put all of this together in a way that’s absolute perfection,” Cordes said.