A portion of the nearly block-long retaining wall at the John Deere Mansion in Moline is among the casualties of days of pounding rain.
A section of the wall on 12th Street tumbled to the ground sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday, leaving a chunk of concrete and dirt that has rendered the sidewalk impassable.
The city barricaded the landslide, but the only person tending to the wreckage Thursday was a member of the Moline Preservation Society.
Jolene Keeney said the wall failure was predictable, given its decades of deterioration and neglect. She said members of the society solicited estimates to have the wall rebuilt in 2003, and the cost was more than $700,000.
"Imagine the cost, 10 years later," she said.
Keeney took it upon herself Thursday to attempt to salvage the ornamental iron that was attached to the top of the concrete wall. The small saw she brought from home was insufficient for separating sections of iron from concrete, so she was making calls to the city to try to get help.
"If we leave this here for an hour, somebody will come along and steal it," she said. "The owner isn't going to take care of it."
City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher said he shares Keeney's skepticism over the future of the steep bluff that leads to the mansion and of the remainder of the retaining wall.
The house itself, the long-ago home of the agriculture magnate, changed hands two years ago. The sale followed a several-year dispute between the city and former mansion owner Roger Colmark. The Sterling, Ill., accountant repeatedly failed to meet deadlines for making progress on the historic home, and it was sold to Moline native Chris Baker in April 2011.
Baker, who now lives in suburban Chicago, did not take title of the entire property, however, and Colmark retained ownership of the hillside and wall.
"This is indeed an unfortunate situation that there is an irresponsible property owner who refuses to mitigate the problem and refuses to comply with municipal citations and court orders," Steinbrecher said Thursday. "The City has had multiple judgments against Mr. Colmark in past years, with no success of achieving compliance. Again, even though he is still the owner of record of this parcel of land, obtaining another judgment against him will be of little to no value, given his unwillingness to accept responsibility for this property.
"And, given the absence of direction from the City Council otherwise, the City of Moline has no responsibility in maintaining the wall, so it is currently the administration’s position to clean up any debris that falls into the public right-of-way and to barricade access to the area along this wall that is unsafe for pedestrian traffic."
Also in Moline Thursday, workers at the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, 622 19th St., discovered the overnight downpour made its way into their basement in a big way.
A contractor who was hired to pump out the rainwater estimated it was three feet deep when he arrived Thursday.
Chamber spokeswoman Jillian McCleary reported no measurable damage, saying the basement does not house any office or computer equipment. Cleanup, she said, was simply a matter of pumping out the water.
"I think we're pretty lucky we're not encountering problems like some other businesses are encountering and also homes, for that matter," she said.