The cluttered and deteriorated conditions inside the vacant former Howard Johnson's hotel in downtown Davenport is a bad place for a fire to start, which is why a quick response Friday by Davenport firefighters likely spared the city a devastating blaze.

Firefighters and police responded around 2 p.m. to reports of smoke coming from the lobby of the long-shuttered hotel at 227 LeClaire St. They quickly extinguished burning papers and other debris in the lobby, and police began questioning four juvenile boys in the parking lot.

A police officer instructed the boys, appearing eager to leave on their scooters, to empty their pockets. He specifically asked whether any of them had matches or a lighter. When a white lighter was found on one of the juveniles, they were placed in two squad cars.

The parents of one boy arrived at the hotel around 2:30, and police showed them the lighter and explained about the fire. Meanwhile, a firefighter took photographs of the lobby and the scooters just outside. A fire official said it appeared the boys entered the lobby by moving the plywood that covers the entrance.

"That thing has been boarded up so many times," Alderman Gene Meeker, at-large, said of the nearly 50-year-old hotel, which closed in 2009. "With winter coming, it's going to get worse."

The building was purchased for $4.65 million in 2008 by an out-of-town developer who renamed it Riverside Plaza. The property went back to the bank in 2009, and the bank also went under. A Chicago bank then acquired the hotel when it bought assets from the failed bank, Meeker said.

"I've shown that building (to potential buyers) so many times," he said. "Of late, nobody's been a serious prospect. It's been trashed so bad. We're to the point where it's just dangerous.

"I don't even go inside anymore. There's moss in the pool, probably mold all over the place, too."

The hotel is being maintained by Ruhl & Ruhl Commercial, Meeker said. The agent for the property, John Ruhl, could not be reached for comment.

(1) comment

slsmith723

Why has this not been secured with a fence. The last building left Abandoned in Rock Island ended up with a little girl getting killed in it then they were quick to destroy the building. Is Davenport waiting for this to happen again? The City of Davenport knows this is a Nuisance but not doing anything about it. If this was a family dwelling they would not allow it to still be standing. Come on Davenport don't wait until something really bad happens then make it another headline.

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