One of Davenport’s architectural and historical gems is tarnishing, worrying neighbors and preservationists.
They want the city to declare the Lambrite-Iles-Petersen House at 510 W. 6th St. a local historic landmark.
At the request of the Historic Preservation Commission, the Davenport City Council will take up the building’s status at its meeting Wednesday. The Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District Association sent a letter to the council, asking for the city’s help in preserving the house.
Built in 1856, it is one of the first examples of Italian villa architecture in the state. Among its owners was John H.C. Petersen, who operated the largest department store in Davenport. The house’s architect, J.C. Cochrane, designed the Illinois and Iowa statehouses.
Declaring it a local landmark does little toward preserving it, but the status would recognize its significance and history. If the preservation commission decided a need was there to intervene, the building’s landmark status would make that more likely than arguing for a house that is simply located in a historic district, according to city staff.
Declared uninhabitable in 2010 by the city, the house has windows broken out. Animals have gotten inside, and it has fallen into a state of disrepair. The yard is overgrown, and an abandoned automobile is parked in the driveway. The owner, Gordon Muller, still lives elsewhere in the neighborhood, but he didn’t return calls for comment.
Alderman Bill Boom, who lives in the Gold Coast-Hamburg neighborhood, called the situation complicated.
“This is probably one of the most iconic structures in the city and used to identify the Gold Coast,” he said. “The homeowner has lived in the neighborhood and been friends to many of us for many years, but he has become unable to keep up his property.
“How do we respect the friendship of the homeowner and respect the history of the house?”
P.J. Slobojan, who shares a house with Muller, said she has talked to him about the house, but she wouldn’t reveal the direction of those discussions.
“Maybe we don’t know the whys, and we’re not supposed to know the whys,” she said. “You’re talking about a home that has a lot of historic value, and you’re talking about a private home.
“What the general public thinks should be done to the home is not within the realm of what the homeowner wants.”
The situation frustrates neighbors, many of whom live in and have preserved historic houses. Jack Haberman of the Gateway Redevelopment Group is one of them. Gateway was formed to deal with abandoned houses in the central city, including the Gold Coast and Hamburg neighborhoods.
Haberman knows Muller loved the house and maintained it as best he could. Then, something changed.
“He has refused to acknowledge it,” Haberman said. “The man owns the house. What can you do?”