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More than 500 people gathered at the stately manor high on a Davenport bluff overlooking the Mississippi River to hear their leader speak.

“Many of us who have been active in the unfolding plans of the Royal Neighbors of America since its inception are proud that our society has ever responded to the call for service, and as we review its inspiring history, we are grateful for the opportunity for a broader field of service, thru this Royal Neighbor home,” Mary E. Arnholt, Rock Island, the supreme oracle of Royal Neighbors of America, told the assembly.

The occasion was the dedication on July 18, 1931 of the Royal Neighbors National Home. It fulfilled a resolution the society passed two years earlier to create a place where “the comforts of home could be provided for helpless mothers and other deserving members of our Society alone in the world and in need of such a service.”

The home, known as Grandview Terrace since 1993, recently was sold to Grandview Estates LLC., an investment group based in Baltimore, Md. The group is considering developing the 77-acre hill-top site at 4760 Rockingham Road into a retirement community while preserving the home, a familiar landmark to passing motorists for 75 years.

Grandview Terrace played a prominent role in the history of Royal Neighbors of America, the first fraternal benefit society to provide life insurance protection for women. Founded in 1895, the Rock Island-based society did much toward creating financial security for women at a time when other fraternal benefit societies were for men only.

Over the years, Royal Neighbors of America continued to break ground in helping its members.

In February 1930, the society purchased a 40-acre tract at the west edge of Davenport for the establishment of a home “by members of the Society, who have extended a helping hand by providing this protection and care for aged, unfortunate and homeless members in the sunset of life …”

Davenport architect Clausen, Kruse and Klein designed it in the classic Georgian Revival style, replete with columned porch extending across the front. Residents could relax in a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a fireplace surrounded by comfortable furnishings.

Eligible members turned over their assets to the society and lived at the home until death. Residents, according to the rules and regulations, were to “be of good moral character, free from contagious or infections disease, unable by reason of age to provide for the necessities of life … .”

In 1996, the policy was changed to allow members to live in the home by paying rent, a move intended to control costs as the society dealt with an increasing operations deficit and regulatory demands to update the building. In continuing to assess its operations, the society determined that providing senior housing was not part of its core mission and closed the home on Oct. 1, 2004. With accommodations for 52 residents, the home had 34 when it closed. The home and its site, which had grown to 77 acres, were put up for sale.

Thus ended a chapter in the society’s history that is best summarized by the welcome in the home’s 1931 dedication program:

“In the bonds of fraternity, we pledge friendly shelter and the warmth of fellowship to all who enter here.”

John Willard can be contacted at (563) 383-2314 or jwillard@qctimes.com.

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