A forest in west Davenport where the city’s Germans once gathered for music, dining and other diversions has been undergoing a renaissance lately to help visitors appreciate its history and natural beauty.
Now, for the first time in more than 90 years, the Schuetzen Park Historic Site has a permanent building to further boost enjoyment of the recreational jewel at 3401 Schuetzen Lane.
It is the Jens Lorenzen Pavilion, a 20-by-32-foot picnic shelter that seats up to 50 people at tables. The structure also has a warming kitchen complete with a microwave oven, refrigerator, table service and coffee pots.
Since it opened this spring, the $15,000 project, built entirely with the help of grants and donations of labor and materials, has hosted events ranging from church picnics to a “Bark in the Park” outing for dogs and their owners
The shelter captures some of the atmosphere enjoyed by Davenport’s German-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they took street cars to the park to partake in a shooting range, dance hall, music pavilion, refreshment stands and other amenities.
Kory Darnall, the president of the Schuetzenpark Gilde, a group of history buffs who have been preserving the park’s legacy, said the need for a permanent shelter became apparent as the organization kept hauling out a large tent to accommodate special events.
“It is a symbol of the park’s rebirth,” he said. “It is one more indication that the community has embraced the park by requesting and supporting a permanent facility of this type.”
The shelter stands at the west end of the park’s festplatz, or festival place, near the entrance to Schuetzen Park, located off Waverly Road on much of the grounds of the Davenport Good Samaritan Center.
The shelter was built through the carpenters training program of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Others contributing to the project were the Riverboat Development Authority, the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, H.O. Seiffert Lumber Co., Wal-Mart, the Homebuilders Association of the Quad-Cities, D.A.N.K. of Davenport, the City of Davenport Neighborhood Beautification Fund and the Scott County Regional Authority. A memorial gift was provided in the name of H.H. Schneckloth Lumber Co. and W.H.F. and Rudy Wegener Carpenters.
The shelter is named for Jens Lorenzen, a German immigrant who became a successful Davenport business leader and loaned the money to purchase the land for the original park in 1868.
The park began to decline in popularity in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment brought on by World War I. The land was sold to a mental hospital in 1923, and it again changed hands in 1960 for the development of the Davenport Good Samaritan Center.
A street car station, completed in 1911, is the only surviving structure from the park’s glory days. Visitors to the 20-acre park also can explore nature trails that take in a variety of wildlife.
The picnic shelter is open free to the public from May through November during daylight hours and other times by special arrangement. To reserve the shelter, contact the Schuetzenpark Gilde at (563) 322-5489 or SchuetzenPark@aol.com.
John Willard can be contacted at
(563) 383-2314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.