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Embattled Davenport house spray-painted
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Embattled Davenport house spray-painted

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Bruchmann House
Messages are spray-painted on the side of a 110-year-old house at 1125 Jersey Ridge Road, Davenport. The owner wants to tear it down, but the city has objected. (Mark Ridolfi/Quad-City Times)

A house in the Village of East Davenport that has been the topic of a contentious battle between its owner and historic preservationists now sports newly painted graffiti on two sides.

The 110-year-old house at 1125 Jersey Ridge Road drew comments from numerous passers-by on Friday. Spray-painted comments on the house included "save the whales," "go green," "danger keep out," "free love," "no nukes," "save the gulf" and "can't we just get along."

The homeowner, John Wisor, hung up on a Quad-City Times reporter seeking comment Friday, but Molly Newell, who lives across the alley from the house, said she saw Wisor there Thursday night when the graffiti was being painted and talked to him.

Next-door neighbor Lauren Weibert has a bedsheet sign on her house at 1127 Jersey Ridge Road that says "save the village, sign here" for a petition asking the Davenport City Council to consider alternatives to Wisor's proposed plan to demolish his house.

"I guess I want to say he is making fun of me, but my feelings are not hurt," she said. "He is the one who looks foolish.

"My sign says, ‘save the village,'" she said. "It is a complete mockery of what I have attempted to do."

Another sign, on the fence of Harvey Spencer's property across the street, popped up after the graffiti, stating "nice try Mr. Wisor the house stays."

Police were called to the house Thursday night but couldn't do anything, Police Chief Frank Donchez said.

"It is not a police matter at this point," he said. "You can pretty much paint whatever you want on your own house."

City administrator Craig Malin surveyed the house Friday morning.

"There is a First Amendment issue at work here," he said. "Our legal department has reviewed it and it is legal."

Wisor wants to tear down the house. In June 2009, the Historic Preservation Commission recommended denial of the demolition request and nominated the structure, known as the Peter C. Bruchmann House, for placement on the Davenport Register of Historic Properties, as the city's ordinance requires when it issues a denial. The city council agreed.

Earlier this week, the design review committee of Davenport's Plan and Zone Commission tabled consideration of Wisor's plan for a 2,300-square-foot house until the fate of the 110-year-old house is decided.

Aldermen Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, and Jeff Justin, 6th Ward, both saw the house Thursday night after it was painted. Boom called it "shenanigans," saying he saw some of the men who helped paint the house watching neighbors' reactions after they were done.

"He is basically thumbing his nose at the authority of the city," Boom said. "His demeanor during city meetings has been disrespectful.

"How do you deal with someone who doesn't play by the normal rules?"

Police are investigating an incident in early June when witnesses say contractors hired by Wisor repeatedly slammed a Bobcat into the side of the house. Wisor said it was an accident.

Justin was more measured in his response to the graffiti. He said neighbors want to know what the city can do as far as the house being a nuisance.

"They are wondering what the policies and procedures are for the city ordinances, what Wisor's options are," Justin said. "The main thing, in my opinion, is that the Village merchants are doing well down there and we don't want to tarnish what their work has done.

"I don't see where that adds any value to the discussion," he said of the graffiti. "I don't think he is taking the high road."

Wisor is a Village merchant. He owns the 11th Street Precinct bar and grill.

Kate Goodworth's business, Betty's Wig Boutique, is just down the street from the house. She called the painting "ridiculous."

"It is like a circus today," she said. "I think it is sad that he has sunk to this level."

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