The historic streetcar pavilion at Davenport’s Schuetzen Park Historic Site is one of 12 structures named this week to the 2011 “Most Endangered Properties” list by Preservation Iowa, a nonprofit group that encourages preservation efforts.
The pavilion was nominated by Kory Darnall, the president of the nonprofit Schuetzen Park Gilde, which has been working since 1995 to restore the old German park off Waverly Road next to the Good Samaritan Society nursing home/apartment complex.
Darnall’s hope is that publicity will generate excitement about — and monetary support for — fixing the pavilion that will be 100 years old this year. It is the only remaining original structure of Schuetzen Park, a roughly 25-acre site that was privately owned and operated from 1870 to 1923 by a German target shooting society. In 1998, the pavilion was designated a city landmark by the Davenport City Council.
But today, the 21-by-15-foot concrete structure is crumbling and needs a total restoration, estimated to cost about $80,000, according to a bid from E&H Restoration of Davenport.
The work would include replacing the top layer of the two-layer roof and the floor, restoring spalled areas, repairing cracks and joints, and cleaning, painting and sealing.
Last year, the Gilde applied for grants from both of the Iowa Quad-City riverboat gambling authorities and a Good Samaritan foundation, but it was turned down, Darnall said.
“We can’t let this building fall down,” he said. If the entire project amount cannot be raised, the Gilde will “work on (the building) piece by piece from the roof down” in smaller increments, he said. The roof, for example, might cost about $25,000. The Gilde has about $3,000 in its coffers.
The pavilion was chosen for the “endangered” list by Preservation Iowa because it “tells a story about Iowa,” said Sheriffa Jones, one of the judges. It speaks to Davenport’s German heritage, early transportation and architecture.
Roughly 20 acres around the pavilion are owned by the Gilde, which has been buying parcels to re-create the park, but the exact spot of the pavilion is still owned by Good Samaritan. However, as a nonprofit society, it has no money to put toward the restoration, said Cyndi Dague, who works in community relations.
About 10 years ago, the Gilde raised $12,000, largely from grants, to do some restoration work, including a new layer of concrete for the roof, a light sandblasting and painting, but that did not address all of the issues, and deterioration has continued since then, Darnall said.
The pavilion was the waiting station for people riding the trolley to and from the park. It survived because it was in an out-of-the-way location that no one wanted for anything else, and it is made of concrete, which makes it less susceptible to deterioration than wood, Darnall said.
When the Gilde began working on park restoration, the pavilion was surrounded by overgrown vegetation. The inside was filled with debris, trees were growing on the roof, a pickup truck was smashed into one side and satanic symbols were painted on the walls, Darnall said.
The original park contained a shooting gallery, music pavilion, dance hall, bowling alley, roller coaster, picnic grounds and a zoo.
Several factors led to its demise, including anti-German sentiment during World War I, Prohibition, economic depression and declining interest among young German-Americans. In 1923, the grounds and buildings were sold to the Chiropractic Psychopathic Sanitarium, and the buildings were torn down. Eventually, Good Samaritan and private individuals bought the land.