In January, Ryan Rusnak, a community planner for the city of Davenport, filed an application with Preservation Iowa to place one of Davenport’s most historic homes on the state’s most endangered properties list.
After nearly a year of waiting, Rusnak received confirmation this past week that the Lambrite-Iles Peterson House at 510 W. 6th St. is officially on that list.
“The state recognizes that it’s an important structure, and that it’s threatened,” he said.
Rusnak filed the application with Preservation Iowa to have the house listed on behalf of the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission.
The City Council declared the home a "local landmark" in July 2012. City officials had deemed the house uninhabitable in 2010.
The designation as a most endangered property, Rusnak said, “is really just a tool to raise awareness that one of the state’s most historic homes is in danger of being lost. It’s one of the most historic properties in Davenport, and it’s threatened.”
The house has been owned by Gordon Muller since 1981. The city boarded up the house last year to help stabilize it. No utilities are connected to the home. Muller could not be reached for comment for this article.
Before he purchased the property outright, Muller owned the home along with Dean Christensen of Rock Island. The two took the house, whose rooms had been turned into apartments, and made it a single-family home once again as well as restored much of house to its original glory.
The house is located in Davenport’s 3rd Ward, where Alderman Bill Boom wants something done to save it.
“I keep trying to get legal out in front of it and it peters out,” a frustrated Boom said. “I’m in favor of taking it by eminent domain. We have a group of people who have money that would be willing to buy it, fix it up and possibly live there."
While the property belongs to Muller and he has certain rights as the owner, Boom said, “I feel it’s an abandoned property.”
He added that the home’s condition is hurting property values in the Gold Coast neighborhood/Hamburg Historic District in which it is located.
“It would be a real tragedy if we lose that house.”
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba agrees with Boom that the home appears to be abandoned, although all taxes on the property have been paid.
“I think it’s abandoned, but you just can’t go in and take someone’s property without good cause,” Gluba said. “The ironic thing is, I was the real estate agent who brokered the deal that allowed Gordon (Muller) and Dean (Christensen) to buy that home.
“It’s sad to see the house in such a sad condition,” the mayor added. “It used to be such a showplace.”
In its current condition, he said, the house “is becoming a neighborhood nuisance. I’ve asked the city attorney to see what legal authority we have to get it back. This could end up in court, but that house is high our priority list.”
The Lambrite-Iles Peterson House is a one-of-a-kind Italian villa-style home. According to information on the Gold Coast and Hamburg Historic District website, the house was built about 1857 by Joseph Lambrite, a lumber mill owner. It was designed by John C. Cochrane, who was the architect of the Illinois and Iowa state capitol buildings.
It was purchased by Thomas Iles, a physician who cared for Confederate prisoners being held on Arsenal Island during the Civil War.
John H. Petersen of area department store fame owned the house after Iles.
Over the years, the house went through a number of owners and transformations before Muller and Christensen bought it.
One of the area’s neighborhood organizations, the Gateway Redevelopment Group, has established a “Friends of 510” loan pledge fund to pay for documenting, stabilizing and marketing the house. To date, the fund stands at $38,120 pledged by 60 people and the Gateway Redevelopment Group, according to the organization’s website.
The organization sent Gluba a letter of its intentions in October, outlining all it is willing to do to help save the property.
Christensen said he is sad to see what has become of the home.
“I have so many wonderful memories from that home,” he said. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind. When it’s gone, there’s no re-creating it.”
Just the pure walnut staircase would cost a fortune, he said. That plus all the other wood, plaster and artwork in the home would make it practically too costly to rebuild from scratch.
“There are similar Italianate homes,” he added. “But there’s no way on God’s earth you could afford to rebuild that house from the ground up.
“It would be a real tragedy if we lost that house.”