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The days are numbered for the home of the original St. Luke's Hospital in Davenport.

The hospital that has grown into today's Genesis Medical Center had its beginnings in April 1895 in an Italianate-style brick mansion at 8th and Main streets, built before the Civil War, according to research provided by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center-Davenport Public Library.

A few years later — the exact date varies by source — an addition that tripled its size was built to the north, and the building continued as a hospital until 1919 when a new St. Luke's opened near today's location.

When the hospital moved, the building became apartments, most recently 28 units, still used within the past 10 years. Since then, it's been vacant.

The building is expected to be torn down by Palmer College of Chiropractic to eventually make way for new student housing with underground parking. The housing is part of Palmer's ambitious, $50 million-plus plan over the next 10 years that will include athletic fields, closing of streets, building renovations and upgrades.

Walking through the former St. Luke's building today, it's hard to imagine what it looked like when it was a hospital, or a mansion.

As an architectural report prepared for Palmer noted, "It has suffered some significant deterioration due to very limited maintenance during the time it was unoccupied."

Carpet covers the floors, some walls are covered with wood paneling, the ceilings have been lowered with "drop" panels and, here and there, sinks and cupboards are still mounted on the walls.

One spot where you don't have to use your imagination, though, is in what used to be the mansion's foyer. There an Italianate-style walnut staircase rises with graceful curves to the second floor and beyond.

Originally, it continued to the mansion's belvedere, or tower, but that last flight no longer exists, said Jack Haberman, a volunteer with the nonprofit Gateway Redevelopment Group. Gateway is salvaging architectural features of the property, such as the staircase, and fixtures such as claw-foot bathtubs and ornate doorknobs.

"It's just so big," Haberman said of the staircase. "What a wonderful, wonderful place it must have been, especially for the 1850s."

Haberman uses a wood stick to push away some of the drop ceiling panels, revealing a plaster ceiling medallion in what might have been the mansion's dining room. Elsewhere, he moves aside panels near the ornately molded doorways, showing how the original doorway continued several feet higher than the dropped ceiling and included a transom window.

The mansion was built around 1850 as a residence for Daniel and Patience Newcomb, and was one of the few buildings in that section of the city at the time, according to a city architectural survey. From the outside, it resembles the Antoine LeClaire house in east Davenport, also an Italianate-style, also built in the 1850s.

Newcomb, born in New York state and a veteran of the War of 1812, was one of Scott County's earlier settlers, arriving in 1842, according to "History of Scott County," by Harry Downer.

Newcomb apparently saw an opportunity to make money by buying up large tracts of land, and that is what he did. One of his farms was 1,200 acres that in one year produced "the enormous yield of 30,000 bushels of grain," according to Downer.

Newcomb died in 1870s, leaving his wife but no children. Patience Newcomb, Downer wrote, was an active worker during the Civil War and one of the incorporators of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, now the Wittenmyer Center. She also worked for the Presbyterian Church. In 1871, she donated money in memory of her husband for the construction of Newcomb Memorial Chapel at 16th and Fillmore streets, said long-time church member Una Englund.

When the congregation opened in 1950 at its current location at West Central Park Avenue and Division Street, the Newcomb name was retained, Englund said.

The Newcomb mansion became a hospital when it was purchased in 1893 by the Episcopal church and renovated as a joint project of the Episcopal diocese, a group called the Iowa Christian Home Board and several Davenport doctors, according to a document nominating the building for city of Davenport landmark status in 1999.

St. Luke's was originally intended to operate as an emergency facility in the central city to supplement long-term care available at the former Mercy Hospital located on what was then the outskirts of the city, according to the document.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is additionally designated as a city of Davenport landmark.

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