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School, grounds have storied past

School, grounds have storied past

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You would be hard-pressed to find another school anywhere in the Quad-Cities that has been the object of as much dedication for so long as the former Marquette Academy at 6th and Marquette streets, Davenport.

Sold in May to a relatively new Christian group called One Eighty, the building and other buildings on the grounds have been a place of education for more than 150 years, since before the American Civil War.

The current brick building was erected between 1911 and 1913 as the parish school of St. Joseph's Catholic Church. In 1969, it was merged with the school of the nearby St. Mary's Catholic Church and became known as Holy Trinity.

In 1999, the Diocese of Davenport merged the parishes of St. Joseph and St. Mary's and announced it was closing Holy Trinity because the building required costly repairs that, considering the diocese's overall needs, it could not afford.

A core group of supporters, passionate about the school's mission as a "beacon of hope" in the inner-city neighborhood, rallied to keep it open.

The diocese eventually sold the school — along with the church, rectory and convent — to a private, nonprofit group called HTMS Inc., for Holy Trinity Mission School.

In March 2002, the name changed to Marquette Academy.

For years, the organization struggled to remain true to its mission and keep the school open, relying solely on donations and grants. Fundraisers were held, and there were direct-appeal mailings.

A leading force was Joseph Seng, an Iowa legislator and Davenport veterinarian, who was the last president of the HTMS board.

In May 2013, Marquette officially closed its doors. At the time, it had an enrollment of about 40 students in its K-5 program. The building was leased briefly to Casa Guanajuato Quad-Cities, a nonprofit organization to provide Spanish-speaking children with preschool services.

The church most recently was owned by Grace Fellowship Church, which vacated this summer and now is headquartered at the former Club Mokan, on Davenport's West Kimberly Road.

Following is an abbreviated timeline of the property, according to research by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library.

1854: West-end German immigrants buy two lots.

1856: A stone church called St. Kunigunde is completed, the second Catholic church in the city and the 10th overall. It is not the church with the soaring Gothic spire that today stands on the corner of 6th and Marquette. Rather, it is the now-stucco-covered building to the north that, through the years, was used as a school and finally a rectory, or the priest's residence. It now is used as One Eighty's residential housing.

1870s: A rectory (home for priests) is built on the property. In the 1920s, the building becomes a convent for the religious sisters teaching in the school. It now is used as One Eighty's stability housing.

1881: Construction begins on the spired church, and it is dedicated in 1883. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a city landmark.

1911-1913: The present-day school is erected.

1999: St. Joseph's Church is closed by the diocese, and the building is deconsecrated.

1999: The diocese also announces closing of the school, but it remains open until 2013 through the efforts of a private, nonprofit group. (See above.)

2007: The church, rectory and convent are purchased by a newly formed nondenominational Christian church called Legacy Church.

Mid-2009: Following a change in leadership, the church's name changes to Grace Fellowship Church. Grace remains in the building until its last service on June 26. During those years, congregation families live in the former convent and rectory.

Grace has now re-established itself at the former Club Mokan, 4227 W. Kimberly Road, Pastor Mike Reid said. With about 90 members, the former St. Joseph Church "was awfully large for us," Reid said. The new space is a better fit and allows for future expansion, he said.

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