Quarters One opens its doors

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The towered limestone mansion known as Quarters One on Arsenal Island hasn’t been occupied for nearly 10 years and needs updates estimated in the millions, but it is still an eye-popping Quad-City and national treasure.

The exterior of the 1872 home is made of 2-foot thick limestone with a large veranda wrapping around the east and north sides, supported by cast iron grillwork produced at arsenal workshops.

Inside there are Italian marble fireplace mantels, floors made of inlaid walnut, oak, maple and ash, and extensive cornice and ceiling molding made of plaster.

The elaborately decorated doorknobs and door hinges were made in arsenal shops from excess brass recovered from making ammunition and from Confederate munitions.

Built-in walnut furniture includes a writing desk, gun case, bookcase and china buffet, all made by hand on the island.

Then there is the home’s sheer size — nearly 20,000 square feet encompassing about 50 rooms, depending on the criteria for counting. When occupied, it was the largest quarters in the Army and is the second-largest federal residence behind the White House.

Quarters One is listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of a National Landmark designation.

You can see this special place for yourself on Sunday, July 30, when it will be open for guided tours at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. The cost is $10 per person.

And — good news! — for this special event, your can enter the island through any gate and don’t have to check in with the visitors’ center.

The tour is sponsored as a fundraiser for the Colonel Davenport Historical Foundation that maintains the Col. Davenport House, also located on the island.

But members also hope to teach residents and visitors about local history and the growth of the Quad-Cities. “The development of the Rock Island Arsenal is an important part of that history,” Jolene Keeney, president of the Col. Davenport board said.

While Quarters One was long used as the home of the highest ranking officer stationed on the island, that use ended in 2008; Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Robert M. Radin were the last occupants.

In 2011, it was estimated the mansion needed at least $6 million in work, including a new furnace and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and repairs to the windows, porches and roof.

Various funding strategies have been considered, including turning the first floor in to a community center and the upper floors as lodging suites with 22 bedrooms.

At his town hall meeting on June 23 at the iWireless Center in Moline, Maj. Gen. Edward Daly, commanding general of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, said the Army would like to partner with a private entity that will help invest in Quarters One as well as the golf course and club house.

Meantime, the first and second floors are available for rent, and “we keep certain aspects (of the home) in very good shape,” garrison public affairs officer Eric Cramer said.

At present, the home is getting a new boiler, for example.

And about five years ago, the home was outfitted by Ethan Allen with furniture and accessories such as drapes to evoke the period.

Rentals include ghost hunts

Since January, and so far through December, the home has been, or will be, booked for 62 events, Anna Winters, in charge of rentals said. Weddings lead the list with 24, followed by birthdays, bridal showers, photo shoots and graduations.

And paranormal investigations. Various ghost hunter groups, psychics and mediums — even a groups of college students from Cedar Rapids — have come down to check out the mansion, Winters said.

Hot spots include the second floor women servants’ bedrooms, various areas on the third floor that are mostly vacant and always have been, and the basement that was used for food preparation, including a meat locker.

“Everybody has a story,” Winters said. “Me, personally, I’ve never had a spook.”

Visitors on the July 30 tour won’t see everything that was in the home during  Radin’s day. A marble-topped walnut sideboard with hand-carved fish and game decorations on the doors has been moved from the dining room to another quarters. You can see the outline on the floor of where it stood.

In one of two parlors, a fireplace screen with the Arsenal logo on the front also has been moved to another home.

And the walnut headboard with burl inlays known as the Lindbergh bed because aviator Charles Lindbergh slept in it when he visited the Quad-Cities in 1927 has been moved to the Rock Isl