Gold Coast & Hamburg Historic District: Davenport, Iowa
Spectacular vistas, superb architecture, and active residents distinguish the Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District, among Iowa's oldest residential neighborhoods. Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River afford unsurpassed views of the water, Davenport's downtown, and the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. Lining the neighborhood's streets are some of the city's largest and most opulent houses, built between 1840 and 1910 by prominent citizens, many of them German.
Bounded by West 5th Street to the south, West 9 1/2 Street to the north, Vine Street to the west and Ripley Street to the east.
Gold Coast-Hamburg residents, among the city's most active, have earned a reputation for volunteerism and leadership. Their collective donation of thousands of volunteer hours, which led to the rescue of dozens of historic buildings, contributed to the area's selection for development of Davenport's first neighborhood plan.
Comprising 1,060 acres, the Hamburg Historic District went through a long period of disinvestment in the mid-20th century. As the cost of maintaining large homes increased and the popularity of city living declined, houses were converted to multi-unit rentals. Urban pioneers gravitated to the district in the 1980s when the neighborhood began a period of recovery. In 1983, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
It was at this time that many rental houses were restored to their original single-family grandeur through grassroots efforts and local incentives. Although some of the historic houses have been lost, nonprofits, individuals, and the city have worked to preserve the streetscape by limiting demolitions, funding renovations and landscaping vacant lots.
Recognizing that reuse is a cornerstone of smart growth, residents have diverted tons of materials from landfills. A recently rehabbed store serves as an architectural salvage shop. Sustainability drives choices, such as the recent decision to use energy-efficient, period lighting along Gaines Street, a main thoroughfare linking downtown and St. Ambrose University.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Many architectural styles includeing Greek Revival, New Orleans French Quarter cottage, Italianate, Second Empire, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, American Foursquare
- Palatial homes incorporate high-end amenities such as towers, turrets, wraparound porches, porticoes; several structures recognized as local and national landmarks
- Numerous vernacular houses incorporating Greek Revival and Italianate features — exclusive to Davenport — built by prolific builder and contractor Thomas McClelland
Planning and Preservation
- Street names grounded in past; those running north-south bear the names of prominent local military figures from the early 1800s
- City's comprehensive historic survey (1978-1983) of neighborhoods, districts, and architecture led to National Register listing of 25-square block Hamburg Historic District (1983). Residents successfully petitioned for local historic district status for smaller, 13 block area (1999)
- Davenport's Design Center published Hamburg Historic District Pattern Book to guide new construction and renovation (2007)
- Local neighborhood association effectively lobbied for neighborhood downzoning (1993), eliminating modification of single-family homes to multi-family use
- City funded three programs — grants, tax credits, low-interest mortgages — to increase affordability and feasibility of restoring historic homes
- Neighborhood association endorsed pending amendment to historic preservation ordinance clarifying demolition requirements (2011)
- Strong interest and involvement in planning issues led city to target neighborhood and surrounding environs for development of first sub-area plan (2010)
Committed residents and organizations
- Sense of community pervades mixed-income neighborhood; residents come together for cook-outs, ice cream socials, beautification activities, other events
- Volunteers maintain and improve Gold Coast Park and rehab district structures; 3,000-plus volunteer hours logged in restoration of Christian Jipp Home & Grocery
- Gold Coast and Hamburg Historic District Association (1988) sponsors annual summer garden tour, fall home tour (110 structures), winter high tea; funds used for neighborhood beautification
- Edmund Gaines Group, established in 2006, beautifies Gaines Street, plants flower beds, installs energy-efficient LED lighting
- Gateway Redevelopment Group, established in 2004, reclaimed abandoned historic structures and renovated two buildings; both received Preservation Iowa awards. Group holds workshops on financing options for historic property restoration; markets neighborhood
- To enhance enjoyment and improve accessibility of bluffs, neighborhood association installed decorative lighting, faux limestone entry, period railing, wrought-iron arch, park bench, and educational kiosk at city-owned Western Avenue steps
- Within walking distance of downtown shops, businesses, government services
- Citibus route 22 runs along Gaines Street, connecting district to downtown and outlying areas
- Restorations keep tons of debris out of landfills — estimated 150 tons alone in the renovation of Jipp property; to encourage reuse, Jipp store opens as architectural salvage shop