The Hamburg Historic District [†] contains the largest concentration of historically significant houses in Davenport and displays some of the most outstanding examples of 19th century architectural styles in the city. In addition, the district represents the geographical location of the middle and upper income German settlement of the late 19th and early 20th century. The large German population had a dominating influence on 19th century Davenport, and Hamburg was the home of many prominent German business and political leaders.
As one of the early extensions to the original city plat, this northwest area of town contains excellent examples of the first permanent dwellings of the German immigrants: small vernacular one-story cottages, symmetrical Greek Revival houses and the popular 2-story, 3-bay front gable form. Throughout the district are outstanding Victorian dwellings styled in the Gothic, Second Empire, Italianate and Queen Anne, as well as examples of early 20th century Georgian Revival and Craftsman style houses. Supported by more common 19th and early 20th century house forms and by a handful of compatible modern dwellings, the district has maintained its architectural integrity throughout the 20th century.
Architects designing in Hamburg included Frederick George Clausen (414, 624 W. 6th & 817 W. 7th), Gustav A. Hanssen (709 Brown), Benjamin F. Aufderhiede (703 Ripley, 525 W. 7th), Deidrich J. Harfst (424 W. 7th), and Thomas McClelland (630 W. 5th, 530 Western).
Davenport Germans were a solid community geographically. Harrison Street formed the boundary between the Germans on the west and non-Germans on the east, while the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad tracks along 5th Street divided the middle and upper income Germans on the north from the lower income Germans in the "west end" south of the tracks. German immigration to Davenport began in 1848 and by 1858 nearly 3,000 Germans had settled in Davenport. This figure represented about 20% of the city's population. German immigration continued strong in Davenport through the 1880 f s and by the 1890 f s the city acquired a reputation as a German town—politically, socially and culturally. After World War I, however, in light of the xenophobic reaction of non-Germans, the German community as a single entity lost much of its dominating influence. In addition, Davenport's 2nd and 3rd generation descendants did not have the same language and cultural reinforcement of the immigrants and thus the homogeneity of "Hamburg" never returned.
Prominent German residents of the Hamburg Historic District include Henry Lischer (624 W. 6th), owner-publisher of the German language newspaper, Per Demokrat; August E. Steffen, Sr. (420 W. 6th), founder of the prominent Steffens Dry Goods Store and his son August Steffen/, Jr. (412 W. 6th), his successor; Henry Frahm (321 W. 6th), owner of one of Davenport's most successful breweries; Hans Reimer Clausen (413 W. 6th (possibly an earlier structure at this address), a state senator in the 1870's and Davenport's most outspoken German-American leader; E. C. Mueller (413 & 429 W. 6th) and Wm. L. Mueller (413 W. 6th), owners of one of the major lumber milling companies; H. H. Andressen (726 W. 6th), the founder of the German Savings Bank; Henry Koehler (817 W. 7th), partner in the Koehler & Lange Arsenal Brewery; Carl Beiderbecke (532 W. 7th), the city's most important wholesale grocery jobbers; F. Max D. Peterson (629 Brown), a partner in the major dry goods department store, J. H. C. Petersen & Sons; and William H. Weise (709 Brown), a prominent manufacturer and financier in Davenport at the turn of the century. These neighbors shared common roots from the German states of Schleswig and Holstein. In addition, they shared numerous family relationships through the intermarriage of sons and daughters of the first generation settlers.
The only institutional buildings in the Hamburg District with historical significance were the German Methodist Episcopal Church (c. 1860) at 830 W. 6th Street, and the first Iowa College building (1848) at 517 W. 7th Street. The latter was modified in the late 19th century for residential use.
Together, the historical associations of these residential and institutional structures make the Hamburg District an unusually good collection of buildings significant in Davenport's 19th century German-American community.
† Adapted from: Davenport Community Development Department, Hamburg Historic District, 1983, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C., accessed March 2022.
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