The John Deere House

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About the Deere House  

     In the mid to late 1800's a local grocer named William B. Dawson purchased property from Moline Water Power Company Addition and constructed a modest two story Victorian Cottage for himself and his family.

example of an Victorian Cottage 1800,s

The house sat atop the Bluff overlooking downtown Moline.  It consisted of three lots, including the cottage, barn, outbuildings, carriageway, fruit trees, grapery and select plants.  

Circa 1874 William B. Dawson became heavily in debt, and defaults on the loan.  The property including his newly built two story Italianate home reverts back to Moline Water Power Company.   


     In 1875 John Deere purchased the former Dawson property from the Moline Water Power Company of which his son  Charles was a member of their board.  John Deere paid $620- $675 for the property.  The property consisted of one lot that the home sat on, one lot to the east and one lot to the west.  John Deere commenced rebuilding and transforming the Italianate cottage into his own vision.

     From 1875 to 1880, approximately 5 years, John Deere transforms the modest Dawson home, into a grand high style Victorian Italianate Second Empire home.  The house retained most of its original construction, but Deere added a full addition to the east side of the house which doubled its size to over 7000 sq ft.  Deere added many improvements including, turrets, wrap around porches, library, and conservatory, and a third floor.  John Deere also added many innovative additions to the house.  One of which was a ceramic tile, which was buried and traveled from the basement to the lowest part of Deere's property.  It was used to pass cool air from the lower hillside up into the basement and into the lower floors of the house.  This was an early form of air conditioning.  The second notable addition, was long iron bars, which were added to the corners of the house.  John Deere felt that sitting so high upon the bluff was cause for concern, so the bars were added from top to bottom on the corners of the house and bolted together.  The purpose was to hold the house to the foundation in strong winds.

artists rendition

actual photo

     Notice the changes in the home.  The home faces north, overlooking the City of Moilne, John Deere's factories, and the Mississippi River.  On a clear day you could see 10 miles in every direction.  The property also consisted of grapes vines on the west hillside and a beautiful limestone retaining wall.  To the southwest were outbuildings and barn.  You would enter the property from the north, below and travel up the hill, and enter on the east side of the house.  You could exit the vehicle, entering the sidewalks and walking to the north grand double doors entrance.  For those who did not exit, the vehicle would continue southeast and exit the property through the stone pillared iron gates onto 11th ave.


     Finally in 1880 the home was finished and ready to move in to.  Upon seeing the house, John Deere's daughter Ellen Deere Weber, named it Red Cliff, due to the red tint the dirt had that surrounded the home's hillside.  John and Lucenia moved out of their home that was located on the corner of 18th street and 3rd ave. (Demolished later to make way for the new Post Office)  On August 30th, 1880 H.N. Moore, a reporter from the Rock Island Union was invited to tour and do a story about the home and the grounds.  Read original article. Later that year John and Lucenia host an open house for over one hundred guests who declared the home "a model of architectural skill, adding one more to the many which adorn the bluffs".

     Feb 7th, 1882 the entire office staff from John Deere's factory, walk from the downtown headquarters, up the hill, to Deere's house to wish him a happy 78th birthday.

      May 17th, 1886, after only six years, John Deere dies at Red Cliff and lies in state in the front parlor, where thousands of mourners pass by, and where the family services were conducted before the body was removed to the Congregational Church for public services.  Mourners placed pictures and black curtains in the windows of Moline homes. It was the largest funeral in the history of Moline.

     August, 1888 Lucenia Lamb Deere, widow of John, dies at Red Cliff and lies in state in the front parlor.  She is laid to rest beside her husband in Moline's Riverside Cemetery.

     1889  Alice Deere Cady, youngest daughter of John an Demarius Deere, and husband Merton Yale Cady acquire Red Cliff.  The Cady's move from John Deere's Alderney Hill Farm, where Mr. Cady raised choice Jersey stock, into Red Cliff.  Merton Cady was also a noted local Architect.

     June of 1895, In what some called the social event of the year, John Deere's granddaughter Alice Mabel Deere Cady and Charles Porter Skinner were wed in the house.  The family had the house and the grounds wired for electric lights for the special occasion.

A house was built next door at 1231 11th Ave, for Charles Porter Skinner family. Skinner & Mahon Bicycles 1614 3rd Ave.

     1900 Merton and Alice Deere Cady both die within a month of each other.  Both were laid in state and funerals were held in the front parlor at Red Cliff.

     1901 Alice Mabel Cady Skinner moves into Red Cliff from their house next door at 1231 11th Ave.  Their former home goes to Mabel's brother John Deere Cady.

     Circa 1903 - 1933  During the time the Skinners lived at Red Cliff, they made a number of alterations to both the exterior and interior of the home.  A six foot addition was added to the south side of the home, the exterior facade was covered with stucco, a porte cochere was added to the front north side of house, and Corinthian columns were added to the first floor family room.  The Skinners were reported to have entertained frequently and lavishly at Red Cliff.  In 1903, Charles Skinner was elected Mayor of Moline at age 32, the youngest Mayor to have ever served.  He was a Republican, and was President of Moline Paint Manufacturing Company, and Secretary-Treasurer of the Cady Stone Quarry.  In 1919, he was re elected Mayor, and again in 1921.  He lost the office in 1923.

     1932 Charles Skinner dies at the age of 62.  In 1933 Widow Alice Mabel Cady Skinner sells the property outside the Deere family.



excerpts were taken from other historic articles and accounts

contributions from Barb Sandberg

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