The John Deere House

  • Historical
  • Restoration
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Theater on the Cliff
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    About the house


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    Moline Historic Preservation Commision

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    Rock Island County Historical Society

    Circa 1870: A modest two-story house is built at 12th Street and 11th Avenue for William B. Dawson, a Moline grocer.

    1874-75: The grocer defaults, and John Deere, who is living in a house down the hill where the former post office now sits, buys the house and three lots.

    1875-1880: Deere spends five years renovating and adding onto the house before occupying it himself in 1880. Additions more than double the house size and include porches, turrets, iron cresting, window bays, a corner office from which Deere could see his factories and a grand walnut staircase. The second floor contains bedrooms, and the third floor is the ballroom and servants quarters. The changes give the 8,000-square-foot home a Second Empire architectural style. Deere calls the home Red Cliff.

    1886: Deere dies in the house at the age of 82 after living there for six years. He lies in state in the front parlor, where thousands of mourners stream by to pay their respects. Deere's funeral was the largest in the history of Moline.

    1886-88: Deere's widow, Lucenia, lives there until her death.

    1889-1933: The home remains in the Deere family until 1933, when it is sold to a banker.

    1936: The banker sells the home to an interior decorator who divides it into 11 apartments.

    1930s-1988: The home changes hands a number of times and then, due to a default on a loan, falls to the Resolution Trust Corp., the government agency created to handle the many failed savings and loan institutions of the 1980s. Historic preservationist Barbara Sandberg works to convince the city to acquire it from the agency in hopes of finding a buyer to restore the structure. By then, the building has 16 efficiency apartments and is in serious disrepair, nearly invisible from the street because of all the overgrowth on the grounds.

    1993: Moline uses $40,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to buy the property. No city tax dollars go toward the purchase, Sandberg points out.

    1996: After three years of trying to market the property, the house is sold for $100 to Roger and Cheryle Colmark of Sterling, Ill., with the understanding that restoration will be completed by 2000. City employees showed the property more than 70 times in three years, resulting in only five serious bids. "If Roger (Colmark) hadn't come along at the ninth hour, it very likely would have been demolished," Sandberg said.

    1996-2003: Restoration begins and much work is accomplished, including a new roof, foundation, floor joists, cedar siding, decorative trim, period windows, a small addition to return the house to its original rectangular shape, a geothermal heating and cooling system, an elevator to make the home handicapped-accessible (a $23,000 item by itself), a sprinkler system, and new plumbing and electrical systems. Through the years, the city grants numerous deadline extensions, but work stops in September 2003.

    2005: The city files a lawsuit against Colmark, saying he failed to fulfill the contract to complete renovations by certain deadlines. The suit asks the court to require him to meet the terms of the contract or return the title for the property to the city.

    January 2008: After consulting with attorneys on both sides, Mayor Don Welvaert arranges a one-on-one meeting with Colmark to see whether he can get the project moving again.

    Sept. 2, 2008: Work resumes with high hopes, but it soon sputters.

    June 2009: Sauk Valley Bank of Sterling forecloses on Colmark.

    January 2010: Sauk Valley buys back the mortgage.


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