West Third Street Historic District: The German Enclave of Davenport, Iowa

real estate  /   /  By Tracy

Iowa is known as an agricultural state. Here farmers build their lives around the seasons and planting of crops. Immigrants from all over the world have settled here to build lives centered on these links to the earth. One such district within Davenport celebrates the German immigrant and their influence within the area. Known as the West Third Street Historical District, it captures both the history of the area while embracing the future of this vibrant city.

Davenport is known for its ties to Germany through its large German American population

The migration of Germans to Iowa began in the 1840s. One of the city’s founders, Antoine LeClaire, was instrumental in the creation of Washington Square. This city block became the center of German culture by the 1850s. Housing for new German immigrants was located on the square. It was also the home to beer gardens, festivals celebrating German life and culture, as well as home to the Lady of Germania statue. The statue was meant to remind the residents of their ties to the German homeland. Throughout this area of Davenport, there was a working class environment focused on the families of these immigrants. The community that developed brought the culture of their homeland to the new world.

Davenport

Davenport

Schools were created by German “free thinkers” that were meant to be a protest of the parochial school system, reflecting their anti-clerical belief system. These schools operated for over 35 years, promoting a secular viewpoint that separated German culture and heritage from religious ties. Of course, there were also those immigrants who embraced religion and education, so parochial schools were also brought into existence throughout the district.

During the two World Wars, there was a definite move toward anti-German sentiment, so the neighborhood suffered some decline. Yet the overall German culture remains in the Centennial Park, where a statue similar to the original Lady of Germania from the original square. The park itself was created in 2006 at the foot of Centennial Bridge.

The square was also home to many local shops and residences. The homes were often found in the floors above the shops. Business owners would live above their businesses or would rent them out for additional income. This neighborhood serves as a connection between the central business district and the West End. As a result, this district remains a working class neighborhood, despite the intervening decades.

There are many varieties of buildings within the neighborhood. Some of the types of buildings are tenements, row houses, double houses, as well as apartment buildings. The architecture of the buildings reflects a side gabled look with an extended saltbox extensions. In the more commercial sections, there are the beautifully ornate storefront reflecting the period architecture. Overtime, the neighborhood has continued to reflect its working class roots, while maintaining a connection with its immigrant past. Modern day Davenport is a family oriented community that continues to thrive with a focus on roots that give the area its wings.

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