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732 Gaines Street Davenport, IA 52802

Uniting community resources of volunteer service, professional expertise, and financial assets to save abandoned buildings in our neighborhood.

The Lambrite-Iles-Petersen House

510 West Sixth Street, Davenport, Iowa 

Written by David Cordes December 2014


The Lambrite-Iles-Peterson House is one of the most architecturally and historically significant residential structures in the Gold Coast – Hamburg Historic District and the entire city of Davenport.  Constructed ca. 1857 at 510 W. Sixth Street, it is among the earliest and most unique examples of Italian Villa style architecture in Iowa.  Over the course of this city’s history, it has been the home of many prominent members of the community.  Designed by John C. Cochrane, a young and talented Davenport architect who went on to become one of the most prominent 19th century Chicago architects during the time of his practice there, the Lambrite House’s history, pedigree, and beauty embody the early history of Davenport.


The Italian Villa style began to gain some popularity just before the Civil War but it was not until the end of the war that the style came to the forefront and was considered the most picturesque prestigious house style of the upper middle class.  Most examples of the style date to the late 1860s and 1870s and while there are a few examples of the style that were built in the 1850s, they are quite rare.  In Iowa, the earliest examples of the style are the Birdwood Estate, constructed in Keokuk in 1855, the Lambrite house constructed in 1857, and the William P. Brazelton house, constructed in Mt. Pleasant in 1858.  Although this is not a complete survey of all examples of the style in Iowa, it suffices to say that the Lambrite house is both a very early and very elaborate example of this style.  It is the first example of this style in the city of Davenport and quite likely, the second example in the entire state of Iowa.  The Morse – Libby house, constructed 1858-1860 in Portland, Maine, is regarded as the most important example of the Italian Villa style in the nation and it features many of the fine decorative details as well as the same general form as the Lambrite house. 


 A new architect arrived in Davenport early in 1856; he hung a sign over his door that read, "J. C. Cochrane, architect."   His success was remarkable, for in spite of his young age of twenty-two, he obtained quite an extensive practice, far more than any other architect in the place, even those who had been located there for many years. In fact he was the architect for the most important buildings. The Burtis House, Metropolitan Hall, St. Luke's Church, Joseph Lambrite’s residence, Willard Barrow’s residence, and other buildings were erected from his designs.  Of these early buildings, only the Lambrite Residence remains.  Due to stagnation in building with the panic of 1857, in 1858 Cochrane moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he established an office, and soon found that he was doing considerable business.  With the onset of the civil war, he went back to his boyhood home in New Hampshire.  In 1864 Mr. Cochrane went to Chicago, determined to devote all his energies to his profession, and to build for himself a name as a leading architect. He had not long to wait for employment. In 1865 the legislature of Illinois authorized the building of the State House at Springfield. The commissioners advertised for plans, and Mr. Cochrane was one of the twenty competitors. His plans were accepted by a vote of fifteen to three on the first ballot, - a great victory for so young a man, and with no other recommendation than the excellence of his work.  Cochrane became one of the most important architects in Chicago during the time that he practiced.  He designed many buildings in that city too numerous to list plus many buildings throughout the Midwestern region, including the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, the Scott County Courthouse and thirteen other court houses in Iowa, the Renwick Mansion and the Davies Mansion in Davenport.  At age 54, Cochrane’s career was cut short with his untimely death in 1887.


 Joseph Lambrite came to Davenport in 1851 and became a partner with Strong Burnell and S. S. Gillett in a saw mill operation that was located on the river front between Scott and Ripley Streets.  This was the largest sawmill in Davenport at the very beginning of Davenport’s lumber milling era that brought great growth and prosperity to the city.  But, due to the financial panic that occurred in late 1857, the mill failed in 1858 and closed.  After several years it reopened and eventually became the known as Schricker and Mueller Lumber Co.  Lambrite lost most of his fortune in this unfortunate financial collapse, listing his net worth as $100 personal property and no real estate owned in the 1860 federal census.  At this time, the Lambrite house changed hands several times, but soon was purchased by Thomas Iles, M.D., the chief surgeon of the Confederate Prison Camp located on Rock Island.  After the war, Iles was a prominent physician and surgeon in Davenport until he retired.  In 1885, the aging Iles sold the home to John H. C. Petersen, who operated the largest department store in Davenport.  Petersen retired in 1889 but lived on in the home until his death in 1910.  The Petersen family retained ownership of the home for 10 years after Petersen’s death, selling the home in 1920 to Joseph Schick who added the craftsman style porches and built the craftsman style bungalow in the west lawn in 1925.


 Despite its current state of disrepair and neglect, the Lambrite-Iles-Petersen house is still restorable.  But with broken windows, holes in walls and rotting roofs, time is running out.  In a short time, the house will be beyond repair.  It is important to act now or this historical and architectural treasure will forever be lost.

Gateway Redevelopment Group, Davenport, Iowa