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732 Gaines Street Davenport IA 52802

Lost causes rediscovered in Gold Coast

By Alma Gaul | Sunday, August 27, 2006

Two weeks ago I wrote a story in this space about a lost-cause house at 822 Gaines St. that is coming back to life thanks to a city of Davenport rehab program and dedicated people who want to make their historic Gold Coast neighborhood a better place.

Jack Haberman is one of those people. Haberman is a retired IBM engineer who is married to Marion Meginnis, president and general manager of WQAD-TV. They could afford to live anywhere, but they have chosen Davenport’s Gold Coast because they love big old homes, and they apparently love making a difference.

The Gaines Street house is being rehabbed by the nonprofit Gateway Redevelopment Group, of which Haberman is president, and as he showed off the work-in-progress, he ticked off other positives happening in the neighborhood.

 Dennis and Pam LaRoque, who own the Beiderbecke Inn, are working with Churches United of the Quad-Cities to replace a food pantry operated by John Lewis Community Services that closed in July. That pantry served about 350 families and although the new one won’t be that big initially, it’s a start.

“There’s so much need out there,” says Pam LaRoque, whose inn once belonged to jazz great Bix Beiderbecke’s grandfather. “And the way the economy is going with gas and utilities, it’s only going to get worse. People sitting in government offices just don’t have a clue. That’s when grassroots people need to step up and say, ‘We’re going to do what we can in our own little area.’”

 The Jipp house, an 1868 former grocery store at 732 Gaines St., has a roof and floor for the first time in years. This is a building the Gateway group hopes to turn into an architectural salvage shop.

The group has spent about $85,000 so far, but needs about $12,000 more to finish. Still, much progress has been made, and there already is a lot of beautiful salvage inside, including stair railings, tin ceilings, oak flooring and doors.

 The twin-towered Edward Mueller mansion at 429 W. 6th St. – heavily damaged by fire in 2003 – has been purchased by a new owner, alleviating fears that it would fall to ruin.

 Haberman and Meginnis have made a new purchase, too – the landmark Henry Lischer House at 624 W. 6th that most recently was vacant and boarded up.

I wrote about this property about 10 years ago when I first started with Home & Garden. At that time the owner was receiving a preservation award, but as often happens, there are steps forward and steps backward.

The Lischer house, named for a newspaper publisher, is ready to step forward again. About a month ago, Haberman had to go through the home with six keys – one for each of the home’s six apartments. But the walls that defined these spaces are gone now, and the plaster molding, beveled glass and fine woodwork of the former lumber baron’s home are once again starting to shine.

 And Haberman is quick with examples of other neighbors who make a difference: Allen and Susan Hayes care for elderly people in a beautiful Italianate home on Brown Street. PJ Slobojan plants flowers and paints houses. Cristina Bucksbaum has spearheaded a spay/neuter program for feral cats. Bud Berg and Rich Scherbarth have restored a shuttered house on 9th Street. And people like John Dodd, Danny Russo and Steve Andrews have persevered in the neighborhood for decades.

“Things are happening all over the place,” Haberman says of the Gold Coast. “We don’t do things quickly, but we’re going to get them done.”

And that is good news for all.

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or agaul@qctimes.com.



Gateway Redevelopment Group, Davenport, Iowa