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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.

Moving 718 Ripley


Sometime in 2009 the city ended up being the owner of 718 Ripley. They were in “first position” when the homeowner walked away from the property. The city got there because it had done some repairs in the past and there was money still owed on the property when the house was abandoned.

Jack and I approached the city crew touring the house soon after the for sale sign went up. We showed them the lot we owned on 8th St., and offered to donate it to them if they would consider moving the house. We talked to them about the problems with flooding in the basement due to its location at the foot of 8th St. alley.  Also we felt that with the tiny lot size (no place to put a garage or even have a yard for kids or a dog) it would inevitably become a rental.

We didn’t hear anything more about this until late in August 2010, when we learned that the city had some stimulus funding and were planning to rehab the house on its existing lot, and was nearing a deadline by which time the money had to be allocated and approved by city council.  There had been no communication with the neighborhood about these plans and there was very little time to react.

We again approached the city with our concerns about the rehab at that location and also alerted the neighborhood to what was happening.

At that point, the GGHHDA held a formal vote at its quaterly meeting to advocate for the move. We were very fortunate that this meeting was being held right at this time. And there were residents at that meeting that said they would rather see the house come down than be rehabbed on the bad location.

This whole affair really hung on timing. The city was near the deadline for using these funds, and there wasn’t time for other new projects to be put in the pipeline. There was some extra funding beyond what was originally designated for this particular rehab. Without the funding that HAD to be spent, I don’t think there would have been a happy ending.

In September, the city council voted to approve the funding for the move and rehab.  The work was bid out. There were problems with the original contractor; although the foundation was completed; the house was not moved in December as originally scheduled. That was delayed to March. The city now says it believes that rehab will be completed sometime in 2012.  

718 Ripley, with a structural footprint of 31’ x 31’, sits on an undersized lot measuring 40’ x 50’. This lot is located adjacent to the alley that runs between 7th & 8th Streets, and the house sits right on the alley/lot line.

 718 Ripley: History

Some years ago, this house and the one to the north facing 8th Street, had the same owner. 718 was a rental property for the house to the north at 401 W. 8th.  This is supported historically by the 1910 Sanborn map, which shows both properties on the same lot. 718 was sold off about twenty years ago, resulting in today’s lot size.

 There is evidence that suggests the house was not built on the lot, but was moved there.

 Moving homes has quite a long tradition in our neighborhood.  Construction of the large homes today known as “Overview”, “The Castle” and “The Alamo,” which are located east and west of Ripley at the top of the hill at the 6th Street alley, took place between 1900 and 1908.  A number of existing homes were displaced by this construction. One very large home now located at 703 Ripley was moved and we have photographic and written records of this move.

 While we have no such definitive proof for 718, we do know that the only structure in that location on the 1886 Sanborn map was a small shed connected to the dwelling at 401 W. 8th Street.  A review of Davenport city directories first reveals a dwelling at 718 Ripley in 1906/07.  No directory exists for 1904/05.  In the next available directory, 1902/03, there is no such address, nor is it listed in earlier books. We believe it quite unlikely that a home the size of 718 would have been constructed on its present site, so close to the lot line and that, instead, it was one of the homes displaced by the mansion construction a block away.  

 Other Issues at Current Location

In addition to its very small lot, 718 also sits at the base of this very steep alley, quite literally at the bottom of a hill. The alley’s low point is at Ripley; its high point is Western Street to the west. The home’s basement is subject to flooding during heavy rainstorms, per its former occupant and nearby neighbors who loaned her a sump pump to remove the water.

 While suffered from deterioration and poor maintenance inside and out, the home is essentially sound. The roof is solid and has protected the interior. The home retains many of its original features, including wood siding and windows, keeping its historical façade intact.

 Resident Input

The neighbors have formally expressed their concerns to city staff in writing and in person through their Association, the Gold Coast & Hamburg Historic District Association. 

What neighbors support is moving the home to a vacant lot on nearby 8th Street. In fact, it is the only vacant lot on the south side of the street between Western and Ripley.  The two homes that occupied the space appeared to have been demolished about 1987 and 1996. The large 80’ x 150’ lot is just steps away from the home’s current location and reaches from 8th Street all the way back to the alley.  The lot will be donated by its owners who live in the neighborhood.

 They do not believe that rehab of the home at its current location will solve its issues long term. It is a very unattractive, even dangerous location for any family with small children or even pets.  It requires the owner to decide if he or she will use some of the small space on the lot to park the family car or park it on the street. There is no garage option.  Its homeowner is forced to place garbage very close to the house. Despite Davenport’s excellent weekly service, a trash receptacle this close to any home is less than ideal.  The neighbors fear that the lot size and location on the alley will condemn the home to a perpetual cycle of neglect, abandonment, and the need for more rehab in the future or, even worse, loss of the home altogether.

 The neighborhood is especially sensitive to the likelihood of the property to evolve into yet another rental.   We know that the city’s Weed & Seed area in which the Hamburg District is located is 60% rental. While the Hamburg is fortunate in that many of its rentals are owned by neighborhood residents and thus more closely watched and generally better maintained than those with absent owners, we are also aware that we must continue to advocate for as many structures as possible to be returned to single family ownership as originally designed.

 For many years, our district has been blessed with residents who have made considerable private investment in neighborhood homes. These are people who individually decided that the legacy and historic character of the area was worth saving.  This investment frequently flew in the face of the conventional wisdom, lending practices, or governmental initiatives of the day.  In other words, a lot of private dollars went into saving the Gold Coast. Now there is a renewed focus on bringing people back downtown, and Davenport is fortunate to have a viable adjacent neighborhood, saved mostly by its residents, to complement its new urban focus. We also applaud city initiatives like HAPPEN and 100 Homes that are assisting us in our continued rehabilitation efforts.

 Every remaining home on the District is precious and our goal is to save as many as possible. Overall the area encompassed within the Hamburg Historic District (5th to 9th, Ripley to Vine) has lost 20% of its structures over the past 25 years—this,  despite creation of National and Local historic districts. It is critical that we continue to save as many salvageable buildings as possible.  Restoring our streetscape is another long term goal. Sadly, the only structure erected in the neighborhood in the last 20 years is an inappropriately designed duplex.  So moving the home provides a great chance to save a structure in an appropriate setting and restore the south side of 8th Street. In contrast, on the north side of the street, of the original 14 homes, only seven, or half, survive.  Three neighbors have acquired adjacent side lots to create larger yards for existing homes. The other four contiguous lots sit vacant, creating a large gap in the north side streetscape.

 Moving the home benefits neighbors by removing it from its substandard location and restoring the streetscape with appropriate infill.

 Compatibility in Design and Scale

Generally, homes on 8th Street were constructed in about a twenty year period spanning the mid 1880’s to about 1906.  Housing styles and sizes vary along the street, with Greek revival, Foursquare and Late Victorian predominating.  Houses on the west end of the block tend to have a slightly larger footprint and lot size, houses on the east end tend to be smaller in scale.  Homes around the proposed site range in size from 674 square feet to 1704 square feet. 718’s 1184 square feet falls right in the middle.

401 1704 sq ft.

405-830  sq. ft.

407-1590 sq. ft.

Vacant Lot –Proposed new site for 718 Ripley

423-674 sq. ft

425-882 sq. ft.

The square footage of 718 Ripley is 1184 square feet.

 Neighbors also favor the move because it gives the house a lot size more in line with the rest of the block. Lots generally run from 8th Street to the alley. While the proposed lot for 718 is a double lot, there is precedence for this as property owners have purchased vacant lots where homes once stood to create side lots for existing structures. Examples of this may be found on 8th Street at 506 and 526 W. 8th and right next door to 718 Ripley. The very small house at 716 Ripley is on  a very small lot, but a former owner had the foresight to purchase the very large lot to the south and east to avoid future overcrowding of that home.


Gateway Redevelopment Group, Davenport, Iowa