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Statewide Endangered

2011 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places 













West End Settlement House
427 7th Ave., Rock Island
(Rock Island County)


Built in 1909 in the city’s West End neighborhood, this building provided social services and educational training for the city’s poorest citizens at a time when “settlement houses” were the only resource for such needs in big cities. Currently, the Prairie/Craftsman-inspired building, identified by the city of Rock Island as one of its “100 Most Significant Structures,” is occupied by an Elks organization for its lodge. However, conflicting ownership interests, due to unpaid property taxes, have put the building in a state of endangerment, as many needed upgrades to keep the building a viable facility for public use are not being addressed.

Susanne Denkmann, a local lumber heiress and philanthropist, who studied in Chicago and worked in a settlement house in New York City, funded the construction and operations of the West End facility. In 1923, she closed the facility because she felt the neighborhood had improved enough that a settlement house operation was no longer needed. She then announced that it would be donated to the YMCA, of which she was a founding member. In 1931, it was sold to the Belgian American Brotherhood, who remained there through the 1980s.

At the time the building was finished, the local press deemed it as “Mission-style.” It is believed to have been designed by George Stauduhar, a local Rock Island architect. The building is rare in that it was designed specifically for the activities offered at the settlement house, which included programs in sewing, cooking, gardening, reading, physical activity and instruction in health and caring for babies and families. On the second floor there was an assembly room that seated 300 and residential space for the house manager and other employees. The building today is nearly identical to its 1909 appearance and is distinguished by a broad hipped roof, with wide eaves and gabled dormers, which gives it a horizontal emphasis. The building’s heavy, first floor stone walls, original brickwork, and multi-paned windows remain intact.

Since the 1980s, the West End Settlement had been owned and occupied by an Elks organization active in the community. In 2007, the Elks sold the building to a real estate company with a continuing lease agreement. Since then, payments on property taxes have been delinquent and title to the building is in question. In the meantime this historic building, which suffers from deferred maintenance, has an uncertain future.

What You Can Do


The Rock Island Preservation Society has prepared a nomination for the West End Settlement to be designated a Rock Island Landmark, so that it may receive protection from future demolition. Please write a letter of support for the local landmark designation of the West End Settlement to:.


Rock Island Preservation Commission

1038 21st Street
Rock Island, IL 61201
cc: letters to Jill Doak, at Doak.Jill@rigov.org


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Landmarks Illinois
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Chicago, IL 60604 
tel. 312-922-1742 
fax 312-922-8112



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