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Why Preserve
Rock Island is a city with a very rich heritage and architectural history. Why should we work to preserve our history through its buildings? To answer this question, we look to three areas of our city: the Residential Neighborhoods, the Downtown, and our Future.

Within our historic neighborhoods, we have a strong sense of pride and community. It is common for neighbors to refer to each other’s houses by the name of the original, long deceased owner. In fact, if there is a presence of a ghost of an original owner, it is considered an honor, and he or she is welcomed with open arms. We see a banding together of neighbors with their common goals and challenges of restoring and renovating their homes. Neighbors work together to unveil the houses of artificial siding, exposing the original detail and craftsmanship, which has been hidden for many years. Streets are lined with mature trees, and a pleasant walk down the sidewalk is a true history lesson in architectural styles as you gaze at the variety of houses. Preserving homes preserves value. These are all reasons to preserve in our residential neighborhoods.

The Downtown “District” of Rock Island has the benefit of being compact, intact, and historic. The vertical nature of the buildings effectively utilizes valuable land resources, and provides a visual historic interest overhead. The large storefronts open to the wide tree lined streets, and provide a scale that is pedestrian friendly and visually inviting. With this built environment, plus a dedicated community action, the downtown has developed into the Quad Cities’ most active and successful entertainment district. Many of our historic structures have been restored, renovated, or been adapted to new uses to create a true sense of time and place. Former department stores have been transformed into residential lofts, creating an exciting new neighborhood in which to work, live, and play. Adaptive reuse of a historic structure celebrates uniqueness, diversity, and is the highest form of recycling. New infill construction of office buildings and residential townhomes in Rock Island complements the historic structures, and works in harmony with the historic downtown streetscape to create a unique, friendly, urban environment. These are all reasons to preserve in our downtown.

Our past has the opportunity to greatly affect our future. In a time where strip malls and big box stores make one city indistinguishable from another, historic preservation can be the key to a city’s sense of place, sense of being, and sense of pride. We can move away from the disposable society. Our historic resources are the elements that connect us to our past, and what make our city unique. It is important to teach our children to be aware of their built environment, and that landmark buildings are history they can take part in. Our children are the future stewards of our city. We should teach them about our heritage, our connection to the past, and pride in our city. This is why we must preserve for our future.

Rock Island… Preserving the past, dedicated to the future.

Jeffrey S. Dismer, AIA
Past Chairman
Rock Island Preservation Commission