West End Settlement
427 7th Avenue
Rock Island's 100 Most Significant Unprotected Structures, 2009; Rock Island Landmark, 2011; Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, 2011
Significance StatementSettlement house for the poor established by Susanne Denkmann Hauberg
Architect / Builder
Stauduhar, George P., Architect
Thanks to local philanthropist Susanne Denkmann, the wealthy daughter of lumber entrepreneur Frederick Denkmann, Rock Island had the West End Settlement, its own version of Chicago’s Hull House. Miss Denkmann, born in 1872, attended the National Kindergarten College in Chicago and later went to New York where she learned of the work of settlements. In an era before social work was considered a legitimate government function, settlements provided many services to the poorest residents.
Architect and Architecture
The new West End Settlement was built on 7th Avenue at 5th Street. It was finished in July 1909, but its work began a year earlier when the lower level was completed. Throughout the years, the building is surprisingly unchanged. It is believed to be the work of local architect George Stauduhar. Plans for a West End Settlement are included in his archives at the University of Illinois. It was called Mission style in early news articles, but it is also influenced by the Prairie style as well as Arts and Crafts. These three styles share many similarities as they evolved concurrently in the early 20th Century.
The building is strikingly horizontal in emphasis, with heavy stone walls on its first floor. The double width windowsills set into the brick above carry out the horizontal feeling. Simple, but very large, brackets support the wide-eaves of the hipped roof. Wide eaves shelter the many gabled dormers as well. Inside, the ground floor had a gym, a kindergarten room, furnace room, and a bathhouse with two tubs, two showers and a dressing room. The second floor had an assembly room that seated 300 as well as two classrooms, a clothing room, office and an apartment for the Barker family, who managed the Settlement. The third floor attic area contained a fully equipped domestic science room, including “glass topped” – probably porcelain -- tables, gas burners, a “well-filled fruit closet” as well as a small dining room so clients could learn proper table setting.
West End Settlement Functions
The building was staffed by six paid workers and many volunteers, often friends of Miss Denkmann. The Settlement taught cooking, “physical culture” including basketball, and sewing to girls. Mothers learned sewing as well. In addition to sports, boys could take cooking classes, and were reported superior to the girls in their skills. Men were offered a reading room in the Settlement library in a nearby home. Another nearby home was used as a day nursery. Religious education and gardening were available to all as was a large playground.
John Hauberg, who would soon wed Susanne Denkmann, was one of the volunteers. He started a fife and drum corps for boys, noting that many joined the program “dirty, ragged, ill smelling and undisciplined.” The Settlement’s bathing facilities included a towel, warm water, brushes and soap, and cost only two cents for those under 17.
An infant welfare station was established at the Settlement in 1914. Two years later 65 babies were coming regularly for free milk, weighing, and examination by the Visiting Nurses Association.
Changes in Ownership
In 1916, Miss Denkmann, now Mrs. Hauberg, built a separate home for the Barkers just south of the settlement. It was of structural tile covered with stucco in a Prairie style that complemented the Settlement architecture, but has since been demolished. Only seven years later, Mrs. Hauberg decided that conditions had improved so much that the West End Settlement was unnecessary. She decided to close the Settlement and stop the $9,000 annual support she had been providing. The Haubergs donated the Settlement building to the downtown YWCA, who planned to use it as an adjunct to their Third Avenue dormitory. In 1931, it was sold to the Belgian American Brotherhood (BAB), who remained there through the early 1980s. The BAB built a one-story masonry addition to the west for rolle bolle courts. Today the former West End Settlement is the home of Elite Temple 1265, an Elks group, and Esquire Lodge 1648.
Researched and written by Diane Oestreich for the Rock Island Preservation Society’s “Postcards from Home” series.