This description of a home located on Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, is part of a series on the unique housing found on the installation. Information was provided by a joint effort the History Office of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command and the Welcome Club at Rock Island Arsenal.
Quarters Three was built under the direction of Colonel Daniel Webster Flagler at a cost of $35,000. The architect was Captain Clifton Comly. He prepared the plans in 1871, while he was temporarily in charge of Rock Island Arsenal during Brigadier General Thomas Rodman’s illness. It is believed that Captain Comly was also the architect for the other quarters on the island.
The Italianate-style plan for this residence mirrors, on a less grandiose scale, the general style and detailing of Quarters One. It contains approximately 7,500 square feet of space; the foundation is limestone masonry, and the exterior walls are Joliet limestone.
The front porch is girded by grillwork forged on Rock Island Arsenal and supported by eight elaborate cast-iron columns. The decorative front fencing was also forged on the arsenal and made from captured ordnance and horseshoes.
The foyer features a black- and white-checkered marble floor, solid walnut doors to the outside, and double doors with frosted glass between the foyer and entrance hall. The foyer doors retain elaborate cast brass knobs with the silhouette of a Renaissance soldier.
Most of the doorknobs in the house are brass; however, several of the upstairs bedroom doors have the original white porcelain doorknobs. The main stairway is a straight-run staircase with walnut wainscoting and a chair rail on the left side. It is made of walnut with a molded railing, turned balusters, and an octagonal tapering newel post with square base and turned cap.
The floor in the hallway and dining room is varnished, alternating ash and walnut. The hallway floor was replaced in the summer of 2021.
The first floor plan is based on a typical Italianate residential plan with 14-foot ceilings. The center stair hall on the main block has a foyer to its north. The hall is flanked on its west side by a double parlor and on its east side by a dining room; a butler’s pantry and breakfast room are found at the northeast corner.
The breakfast room (formerly two small pantries) retains original tall wood china cabinets, now painted white. A small powder room is tucked beneath the main stairway. The wing extends south of the butler’s pantry and contains a kitchen and a laundry room. The kitchen had a large open fireplace that also opened to the laundry; the flue is six feet by eight feet. The fireplace was enclosed in the late 1980s.
The dining room has a painted, pressed-metal cornice and rosette in conjunction with a pressed-metal ceiling. The cornice has a running molding along the wall with a ceiling border of square panels. The rosette is a large square panel with running molded borders surrounding an inner square. Inside the square is an inner circle with twelve radiating segments.
The metal dining room ceiling is an ornate, late Victorian pattern of square panels with an anthemion (an ornamental design resembling clusters of narrow leaves) in each corner radiating from a central boss. It also contains a molded, varnished, walnut plate rail and large varnished walnut corner guards. Walnut shutters grace the 10-foot windows.
The dining room fireplace has an elaborately cut and polished gray Italian marble mantel. The floors of ash and walnut match the hallway. There is an old, but not original, china cabinet which may have been made at the arsenal featuring double doors with beveled leaded glass within a diamond pattern. A beautiful hunting sideboard (originally found in Quarters One) with elaborately carved animal figures on the front doors has been moved to Quarters Three; it may also have been made at the arsenal. A Tiffany style lamp is on the sideboard.
The front parlor fireplace has an elaborate cut and polished light gray Italian marble mantelpiece and hearth. It has a beautiful ceiling medallion. In the early 1900s, when electricity was installed, crystal chandeliers hung in the front and back parlors. They have since been removed.
A cabinet in the front parlor was made at the arsenal in the 1880s and is the only one remaining of the original five or six that were built. The back parlor has an elaborately cut and polished brown/gray Italian marble mantelpiece and hearth. Forged on the arsenal, the fireplace screen contains a brass bomb decoration representing the Ordnance Corps symbol.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the front and back parlor room and dining room allow access to the porch. In the ceiling of the stairway is a skylight measuring about three by six feet which, at present, is filled with debris, keeping light from shining through. There are plans to clean it and install a light tube. At one time, there was an identical skylight in the roof. It has been replaced by a modern vent.
The attic in this house has a tin-lined redwood tank, three feet by five feet by four feet deep, which was used for a gravity-fed water system. It was filled with rainwater collected from the roof. The attic has a maze of chimneys for the many fireplaces in the house. The brass doorknobs and hinges were cast at the arsenal. Cabinets and closets also have brass drawer pulls; many are engraved with the initials “US.”
The second floor consists of four large bedrooms at the front of the quarters. The house was originally plumbed, and two of the bedrooms have an adjoining bath or contain a separate lavatory. The other two bedrooms share an adjoining closet.
Three of the bedrooms have elaborately cut and polished, white Italian marble mantels and hearths, all the same style but different from each other in small decorative details. A step down into the lower part of the second floor leads to two smaller bedrooms which acted as servants’ quarters, separated by a bathroom which contains an old, but not original, clawfoot tub. One of the small bedrooms has been converted to a walk-in closet.
A very narrow, steep stairway leads from this part of the second floor to the kitchen. The second floor has varnished narrow oak (not original) flooring. The back wing has varnished maple flooring.