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 Four is an excellent example of High Victorian Italianate style architecture, especially in its use of an asymmetrical plan, a primary design goal of the style which was rarely achieved.
According to Colonel Daniel Webster Flagler, who supervised construction on Rock Island Arsenal, the building site was selected in June 1871, and construction was completed during the summer of 1872. The architect was Captain Clifton Comly, who prepared plans for the quarters in the spring of 1871 while he was temporarily in charge of Rock Island Arsenal during Brigadier General Thomas Rodman’s illness.
Comly’s Italianate plan for the residence mirrored the general style and detailing of Quarters One on a less grandiose scale. This beautiful example of 19th century residential architecture contains approximately 6,985 square feet of floor space and has experienced relatively few modifications and alterations. The exterior walls are 24 inches thick at the foundation and are made of Joliet limestone. The roof consists of asphalt shingles covering a hipped roof of wood.
The “L” shaped screened porch across the front of the house is girded with grillwork forged at Rock Island Arsenal. The porch limestone piers support nine elaborate cast-iron columns. Between the columns are diamond patterns made from wood lattice painted tan. The bases of the columns are sets of cast-iron brackets. The entire porch is screened from floor to ceiling. The ceiling and floor are painted tongue-and-groove board, and the porch roof is covered by copper.
The massive front doors are solid walnut; the door knocker, locks, intricate hinges, and doorknobs are brass and were forged at the arsenal. The foyer doors retain elaborate, cast-brass knobs with the silhouette of a Renaissance soldier.
The floor in the entry hall is black and white marble block laid in a diamond pattern. The brass chandelier was installed when the quarters were converted from gas to electricity in about 1918. The hall tree with brass-plated umbrella stands on each side was built on the arsenal in the 1890s.
The stairway is of walnut construction with a molded railing, turned balusters, and an octagonal tapering newel post with a square base and turned cap. The walls going up the stairs have vertical board wainscoting with a chair rail. The first story flooring in the main floor has been covered with wall-to-wall carpeting, and is probably varnished alternating oak and walnut boards as in the other quarters.
The second story has a varnished narrow oak floor not original to the house. Throughout the first and second floors, there are wide, molded walnut baseboards; however, most are painted white. Elaborate white plaster ceiling rosettes are centered in the ceilings of the foyer, the main stair hall, the dining room, and the parlors.
The first floor plan is a high-style Italianate interior with an asymmetrical plan. The main block has a foyer in the center of the north side which flows into the main stair hall. A pair of parlors is located on the west side and the dining room fills the southeast corner.
The wing east of the main block contains a service hall and two pantries, a kitchen which at one time had a fireplace, a laundry room, and a service stairway. There is a powder room tucked beneath the main stairway.
The northwest parlor has 14-foot ceilings which are decorated with an ornate plaster medallion. This parlor has a beautiful, elaborately cut and polished white Italian marble mantelpiece and hearth.
The southwest parlor has a marble fireplace identical to the one in the living room. It is the only wood burning fireplace out of the six in the house, three on each of the main floors. The other five accommodate coal. None of the fireplaces are operational today.
The first floor pantries retain original, tall, wood china cabinets, which are now painted white. The dining room is large enough to permit a seated dinner for 20 or more. The rich, deep colors of the original walnut shutters that cover the two 12-foot windows have been painted white. The chandelier is brass and crystal. The dining room fireplace has an elaborately cut and polished brown/gray Italian mantelpiece and hearth.
The second floor plan corresponds closely with that of the first floor. The west wing contains three large bedrooms and the master bathroom, which overlooks the Mississippi River and has a large private bath measuring 90 square feet. A second bath is located between the other two rooms in this wing. This bathroom was updated in 2008.
The three main bedrooms have fireplaces with elaborately cut and polished white marble mantelpieces and hearths. The mantelpieces are the same style, but small differences in details make each unique.
The east wing contains two additional bedrooms and a family room, or sixth bedroom, and another full bath. This bath contains an old, but not original, clawfoot bathtub, and the walls are white wainscoting. The house was plumbed originally.
The original wooden water tank which was filled from rainwater collected from the roof survives in the wing attic but is no longer in service. A rear stairwell from this wing permits descent into the laundry and kitchen portions of the first floor.