Hauberg's mansion celebrates 100 years

Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011, 10:09 pm
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By Brandy Donaldson, bdonaldson@qconline.com
ROCK ISLAND -- The man of the house was a historian, attorney and civic leader. The lady of the house was a heiress, teacher and philanthropist. Together, John and Susanne Hauberg left an admirable legacy in Rock Island that still stands strong.

"Hauberg was a big name in the community. They were very involved and did quite a bit for Rock Island through all of their involvement in the community," Debbi Weston, director of Hauberg Civic Center, said Tuesday.

A major part of the Haubergs' legacy is their immaculate home at 1300 24th St. -- now Hauberg Civic Center. The mansion's 100th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday. The open-house event will include musical and art performances, an auction and the sale of original skeleton keys of the home decorated for use as a necklace pendant, pin or keychain.

It also will include old-fashioned children's games, Hauberg family anecdotes, a six-foot wide tulip-decorated cake and an opportunity to be included in the Hauberg scrapbook.

"It is important to know about the history of the city you live in and the area," Ms. Weston said. "The Haubergs had such an influence in the community. It's important for people to know the history of Susanne and John."

The 20-room, three-story Hauberg estate sits on 10 acres. The mansion was built for Susanne C. Denkmann, heiress to the Weyerhaeuser and Denkmann Lumber Company. Ms. Denkmann's mother commissioned the building in 1909.

Construction lasted until 1911. Ms. Denkmann and Mr. Hauberg were married on June 29, 1911 in the home's "tulip room." She was 37 and he was 41. The couple raised two children, Catherine and John Hauberg Jr., in the home.

Mrs. (Denkmann) Hauberg died in 1942, followed by Mr. Hauberg in 1955. Following their father's death, the children donated the property to the city of Rock Island to be used as a civic center.

John Hauberg

Mr. Hauberg was born on his family farm near Hillsdale in 1869. He passed the bar in 1901 and started a private law practice in Moline.

He crusaded against gambling, prostitution and law enforcement corruption. As a young attorney for the Rock Island County Law and Order League, Mr. Hauberg played a key role in the case that eventually sent local gangster John Looney in prison.

Mr. Hauberg, however was likely most well known in the area as an avid historian, philanthropist and civic leader. He founded the United Sunday School Boys Band in 1909, the Black Hawk Hiking Club in 1920 and Camp Hauberg for boys in 1927. He also was instrumental in the creation of Black Hawk State Park in 1927.

The park's Hauberg Museum was dedicated in his honor, as he provided most of the Native American relics housed there. Mr. Hauberg also established the park's annual pow wow in 1940, which is still celebrated today.

As a historian, Mr. Hauberg is said to have written close to 150 unpublished volumes on Rock Island County and state history. He also authored innumerable articles and booklets on local history. In 1953, he was honored by the American Association for State and Local History with an award of merit for his historical writing.

He also served more than 30 years on the Augustana College board, and the school is now home to the Haubergs' library and photo collection. Mr. Hauberg died on Sept. 13, 1955 with a long list of additional civic, religious and professional accomplishments to his credit -- a list too numerous to count.

Susanne (Denkmann) Hauberg

Mrs. Hauberg was born in 1874, the daughter of Frederick Denkmann, a wealthy Rock Island lumber mogul. She attended Kindergarten College in Chicago and became a teacher. She too, however, is best known in Rock Island for her philanthropic and civic activities, which also are too numerous to count.

She founded and funded the West End Settlement House, built in 1909 at 427 7th Ave., to provide social, educational and cultural services for the disadvantaged.

She closed it in 1923, having decided it was no longer needed, and donated the property to the Rock Island YMCA, of which she was a founding member. Mrs. Hauberg also donated land near Port Byron in 1921 for a YWCA camp for girls. With Mr. Hauberg, she also donated land for the Moline YMCA.

The West End Settlement House still stands today. It was on Landmarks Illinois annual list of "Most Endangered Historic Places" for 2011. It also was voted one of Rock Island's "100 Most Significant Structures."

Mrs. Hauberg and her siblings also are responsible for the Denkmann Memorial Library at Augustana College. She died on Feb. 13, 1942.

The Estate

The Prairie-style mansion has been called an "architectural masterpiece." It was designed by Chicago architect Robert C. Spencer, an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Its elaborate design features include immaculate wood work and carvings, including tulips -- Ms. Hauberg's favorite flower -- carved into the wood, ceiling, stone and glass around every turn. It included in-door plumbing, which was all but unheard of in 1911, and a carriage house on the property. It also was equipped with fire hoses on every floor and an internal telephone system.

The home also has a built-in pipe organ, as Ms. Hauberg was an avid organ player. The instrument's large pipes run from the home's attic to its basement. An elevator was added to the structure in the 1940s.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and as one of Rock Island's "100 Most Significant Unprotected Structures" in 2009.

Since being donated to the city in 1956, the Hauberg Civic Center has hosted hundreds of weddings, graduation, birthday, and anniversary parties, reunions and other social events.

If you go:

What: The 100th Anniversary of the Hauberg Civic Center
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.Saturday
Where: Hauberg Civic Center, 1300 24th St. in Rock Island
Cost: Free


Local events heading

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1914 -- 100 years ago: Wires of the defunct Union Electric Co. are being removed by city electricians.
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1989 -- 25 years ago: Members of the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission are hoping to revive their push for a new $70 million four-lane bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

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