2015 Tour of Historic Homes
(1) 207 Broadway Street John Sterneman House
John Sterneman and his new wife Sue (Zimmerman) Sterneman either built this house or remodeled an existing house around 1901 as a family residence. Sterneman was born in Muscatine on September 15,1854. He joined the S&L Cohn Clothing Store as a 16-year-old clerk. Eventually he was taken into the firm. In 1889, he formed a partnership with William Bishop and P.J. Mackey. They acquired S&L Cohn and formed Sterneman Clothing, a clothing manufacturing and wholesale firm. In a 1902 news article about the company, the Muscatine Journal reported it had the largest wholesale clothing house in the State of Iowa. It employed five traveling salesmen, who in addition to covering all of Iowa, also had territories throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska. The business competed against clothing manufacturers in New York, Chicago, Boston and other major eastern cities (Muscatine Journal 1902, 7). The business survived almost 100 years, closing its doors in 1987. Sterneman also became active in government and civic affairs, serving as an alderman and leading the effort to establish an association of local businesses. He also organized league baseball in Muscatine. "Muscatine's "Sterny" and "Grand Old Man" was one of its most beloved characters (who) contributed to the welfare and progress of the community as did but few of her citizens," the Muscatine Journal reported in a 1918 article announcing his death (Muscatine Journal, 1918, 1). His wife was the daughter of pioneer lumberman Richard Musser.
The Sternemans were married on March 7, 1900. They bought Lots 1 and 2, Block 39 from Annie Robertson on January 29, 1901 for $3600. The house the couple constructed, or possibly renovated, following their marriage shows an interesting and unusual combination of features that spread across several architectural styles. The shingled upper portion of the main house, cornice returns on the original gables, round tower and dormer with flared hip roof are features seen more often during the mid- to late-1800s. Few other houses in the West Hill neighborhood or the community show such diverse features. Sterneman was a significant figure in the development of the community and a national figure in early 20th clothing manufacturing activities.
John S. Sterneman died on November 13, 1918. His obituary noted that “Muscatine paused for a half hour in the rush of business and industry this afternoon, and paid its last tribute to John S. Sterneman.” The funeral was held at 2 pm at the home (207 Broadway). Sterneman's primary business contribution to the community was the formation and development of Sterneman Clothing. As president of the company, he managed its growth into one of the major clothing manufacturing firms in the country during the early 20th century. Under Sterneman's leadership, the new company became the only wholesale clothing firm in Iowa. A branch manufacturing plant in New York City was also created and Sterneman traveled there frequently to supervise the purchase of fabric and review the manufacturing plant's operation. In a 1902 report on the company, Sterneman credited the New York plant and low rent in Muscatine as two of the primary reasons for the company's success.
Sterneman was also active in civic affairs. He served as a city alderman in the early 1900s during a period of rapid improvements in city infrastructure and other facilities. During his term on the city council, the first street paving project was approved and Papoose Creek was enclosed. He was also known as the father of baseball in Muscatine (Muscatine, 1918, 1). His obituary reported that berths were secured in several leagues and that he also contributed financial support to the league. These activities were accomplished by an individual who apparently had a variety of physical ailments and conditions that prevented him from participating in any form of sport. (Muscatine Journal, 1918, 3). There is still a street near the baseball fields named for him.
Sue Sterneman is listed as the widow of John in the 1919 city directory. She also is recorded in the 1920 census as a widow and the owner and resident of 207 W. Second. She lived alone. She continued to be listed as the resident in the 1921 directory. Suzanne died on March 23, 1923.
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(2) 417 W 3rd St Olds-Monroe-Welker-Schomberg House
Mississippi Pearl Bed & Breakfast
This is a two-story, three-bay, house that has been built in several stages. An older, small, gable-front house is shown in this location on the 1874 birds-eye view of Muscatine, though the façade only shows one window in the second story. A porch extends across the width of the house.
The current appearance of the Olds-Munroe-Welker-Schomberg House reflects the historic remodeling tastes of several families between construction around 1854 and the later appearance with the front porches in 1920. The original two-story, three-bay, gable-front house was owned and occupied by several prominent lawyers in the 19th century, including William Olds, Thomas Hanna, Allen Broomhall, and John H. Munroe. The original gable-front house that these people lived in has been obscured by the early 20th century porch and other modifications. Many of these modifications appear to have been complete in the later years of Munroe’s life. The large two-story porch at the southeast corner appears to have been added around 1910 by the Welkers, who lived here in their retirement. The last major porch modifications were completed around 1920 by the Schombergs, which covered the remainder of the second story façade. Thus, the house in the current form, only clearly reflects its appearance during the period that Jacob P. and Bessie Schomberg lived here, as well as subsequent owners and residents.
The house over time has been historically altered to reflect the trends of the times, including sleeping porch additions. This reflects the themes of “19th century residential and neighborhood development” as well as “20th century residential and neighborhood development. The historic additions do not provide a clean architectural style, but represent a dynamic home. which its owners molded to suit their needs. This house contributes historically and architecturally to this potential historic district.
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(3) 510 W 2nd St Hill-Titus House
The house was built around 1874 by Sam B. Hill, Carpenter. He lived here until 1889. George M. Titus lived here from 1889 to 1947, and he was responsible for the exterior remodeling that was likely completed around 1909. This remodeling is historic, and the resulting current appearance was associated with Titus for nearly 40 years. George M. Titus was a prominent Muscatine lawyer and businessman. He was very active in the politics and in promotion of Muscatine. He was elected state senator for two terms and sponsored the “Titus amendment” which changed the state constitution to change the annual legislative elections to biennial elections. He was also protective of the Muscatine button industry by passing legislation to prohibit state prisons from engaging in button manufacturing. He was instrumental in additional railroad construction, electrification of the trolley system, and actively lobbied for the 9-foot Mississippi River navigation channel. He spent 56 years of his approximately 65 years as a Muscatine resident in this house. While few Second Empire houses are found in Muscatine, the later c.1909 alterations have significantly impacted the original design, seen in the c.1891 and c.1901 photographs.
The house is a rare example of the Second Empire style and its progression of alterations and additions illustrate changes in architectural styling from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century. The Second Empire style is still evident with the mansard roof and the basic original home is very discernable. This 500 block of W. 2nd Street boasts the only three Second Empire houses in the 200+ house West Hill neighborhood.
George Titus bought lot 8 block 7 from Eva Louise Decker and husband on June 14, 1889 (Lots Book 21:769). G.M. Titus, of Titus & Jackson, lived at 509 W. 3rd prior to moving to 510 W. 2nd around 1891 (City Directories). Mr. Titus was born in Cayuga County, New York, on May 19, 1856 to Allan and Mary Jane Rhoades Titus. They moved to Michigan in the 1860s, and George taught school while living here. His legal career was launched in 1876 when he began the study of law in the office of N. Van Camp in Wilton, and he further continued his preparation for the bar in Muscatine as a law student in the office of Allen Broomhall until his admission to the bar in 1880. Mr. Titus married Ella Broomhall on June 1, 1881. They had three children over the next ten years. He began the practice of law in Mr. Broomhall’s office and in December 1882 became associated with DeWitt C. Richman. In February 1885, Mr. Titus was joined by D.V. Jackson in forming the firm of Titus and Jackson, which they continued until 1902. He was an organizer in 1890 of the North and South Railroad Company and served as first secretary of the company for several years. He was one of the three original promoters of the project to transform the horse car system of Muscatine to an electric system in 1893, and he circulated the first petition to start paving in Muscatine (began in 1894). Mr. Titus was elected state senator and served from 1898 to 1900. He was author of the Titus amendment to the constitution which changed annual elections to biennial elections and instrumental in securing he passage of a measure prohibiting the manufacture of buttons and tubs in the state’s penitentiary. While a member of the senate, he was selected by the state library association to present the library commission bill, which was passed. At the time of this death in 1947, he was president of the board of the P.M. Musser Public Library in Muscatine, a position he held since the inception of the library board in 1901.George M. Titus was a leader in securing the construction of Muscatine’s city hall (1914), county jail (1909) and court house (1909). Mr. Titus was a leading promoter in the construction of Hotel Muscatine (1916) and served as president of the hotel corporation for five years.
His wife Ella died on May 5, 1907 (at age 48). On October 10, 1909, Mr. Titus married Miss Hannah Jefferson Hutchinson. It was during this period between 1905 and 1912 that the house was significantly remodeled, with the new appearance shown on the 1912 Sanborn map and in the c.1914 photograph The remodeling ofthe house to roughly its current appearance likely occurred around 1909 as George married his second wife.
George M. Titus continued to work until his death in at age 90, as he obituary notes that he became ill at the company offices. He died on April 9, 1947. His obituary noted that as “a former state senator, Mr. Titus has been an active supporter of progress in Muscatine and the Midwest throughout his long business career.”
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(4) 614 W 3rd St Stone-Robertson House
Fred Stone, who was the first owner of the house, was a druggist and owner of a lumberyard. The house was sold to William Robertson in 1872. Robertson was a physician, founder of University of Iowa College of Medicine in 1869, one of the original stockholders and member of the first board of directors of Muscatine Water Works Company, and President of the Muscatine County Medical Association. He is most notable for his extensive work with “feeble-minded” children in the county poor houses, and he was very influential in promoting the legislation to care for them. Through his efforts, a home was established for their education and care in 1876. The house has stayed in the Robertson family until 1989. The Stone-Robertson House appears individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion B for its association with William Robertson. This house has strong Italianate traits, with the Ihouse symmetrical form, porch style, arch windows, lintels, bay windows, and brackets. It reflects the stately mansions that were being built high above the Mississippi River on the city’s West Hill in the mid 19th Century. The Robertson’s were fairly prominent citizens of Muscatine and they lived in a house to reflect this status. Although there are several updated features such as the replacement windows and the addition of a screened in porch it still has the key features of the Italianate style.
Fred Stone purchased part of the property, Lot 9, on May 28, 1851 from Suel Foster (Deed Book J, p 571). He then purchased the other half of the property, Lot 20, on November 26, 1851 from Steven Whicher (Deed Book K, p 189). This house sits primarily on Lot 9, near the Lot 10 line. He may have built the house in 1851 or waiting until 1852. The 1856 city directory shows F.H. Stone, druggist. Fred Stone continues to be listed as the resident of this address until the 1869-70 city directory. In the 1869- 70 directory Fred Stone is listed as a druggist with his business located at N 2nd Street near Chestnut, though no business name is indicated.
On April 1, 1869, Stone sold this property to Mary Butler and her husband (Deed Book 5, p 215). They owned it only for three years.
On April 22, 1872, Mary Butler (widow) sold to William S. Robertson (Deed Book 7, p 334). The 1874 birds-eye view of Muscatine clearly shows this house with the two-story side-gable form, rear ell, and west side bay window (Koch 1874). It is in the 1874-75-city directory that William Robertson is listed as the current resident. William Robertson continues to be listed here in the 1876-77 and 1879 directories. He is most notable for his extensive work with “feeble-minded” children in the County Poorhouse, he was very influential in promoting the legislation to care for them and for being one of the founders of the University of Iowa College of Medicine. William Stephenson Robertson was born in Pennsylvania in 1831, where he received his education and training. In 1856, he opened his practice in Columbus Junction, Iowa, where he worked until 1868-69 when he worked briefly in New York. In 1869, he accepted the position as chemical medicine professor at the newly formed department of the State University of Iowa (Iowa City). The University Medical Museum notes that the first professors were not paid, relying on student fees, and often maintained practices in other communities. His son’s 1889 biography also notes that they moved to Muscatine in June 1869.
William S. Robertson was City and County Physician by 1873, and he turned his attention to the plight of the “feeble minded” children at the Muscatine county poor house. He brought up the subject before the State Medical Society in his annual address as its President in January 1874, and asked the cooperation of that body to that end. It was not until the next meeting that he was appointed to bring up the matter with the legislature. With the action of Dr. Robertson and support from two representatives, an institution was established at Glenwood, Mills County, in 1876 for the education and maintenance of these children, in the existing Soldier Orphans Home. Dr. Robertson was the President of its Board of Trustees. He was also one of the original stockholders and a member of the first Board of Directors of Muscatine Water Works Company, a member of Muscatine County Medical Society, late President of the Iowa State Medical Society, and late President of the Eastern Iowa District Medical Society. The Trustees of Knox College, situated at Galesburg, Ill., conferred on him the honorary A. M. Additionally, he was a state senator and the first president of the Iowa Board of Health.
William S. Robertson died on January 20, 1887. William S. Robertson’s family continued to live in this house after his death. The house remained in the Robertson family until William S. Robertson sold it to Tony and Lorraine Orr in September of 1989.
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The Welch Apartment Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C in 1977. It was cited as “principally significant for the well designed interior, in which the need for special amenities of illumination and convenience of room layout has been successfully and imaginatively addressed. Of note is the stairwell, which lends itself well to being a common meeting place for residents. Exterior features, which also contribute to the significance of the building, are the protruding bay windows (oriels), metal cornice, and decorative enclosures for the fourth floor skylights. The cornice and window bays (oriels) are reflective of Queen Anne and Italianate architecture, and are pleasingly set off by the plainness of the dark brick walls. The Welch Apartment Block is representative of a group of structures scattered throughout the downtown commercial area of Muscatine, featuring one or two story projecting oriels, which lend the core of the city a certain distinctive character.
These buildings are typically either Italianate or Queen Anne, with the bays added to older buildings in the 1890s and early 1900s. The Welch Building is unique in that these elements that make the building significant architecturally were added so late in 1923-1924. This was near the end of a period of civic pride and accomplishment, which resulted in several new buildings in the downtown.
This building was built in 1851 by James Latta of Grandview, Iowa. It was called the City Hotel at first (Walton 1899: 104). There were businesses on the ground floor from the beginning. The earliest businesses in the building include the Stewart Bakery, George Hoerr Bakery, Andrew Wilke Bakery, and Michael Kautz Bakery, all of these in the 226 storefront, and lasting from circa 1869 to circa 1902. There was also the Schwertferger Cigar Store here in the 1880’s in the 224 storefront, it was one of many retail cigar stores in the town at that time.
After the building opened, as stated above, the hotel on the top floors was known as the City Hotel. By 1872 the Hotel was remodeled and renamed the Scott House, after the owner J.K. Scott. A livery and bake house was located in the rear half of the lots by 1883. In the next few years, the building’s name would change a number of times, only to come back to be named the Scott House. The Scott House remained until circa 1915, when a Mr. Joseph Bilkey bought the building and apparently enlarged it with one-story rear sections
In 1923-1924 an extensive remodel of the building occurred. This remodel included at least the apartments, as the city directory states in 1923-24 that the apartments were unfinished. It is likely that the exterior rebricking, addition of the oriels, and pediments occurred at this time. Shortly after the remodel, J.M. Welch of Los Angeles, California bought this building in 1925, along with a few other buildings nearby that are now non-extant, for $220,000. J.M. Welch had at one time lived in Rock Island Illinois, and had been at one time the President of the Illinois Oil Company.
In the years that followed the remodel, a number of businesses have occupied the first floor storefronts. The two most important were probably the Ed Leu Garage, and Lupton (Toyne), Printing. The Ed Leu Garage was established in March 1922 on Walnut Street by the high bridge. In about 1926 they moved to 115 West Front, and in 1929 moved to 220-222 Iowa Avenue. They were a dealer for DeSoto’s, Plymoths, Diamond T trucks, as well as the Littlemac, a car that was built in Muscatine between 1929 and 1931. This business also provided a complete service and repair department.
The Lupton Press was started in 1943 by Lyle Lupton. Lyle Lupton came from Chariton, Iowa, having been employed as a printer there. When Lyle came to Muscatine he joined the printing company formally known as the Hawkeye Specialty and Printing Company on May 16, 1923, and the name Weis and Lupton Printing Company was adopted. The company was founded by Gustav Weis on October 4, 1915 at 120 East 3rd Street. Mr. Weis had been a printer for the Muscatine Journal and News Tribune.
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