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River Pilot Homes Self-Guided Tour

LeClaire, Iowa is located at a point where the Mississippi River makes a sharp bend to the southwest.  LeClaire's historic bond with the river and the bold men who tamed the Upper Rapids is still visible in the homes and buildings they left behind.  On May 7, 1979, their homes were recognized as part of the nine block Cody Road Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Most of the homes are located along Cody Road and Second Street with a few between Wisconsin and Dodge Streets.

All of the homes and buildings included in the Historic District were constructed in the mid-19th century, mostly between 1850-1870, though style, form, size and materials of construction vary.  Most prominent is the Italianate, with examples of both brick and frame construction.  The Greek Revival is expressed in several modes, ranging from the relatively sophisticated to the decidedly vernacular.

Enjoy this self-guided tour.  If you would like more information, contact us at leclairecct@hotmail.com or call (563) 289-9970.

These are now private homes and/or businesses, and are not open for public viewing.  All drawings were created by local artists.

Name: Horton-Suiter House
Address: 108 N. 2nd St.
Acreage: less than one
Physical Description:
A 1 1/2-story frame "cottage," built c. 1860, and set on a 
raised lot surrounded by a stone retaining wall. House is 
five bays across the front, with a low-pitched gable roof 
with ridge parallel to the front facade. The center entrance 
is sheltered by a small porch supported by slender turned 
posts. A later addition is a one-story section, with slanted 
roof, on the northeast corner.

The house is believed to have been built for Henry Horton, 
who worked as an engineer on raft steamers. It was later 
occupied by James Suiter (1878-1906), one of the last of 
the LeClaire rapids pilots, who supported his river income 
by working as a mortician during the winter months when 
the river was frozen.

Name: Samuel Van Sant House
Address: 322 North Cody Road
Acreage: less than one
Physical Description:
A 1 1/2 story frame house sheathed in narrow clapboards, built about 1860. L-shaped in plan with a relatively wide front gable facing the street and the main roof parallel to the street. There is a large triangular wall dormer centered in the front of the long arm of the L. Windows have flat enframements with very, hallow triangular pediments. A plain wooden porch, tucked into the angles of the L is a later addition.

House was associated with Samuel Van Sant, son of the head of the LeClaire Marine Railways boatyards. In the late 1869's, while still a young man, Sam Van Sant designed and built the "J. W. Van Sant," a prototype for a raft boat which was to revolutionize the movement of logs and lumber down the Mississippi River. In the 1880's he moved to Minnesota, and later became governor of that state.

Name: George Tromley, Jr. House
Address: 127 Jones St.
Physical Description:
1 1/2 -story frame house, c. 1865. situated on a raised lot surrounded by a low stone retaining wall. The main roof is a jerkinhead, with ridge parallel to the street, and there is a large jerkinhead dormer centered in the front facade. Curving around the southeast corner is a one-story porch, connecting on the northeast corner with a one-story, gable-roofed section which may have once been the summer kitchen. House is faced with narrow clapboards. and has a single brick chimney with corbelled cap. Original ornate trim has been removed from the porch.

George Tromley, Jr. (born in 1857) was the second generation of Tromleys to work as a pilot on the Upper Rapids, and thus was among the distinctive family groups which maintained their connection with the river trade over many years.

Name: William Suiter House
Address: 227 Wisconsin
Acreage: less than one acre
Physical Description:
Two story house with shallow gable roof, with its ridge parallel to the front façade. The front is three bays wide, with center entrance flanked by sidelights beneath a small gable roof. This latter feature postdates an estimated construction date of 1855. Windows are 6/6 sash in flat, plain surrounds. The exterior has been faced with modern siding. The plan is the traditional center hall, single pile arrangement, with rather recent frame and concrete-block additions at the rear. There is a single brick chimney centered in the roof ridge.

The house was built for William Suiter, born in 1826 and a son of Phillip Suiter, one of the community’s original settlers and rapids pilots. William began life on the river as a raft hand, but was piloting boats by the time he was 21, a profession he followed for nearly 40 years. His sons, Mordecai, William and Charles, all born in the 1850’s, did not follow their father to work on the river, but instead went into railroading, the form of transportation which was to render the steamboat obsolete.

Name: Rambo House
Address: 430 N. Cody Road
Acreage: less than one
Physical Description:
A transitional Greek Revival/Italianate frame dwelling, built c. 1855. Two stories high, three bays across the front, two bays deep. Has cornerboards terminating in molding just under the broad eaves of the hipped roof, large brackets, and center entrance with a triangular pedimented lintel/enframement. Windows on both floors are almost floor-to-ceiling, with straight, molded lintels and flat enframements. A porch, with pent roof supported on slender turned posts (bracketed) extends across the front façade. Protruding polygonal bay on the first floor, south side. The lot is well above street level, surrounded by a stone retaining wall.

William Rambo came to LeClaire in 1844, and established a saw mill (Scott and Rambo) south of the town. From 1853 until his death in 1871, he worked as a pilot on the Upper Rapids. His son James W., born in 1844, first worked as a raft hand in 1862. He received his pilot’s license the following year. Income from his work as a pilot and from the lumber mill allowed him to invest in Nebraska real estate as well as lead a comfortable life in LeClaire.

Name: McCaffrey House
Address: 208 N. Cody Road
Acreage: approximately one

Physical Description:
Two-story frame Italianate house on stone foundation. Exterior sheathed in narrow clapboards, with corner board extending to cornice level. Windows have curved wooden lintels and flat enframements, as does the main entrance, located to the right of the 3-bay main facade. The roof is a low hip, with plain, unbracketted wooden cornice. There is a two-story polygonal bay on the south side, with a bracketed cornice above the first story bay, Additions include a one-story screened porch on the south side, a large rock chimney at the rear. Located on a corner lot raised well above street level, with stone retaining wall on east and south sides. Built in 1870. 

John McCaffrey was, over his long career, a boat clerk, pilot, captain, and raft boat owner, as well as having interests in lumber and mining ventures. Born in Ireland in 1842, he came with his family to St. Louis when a child. He began river life at age 13, as a hand on a floating raft, and by 1864 was piloting on the Upper Rapids on a regular basis, his first boat being the "Alvira." He bought interests in the "James Means" and "LeClaire Belle", as well as other steamers and raft boats. Toward the end of his life, McCaffrey left LeClaire, and became a planter in Louisiana.

McCaffrey House is now the home of Grasshoppers Gift Shop and Tea Room.

Name: George Tromley Sr. House
Address: 806 N. Cody Road
Acreage: less than one

Physical Description:
House was built in two sections, the first, according to local tradition, c. 1840, although a mid-century date is more likely. The house is two stories, with a low-pitched hipped roof. The older section is constructed of brick, now painted white, The three-bay front has main entrance to the left, sheltered by a small gable-roofed porch on square posts which is probably a rather late addition. Windows have lintels with nearly flat pediments. The later section is of frame construction, with windows set in flat enframements topped with narrow cornices . In the angle formed b the two sections (south side) is a one-story porch with pent roof, supported on slender turned posts. On the south side of the older section is a two-story rectangular bay, a small pent roof separating the stories. A similar bay, though polygonal, is found on the southeast corner of the later section.

George Tromley Sr. began his career on the floating log rafts common before the Civil War. After the war, Tromley and a local engineer, Thomas Doughty, took the small steamer "LeClaire" upriver, to conduct an experiment involving the use of a steamboat to push a log raft. Although the " LeClaire" was not powerful enough to control the raft, this venture set an example for Samuel Van Sant, who in 1870 built a boat sufficiently large and powerful to "tow" a log raft. The Doughty/Tromley experiment was thus a precursor of a major development in the transportation of logs from the northern forests to the mills.

Name: Jacob Suiter House
Address: 214 S. 2nd Street
Physical Description:
Two story brick house on limestone foundation, 3 bays across the front with a low hipped roof, built 1860. A simpler version of the Dawley house (127 S. 2nd), with bracketed cornice and corner pilasters. Windows are 2/2 sash with broad flat lintels and narrow sills. A small wooden porch, supported on very slender turned posts, shelters the centrally-located main entrance. There is a one-story brick kitchen addition, with gable roof, at the rear, and a smaller frame addition beyond this.

Jacob Suiter (1828-1904) was of the second generation of Suiters to follow the river trade as a raft and rapids pilot. His account book lists many of the boats he piloted, including "Stillwater", "Eclipse", "LeClaire Belle," and "Silver Crescent." Ten dollars appears to have been the standard rate for a trip over the upper rapids during the 1870’s. The house is also, of architectural interest. It is essentially a smaller, simpler version of the Dawley House (127 S. 2nd St.) with clean lines and typical bracketed cornice of the vernacular Italianate style.

Name: Dawley House
Address: 127 S. 2nd Street
Owner: Don Frantz
Address: 127 S. Second St.
Legal Description: Lot 1O of Block 9 of the original town of LeClaire
Acreage.- less than one

Physical Description:

A two-story Italianate house, built of brick on a stone foundation the shallow hipped roof has four short, wide chimneys symmetrically spaced. The house is three bays across the front, four along the sides. Flat brick pilasters separate the bays on the front and south sides. These have narrow caps just below the level of the cornice. The eaves are rather narrow, with paired brackets. Windows are 6/6 sash with flat lintels and sills. The main entrance is to the left on the front facade. The wooden porch, extending across the front, with its thick chamfered posts, is Gothic Revival in influence and probably of a later date than the 1851 construction date. At the rear is a one-story kitchen wing, also with bracketed hip roof and wooden cornice. A small porch on the south side of this wing is supported on somewhat attenuated columns. A stone, retaining wall extends across the south side and rear of the lot, which slopes steeply down to the east.


Daniel V. Dawley was born in Vermont in 1811. He worked in Troy, New York and New York City before coming west in 1834. About 1836 he obtained his first river job, that of clerk of the steamer "Hero". For the next 38 years he was employed on the river as either clerk or captain, working such boats as "Galena", "Henry Clay". He was also part owner of the "Golden Era" and worked extensively for the Minnesota Packet Company. He was appointed postmaster at LeClaire in 1881, and died in 1893.

Name: John Smith house
Address: 426 Dodge
Acreage: less than one
Physical Description:

Built in the early 1850's, this house is a small brick
dwelling, one story, on a low stone foundation. It has a gable roof, with ridge parallel to the front facade. The front is three bays, the sides two. The house has a center hall plan, the entrance sheltered by a small, flat-roofed porch supported on slender wooden posts. Windows have flat stone linters.

Name: John Smith House ("Smith-Parrick") 
<Photo not currently available>
Address: 126 S. Cody Road
Physical Description: (Razed 1978) 21/2-story house built of brick on a stone foundation, with a symmetrical front of 5 bays and a low-pitched gable roof with ridge parallel to the front facade. The central entrance has a wide enframement with sidelights. Windows are 2/2 sash, with flat sills and wooden shutters. The house is four bays deep, with two windows symmetrically placed beneath each gable end. There are porches on front and rear, with flat roofs and slender turned posts. The front porch, due to the slope of the lot to the east, is elevated above the level of the street, and has delicate, wrought iron cresting along the edge of the roof. A single chimney is located toward the north edge of the roof on the east side. The cornice has a wide wooden frieze, beaded at the bottom. Built 1849-50.


This house was originally built for William Allen, a steamboat captain. In the 1860's it was acquired by John Smith, a rapids pilot associated with the "Effie Afton" case.

(See inventory for John Smith House, 426 Dodge).

Name: James Gamble House
Address: 527 Wisconsin Street
Physical Description:
Located at  and built in 1855, the main part of this house is the two stories with each side divided into three bays.  On the east and west sides are single story wings, two bays wide.  The main roof is very low hip with three brick chimneys.  The main entrance is sheltered by a flat roofed porch with two wooden columns on high pedestals.  Dr. Gamble practiced medicine in LeClaire for nearly 50 years.
Name: Old Mill House
419 N. Cody Road

This house was built in 1851 at 419 N. Cody Road.  It sits on a stone foundation which, on the river side, forms a walk-in basement and is a two story, five bay, clapboard house with a gabled roof.  This house was acquired in 1865 by J. W. Van Sant with the adjoining boatyards.419 N. Cody Road

Name: John H. Suiter House

A two story house of frame construction on a stone foundation was built in 1855.  The front of the house is three bays wide with a sheltered porch running the full width of the facade.  This house is located at 1220 N. 2nd Street.  John H. Suiter was the second generation of Suiters on the river.  From 1843 until 1875 he worked as a rapids pilot.

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Cody Road Historic District

LeClaire, Scott County


Some 60 structures compose the Cody Road Historic District in LeClaire, ranged along both sides of a 9-block stretch of U.S. 67, locally known as Cody Road and the community's principal thoroughfare. The road runs north/south, parallel to, and slightly above, the Mississippi River. It is heavily traveled, being the main road between Clinton on the north and Davenport about 15 miles to the southwest. The district contains both residential and commercial structures, the latter concentrated in the south end, and extending north along the east side of Cody Road. Most of the residential structures are found on the west side, facing the Mississippi River.

Buildings on the east side of the street typically have high, stone walk-in basements at the rear, due to the sharp of the ground from the street level down to the river. North of the main commercial area, buildings on the west side are for the most part situated well above street level, their lots in some cases fronted with stone retaining walls. Buildings in the commercial area, and all those on the east side of the road, are situated quite close to the highway, with sidewalks narrow or nonexistent, and parking haphazard. This latter problem has been "solved" in the cases of certain recent commercial buildings, which are large, prefab construction set well back behind large parking lots -wholly opposite to the general character of the district.

The buildings, commercial and residential, range in age from the 1850's to new construction, the latter particularly evident toward the south end of the district. The houses are generally in good condition and for the most part occupied; many of the commercial structures are empty, deteriorated, or extensively "modernized," particularly at street level. Many of the historic resources in the district display certain common characteristics. Foundations are of local limestone (the town was once well-known for its lime and sandstone quarries). Commercial structures are for the most part built of locally manufactured soft brick, while residential structures are of wood, brick, and, in a few instances, limestone. The scale is low -- one or two stories (at street level), with the exception of the 3-story Bard Hotel.

Although riddled with intrusions, modernized storefronts, and suffering the effects of deterioration by neglect, the Cody Road district contains the majority of the community's architectural and historic resources. It is safe to say that homogeneity is not characteristic of the Cody Road district. On the contrary, the historic resource present a cross-section of mid-to-late 19th century residential and commercial building types and forms. The oldest are the remains of LeClaire from the 1850's-1860's period, when the community reached its peak of prosperity and prominence as a river town. These include such forms as: 1) the narrow, two-story, two or three-bay front commercial structure, with a broad, low-pitched gable or half-hip roof, with ridge parallel to the front (106, 110, 125, 229 N. Cody); 2) the front-gable residential or commercial structure (103 S. Cody, 118, 209, and the 600 block (east side) N. Cody); 3) the house with Greek Revival influences (symmetrical front, gable roof ridge parallel to the front) (102, 414, 419, 510 N. Cody); 4) the vernacular Italianate residential form, with low hipped roof, sometimes with bracketed cornice (114, 208, 226, 716, 806 N. Cody).

The later 19th century structures are highly varied. Most typical are the brick "Italianate", commercial blocks, with flat roofs and para petted fronts, a few retaining the metal cornices which were a ubiquitous feature of the type, and much in evidence along the Main Streets of many Iowa towns (117, 121, 123 S. Cody, 117, 127 N. Cody). Stylistic influences of late Victorian residential construction (Queen Anne, Eastlake, Shingle, and more Italianate) are represented by such houses as 316, 422 and 504 N. Cody. Others are small bungalows (628, 812 N. Cody) or plain L-shaped front-gable frame houses (402, 622, 624 N. Cody). Standing as single representatives of their types are the three-story former Bard Hotel (207 N. Cody) which hides a front porch behind barnyards; the old city hall (201-203 N. Cody) with its concave hipped roof, pediment window hoods, and decorative cornices; and the former Presbyterian Church (322 N. Cody), a small frame structure with central entrance/bell tower (a form nearly as widespread in Iowa as the commercial Italianate tin cornice).

The boundaries of the Cody Road Historic District have been drawn to include all of the historic resources along the street, and stop at the north and south ends where modern construction fairly abruptly begins. On the west side, the district begins with 102 N. Cody (NW corner Cody and Dodge) and runs through 816 N. Cody. On the east side, the district begins with the first of three late 19th century commercial buildings (1 23 S. Cody) and ends with 803 N. Cody. Intrusive structures may be characterized wither as low, one-story blocks, faced with brick or artificial siding (some with a "rustic" look), or, on the west side in particular, larger, glass-fronted buildings with deep setbacks and large parking lots.


The Cody Road Historic District is significant both in terms of architecture and of history. The 9-block-long area contains (for a small town) a rich variety of mid-to-late 19th century architecture and building types, ranging from the simple utilitarianism of workingmen's dwellings, and assorted forms of commercial architecture, to relatively stylish" examples of upper-middle-class residential construction. Furthermore, many of these resources can be associated, directly or indirectly with persons and activities that formed the basis of LeClaire's reputation, from the 1850's through the 1870's, as a bustling center of industry and commerce, and, above all, as a major participant in the history of Mississippi River trade and transportation.

The history of LeClaire began in the mid 1830's, when the first settlers came to the area. By the end of that decade, there were two towns platted, Parkhurst and LeClaire, the former just north of the latter. Parkhurst was eventually incorporated into LeClaire, along with the narrow strip of land between them which during the 1850's was known as "Middletown." Of particular importance in the history of the community was its strategic location at the head of a 15mile stretch of rock-strewn water known as the Upper Rapids.

From the first, the Mississippi River played a predominant role in the life of LeClaire. Apart from the stone quarries and brickyards, early industry was mostly milling -- grist and lumber, the latter of particular importance and longevity. Several fortunes were made in lumber here, and were reflected in the fine residences. of such men as William Headley (226 N. Cody), James McCaffrey (208 N.

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River Pilot information was prepared by the LeClaire Lioness in cooperation with Carol Farwell, editor.  Rewritten and published by permission of Jim Arpy, Feature Writer, Quad City Times and Dorothy Lage, teacher and long time resident of LeClaire.

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