An island in the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois has a long military history. Originally home to Fort Armstrong beginning in 1816, years before the city of Rock Island was founded in 1841, it's now the Rock Island Arsenal. I would guess most people have never visited it but later this month you'll have a very rare opportunity... to tour seven of the historic homes on the island... all of them at least 115 years old.

Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal
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Years ago, while going to college in the Quad Cities, I used to drive by Arsenal Island while going to work at a radio station in Rock Island. Initially, I would travel to Rock Island via the Arsenal Bridge which is a span bridge that opens for barges and thereby temporarily closes to vehicular traffic. You can't be late for work at a radio station, so I quickly abandoned the route that included the bridge which had been in use since 1896. Amazingly, it still is today.

During those trips to work, I often wondered about visiting Arsenal Island. Next weekend, I will.

Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal
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Saturday, April 30, the island will have a tour of homes. It's the first time in 10 years an event has been held like this, according to the Quad Cities Regional Business Journal. The timing is perfect with the Arsenal celebrating its 160th birthday in 2022. The event is put on by the non-profit Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club with proceeds going to scholarships and grants. Tours are self-guided. I'll be attending with my sister, mom, and my dad, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran. More info on the tour coming up but first, let's look at the buildings you'll be able to tour.

Quarters One

The amazing building both in the top photo and below was built between 1870 and 1872, under the direction of General Thomas Rodman. Known as the "Father of Rock Island Arsenal," he died in 1871, during construction. His funeral was the first public event held in Quarters One. Like all of the original buildings, it's made of Joliet limestone.

Quarters One has 51 rooms and its three floors encompass more than 20,000 square feet. When it was a residence, the U.S. Army says it was the "largest house owned by the Army, and second largest in federal inventory, behind only the White House." It was home to 38 senior officers at Rock Island Arsenal, last serving as a residence in 2008. It is now home to community gatherings and is available for public rental:

Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
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Quarters Two

At 6,114 square feet, it features four bedrooms and 3 full baths. The Quad Cities Regional Business Journal says it was built in 1873 and 1874:

Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
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Quarters Three

Built in the early 1870s with stone that came from Stone City, Iowa, it has a screened-in porch that now overlooks the Mississippi River and a golf course. The 7500-square foot home has six bedrooms and three full baths:

Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
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Quarters Four

The six-bedroom, 3-bath home was built in 1872. It is nearly 7,000 square feet:

Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club
Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club
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Quarters Six

Located where the Rock Island Confederate Prison Camp once was (only the Confederate cemetery remains), it's part of Colonel's row on the north side of Arsenal Island. Constructed in 1905, it's almost 9,700 square feet with seven bedrooms and four full bathrooms:

Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal
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Quarters Seven

The only structure made of wood on Terrace Drive, it was built in 1902. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is almost 6,000 square feet. The porch faces the Mississippi River:

Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
Rock Island Arsenal Family Housing Office
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Quarters 34

The newest building on the tour of homes, it was built in 1907:

Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club
Rock Island Arsenal Welcome Club
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The self-guided tours are Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to the homes above, you'll be able to see The Clock Tower, Mississippi River Visitor Center, Locks & Dam 15, Confederate Cemetery, and Memorial Park. The Rock Island Arsenal Museum remains closed as it undergoes a $1.5 million renovation.

Tickets for the tour can be purchased HERE for $25. The event is not handicapped accessible. Anyone over age 16 must have a valid ID. The Quad Cities Regional Business Journal says that those who do not have a Real ID driver's license should bring a Social Security card or passport. Contact usarmy.ria.imcom.mbx.usag-access-request@mail.mil with questions.

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