Wharton Field House, Browning Field history recounted in new book - Quad-Cities Online: Local

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Wharton Field House, Browning Field history recounted in new book

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Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2014 8:36 pm | Updated: 11:29 am, Thu May 8, 2014.

The history of Moline and the Quad-Cities comes to life in a new book titled "A Century of Players, Performers and Pageants: Wharton Field House and Browning Field."

The book was written by Curtis C. Roseman and Diann Moore and will first be available at several book signings next week. It was published by Heritage Documentaries Inc.

The book is not just a story about Moline. Rock Island, Davenport, Kewanee and many other points are part of the stories of Wharton Field House and Browning Field. The book is filled with little-known facts that become important as the history of these two sites is retold.

For instance, why is it called Wharton Field House? About 1928, it was decided that such a facility was needed in Moline, but because of state tax and bond restrictions for schools at the time, a school bond issue was deemed impossible. So a booster club, called the Maroon and White Association, was formed and sold $125,000 in bonds to about 1,200 people.

The booster association was headed by Theodore Finley Wharton, who was the comptroller for Deere & Co. until he died in 1943 at age 73.

The field house was dedicated Dec. 21, 1928, and Dr. C.W. Spears, the head football coach at the University of Minnesota, gave the dedication address. According the book, Dr. Spears had ties to Kewanee, and since the opening basketball game at the field house was between Moline and Kewanee, he got to watch his home team team play.

Over the years, the field house has played host to a variety of sporting events, concerts, church services, exhibitions, auto shows, dog shows, political rallies and much more.

The book also includes details about one of the field house's most storied tenants -- the Tri-City Blackhawks, a team that was part of the early National Basketball Association. The Blackhawks played in the National Basketball League from 1946 to 1949, and then joined the NBA, an affiliation that lasted from 1949 until 1951. Local investors helped relocate the Buffalo Bisons to Moline. When the Blackhawks left the Quad-Cities in 1951, they became the Milwaukee Hawks, then in 1955 the St. Louis Hawks, and finally, in 1968, the Atlanta Hawks.

Professional basketball returned in 1987 to Wharton when the Quad City Thunder began playing there.

Readers also will learn much about Browning Field, which predates Wharton Field House. How did it get its name? John T. Browning was a Moline lawyer, the first city attorney for Moline, and a large land holder. Two months before his death in 1910, he gave eight acres of land to the city to be used as a public playground and athletic field.

Changes have been made to Browning Field over the years, including the addition of lights in 1930. The field was first used for football in 1912, but it has seen many other uses over the years, including baseball games, horse shows, midget-car races and motorcycle racing on a quarter-mile cinder track. It was also home to the semi-pro Moline Plow Boys baseball team.

But the book's greatest value is that it pulls together an important chunk of Quad-Cities history and preserves it, in great detail, for future generations.

Book signings planned

The following book signing are planned by Curtis C. Roseman and Diann Moore, authors of "A Century of Players, Performers and Pageants: Wharton Field House and Browning Field": 

Thursday, Feb. 20:

-- 4-6 p.m., Lagomarcino's, downtown Moline.

-- 7-9 p.m.,  Hafner's Bar and Grill, 2805 Avenue of the Cities, Moline.

Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22:

-- 5 p.m., prior to Moline High School basketball games at Wharton Field House.

Books will be available for purchase after Feb. 21 at Lagomarcino's, Model Printers, the Rock Island County Historical Society, Trevor True Value Hardware and the Quad-Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in Moline, and also at Lagomarcino's in the Village of East Davenport.

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