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Center now a living museum

ROCK ISLAND -- Unlike many museums, there are no ropes or barriers at the Hauberg Civic Center. Inside, visitors are free to sit on an antique couch and walk freely about the house.

Try not to make too much of a mess, however, because Mary Weed has to clean it up.

``Some adults are very careful,'' Ms. Weed said. ``The problem is when I don't get called when someone spills something and I find it later.''

As housekeeper for the center at 1300 24th Ave., Rock Island, Ms. Weed is responsible for the upkeep of the building. Four days a week, she can be seen shampooing, vacuuming and cleaning.

People can come in and quickly undo what she has done. Nevertheless, she realizes it's not her house.

``At my house, my family knows not to walk with their shoes on the rug,'' Ms. Weed said. ``I have to show some restraint here.''

However, her job goes beyond housekeeping. After being on the job four years, she's the center's unofficial historian. Ms. Weed's curiosity was what brought her to the center in the first place.

``I didn't know that this existed, and I was amazed when I first saw it,'' Ms. Weed said.

Despite the 20,000 visitors the center receives yearly, the building is a hidden jewel in the middle of the city, because many people don't know about it. With oak, ash, pine, and hemlock trees, all nestled down the hill on the north side of the property, and expansive gardens in the spring, there are many treasures for the public to see.

Even with its luxuries, the Hauberg Civic Center still serves its main goal -- providing for the public. Different groups and clubs use its rooms for activities, mostly for free or little cost. On some weekends, the center is used for special occasions, such as weddings or other private functions.

The center was a gift to the city in 1956 from Catherine Hauberg Sweeney and John Hauberg Jr. -- the children of John and Susanne Hauberg. The only condition was that the estate be named the Hauberg Civic Center. It opened to the public in April 1957.

Ms. Weed said the center is a good tribute to the Haubergs, who once held many social and community functions at the estate. ``The children wanted it used in this way,'' she said.

The center was built in 1909 by Susanne Denkmann before her marriage to John Hauberg. As heiress to a lumber empire, Ms. Denkmann funded the project and coordinated the design with architect Robert Spencer, Jr.

Ms. Denkmann chose the tulip, her favorite flower, as a motif for the building. When it was completed in 1911, the tulip was visible in everything from the detailed ceilings and stained-glass windows to light fixtures and a copper fountain.

Before the estate was given to Rock Island, Ms. Weed said Hauberg relatives took many of the house's contents. ``The place was gutted. There wasn't hardly anything left.''

With the help of Jackie Stone, one of the center's first directors, a refurbishing program was started. During her tenure, Ms. Stone restored the home to its splendor by finding matching items from that time.

Today, the Hauberg Civic Center is managed by the Rock Island Park District, which supplies funding and other general maintenance duties. Although the center receives no funding or endowments from the Haubergs, John Hauberg Jr., the only living member of the family, contributes furniture and other items from his travels.

Through it all, Ms. Weed treats the center as if it was her home. She admits she can be a bit possessive at times, but enjoys entertaining the many people who enter its doors.

``I love working with the people,'' Ms. Weed said. ``There are some good groups that come here. And they have a ball.''

-- By Kristophere' Owens (February 2, 1998)

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