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Allendale, an office with charm

MOLINE -- Allendale normally bustles with the activities of the Moline schools administration office.

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Nobuko Oyabu

Allendale, a 91-year-old English Tudor mansion, was donated to the Moline school district by Frank and Minnie Allen in 1931. It now serves as district offices for the school district, which has worked to retain the historical integrity of the house.

However, during winter break with staff on vacation and most offices quiet, it is a perfect time to poke around the 91-year-old mansion from top to bottom.

The English Tudor house at 1619 11th Ave., stands on a bluff overlooking Moline's downtown. The interior layout has remained relatively similar to the house the school district took over. Only a few interior walls and doorways have been added, as well as a wing on the west side of the house.

Allendale, donated to the Moline schools by Frank and Minnie Allen in 1931, is one of several majestic turn-of-the-century houses that dot the hills overlooking the Quad-Cities. It received an award from the Moline Preservation Society in 1997.

The Allens also built houses for their children across from Allendale on 11th Avenue. A garage and other outbuildings on the west side of the estate now are privately owned.

The house features amazing views, interesting nooks and fascinating crannies, all pointed out by tour guide and Moline superintendent Ben McAdams. A tour is a rare treat. Short tours usually only are given to Scout troops and student groups.

Mr. McAdams is no stranger to the house on the hill. He served as the district's director of special services until he retired in 1988. He notes points of interest and offers as much knowledge as he can about the house.

He bounded through the snow to point out where a beloved dog, Rover, is buried on the northeast corner of the yard. The spot is marked with an engraved tombstone.

Sitting behind the desk in his office, which has one of Allendale's numerous fireplaces, Mr. McAdams said people see the house and their imagination runs wild.

``The statements I hear most is `What was it like when the Allen's lived here, what was it like at Christmastime, how many people did it take to keep clean?'|'' he said. ``People are amazed at the intricacy of the woodworking.''

The house's north face originally was the front when Frank and Minnie Allen built the house in 1906. Much of the yard now is blacktop for parking purposes. Stone steps curving down to 16th Street now are closed off.

Inside, the district has done restoration work where needed. The many fireplaces draw out the dark beauty of the woodwork. The woodwork on the first floor is the most ornate and distinctive.

In Allendale's library, now a conference room, floor-to-ceiling bookcases surround the house's most decorative fireplace. It features a coat of arms and Latin inscription ``Fortiter gerit crucem,'' meaning ``Bravely he carries the cross.''

The second floor was mostly bedrooms, including the Allen's suite over the porte chochere which extends over what is now the main entrance to the house. It has windows facing south, east and west.

The house's sunroom, which is part of the west wing later added to the house, also is on the second floor. There were 22 large rooms in the house, with nine bathrooms.

The ballroom, with its arched ceiling, dominates the third floor. A billard room was off the ballroom, with a card room next to it. The music room also was connected to the ballroom.

The butler's quarters are reached through a door in the music room. Although the space mostly is used for storage, the three peaked windows of the butler's quarters provide Allendale's most spectacular view.

In the basement, there is little to see except the sizable wine cellar that now stands empty. It has a lock, which showed the owners might not have trusted the nine servants on staff. There also is a safe, reportedly placed there when the house was built because it could not fit through any doors.

Allendale has served many uses since it was donated to the school district. It has been used for a school library annex, junior high classes, and home economics classes. The last classes were taught at Allendale in 1958 before it became the district's administrative center. Mr. McAdams also recalls there were two apartments in the house rented to teachers.

He said he doesn't know the complete history of the house and its former occupants, acknowledging there are only bits and pieces. He said that is part of the house's charm.

``It makes you wonder what all went on in here.''

-- By Kurt Allemeier (January 22, 1998)

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