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Teske Pet & Garden Center
2432 16 St
Moline, IL 61265

Teske Pet & Garden Center
2395 Spruce Hills Dr
Bettendorf, IA 52722

Moline Welding Inc
1801 2 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Barnett's House of Fireplaces
1620 5th Ave
Moline, IL 61265

DeGreve Oil Change
2777 18 St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

DeGreve Oil Change
3400 State St
Bettendorf, IA 52722

DeGreve Oil Change
3900 N Pine
Davenport, IA

DeGreve Oil change
2125 53 St
Moline, IL 61265

DeGreve Oil Change
1618 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

DeGreve Oil change
3560 N Brady St
Davenport, IA

1305 5 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Pratt's Antiques
125 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Main St Antiques
114 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Conner Co
PO Box 888
East Moline, IL 61244

Kimball Cleaners
308 SW 5th Ave
Aledo, IL 61231

Williams Studio
New Windsor, IL 61465

Andalusia, IL 61232

Hideaway Plastics
1801 17 St
PO Box 379
Viola, IL 61486

Deer & Co Credit Union
3950 38 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Walcott Trust & Savings Bank
101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Bettendorf offers mix of industry, housing

By Tory Brecht, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy Glen Troxel
The Bettendorf Fire Department of 1912. The Meteor fire truck was manufactured in Bettendorf.
For the first 50 years of its existence, Bettendorf was a sleepy farming community -- noted for little except its fine climate for growing onions. But the arrival of two brothers was to turn the rural hamlet into a bustling company town and start a pattern of residential growth that continues today.

Early settlers, including Dr. John Emerson, the alleged owner of the famous slave Dred Scott, were drawn to the area in the 1830s by the many creeks flowing into the Mississippi. They used the water power of Pigeon, Spencer, Crow and Duck creeks to establish mills. The handful of families living in the area named the fledgling town Gilbert, after the largest land holder, Elias Gilbert.

The name was to last only until the early 1900s. The arrival of William and Joseph Bettendorf, industrialists and inventors, and their construction of the Bettendorf Axle Company, turned Gilbert into a manufacturing center. The company made steel railroad cars, wagon gears and truck frames.

In 1903, residents thankful for the jobs and industry, voted to re-name the town Bettendorf. By 1910, the Bettendorf factory employed 800 workers. In 1920, that number rose to 3,000.

Bettendorf was a company town in the first half of the 20th century. According to author Jon Ryan, city government in Bettendorf, established in 1903, was dominated by Bettendorf Company employees for 30 years. Homes were constructed by the Bettendorf Improvement Company and the first bank was the Bettendorf Savings Bank, both associated with the company of the same name.

Click here for larger view.
Photo courtesy Glen Troxel
The street had yet to be paved in this 1911 photo of Bettendorf's 17th and State streets.
Despite the industrial growth, onion farming continued to be an important business in the more rural areas up river from the factory, Mr. Ryan wrote. Most onion growers were German immigrants, who loaded train cars full of onions for transport out of Bettendorf each fall.

The breakout of a fungus called "Yellow Dwarf" devastated the onion industry in the 1920s. Many farmers turned to other crops on their field. The coming of the Great Depression in the 1930s provided the death blow to the crippled onion industry, said Mr. Ryan.

The Depression also ruined the Bettendorf car works.

By 1932, the plant was closed, and the state was threatening to sell the property because of unpaid back taxes. At the height of the Depression, city street lights were turned off between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to save money.

Like the rest of the Quad Cities, economic recovery in Bettendorf arrived with World War II. The former Bettendorf car works became the site of a tank arsenal during the war, and was sold to the agricultural implement manufacturer J.I. Case following the war.

Also in the post-war period, the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa established the largest sheet and plate rolling plant in the world in neighboring Riverdale, re-sparking the industrial growth in the area.

According to historical pamphlets written by the Bettendorf Chamber of Commerce, many other industries, light manufacturing and retail businesses were created in downtown Bettendorf in the 1950s and '60s. The 1960 population was 10,000, which more than doubled to 22,000 by 1970.

Along with the population, the 1960s also marked a time of physical growth for the city. Annexations in 1963 and 1969 pushed the city limits out past Interstate 80. But the expansion to the north had a detrimental effect on the downtown business district.

According to former development director Dick Kvach (1989-96), Bettendorf's downtown never really developed into a strong commercial center. The buildings were too spaced out, and the turning of State and Grant streets into one-ways and the expansion of U.S. 67, boosted traffic, making parking difficult. Many businesses pulled up stakes and moved up the bluffs to the growing commercial areas near 18th Street, Middle Road and Spruce Hills Drive.

Northern Bettendorf continues to be the area of greatest growth, Mr. Kvach said. In 1997, the central post office moved to new quarters on Devils Glen Road. In 1998, Lindquist Ford, a longtime downtown business, moved out near Pleasant Valley High School on Middle Road. In order to remain relevant, Mr. Kvach said, the downtown must find a new direction, likely tied in with the Lady Luck Casino and Hotel, which came to the riverfront in the early '90s.

"I think there's an opportunity with the riverboat to redevelop the area to serve tourists," he said. "It could become more of an entertainment center, with restaurants and specialty shops."

One positive constant in Bettendorf has been unparalleled residential growth, Kvach said. It shows few signs of letting up. Although many of the city's nearly 30,000 residents don't work in Bettendorf, they are attracted by the good schools, parks, amenities and other quality of life factors.

"By 1990-91, Bettendorf had more houses being built than almost any other community in Iowa," Mr. Kvach said. "The challenge now is to keep commercial and industrial development at a high level to match residential growth."

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.