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State Historical Society of Iowa

Peterson Paper Company Building Added to the National Register of Historic Places

Jan 31, 2018

DES MOINES - Touted as one of Davenport's first fireproof buildings, the Peterson Paper Company Building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Originally called the Davenport Bag & Paper Company Building, the five-story structure at 301 E. Second St. housed the Davenport Bag & Paper Company from the time it was built in 1908 to 1940 and, later, the Peterson Paper Company until 1992. In 2014, the building was rehabilitated and turned into 23 apartments.

"We're pleased to support the preservation of the Davenport Bag & Paper Company Building and commend all the stakeholders who worked so hard to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places," State Historian Laura Sadowsky said. "The preservation and adaptive reuse of this building into livable space helps maintain the historical character of Davenport for future generations to enjoy."

In its National Register application, the building was cited for its Chicago School construction method, which involves poured-in-place concrete and skeleton steel framing with masonry, large plate-glass windows and limited exterior ornamentation.

Although it didn't make the building literally "fireproof," the Chicago School technology was a radical departure from 19th-century brick buildings found across Davenport at the time. The fire-resistant concrete was an important consideration for the community after a 1901 fire destroyed eight city blocks and caused more than $1.25 million in damages.

"The building has maintained much of its original appearance," according to the building's National Register application. "Looking around the downtown Davenport area, you notice that many buildings feature brick façades. While they are beautiful examples of detailed masonry work, very few buildings feature a façade like that of the Davenport Bag & Paper Building. The light-colored, concrete block façade is a reminder of the functionality and safety measures put into place when this building was designed and constructed over 100 years ago."

The Davenport Bag & Paper Company Building was one of 10 Iowa properties recently added to the National Register, including the East Des Moines Industrial Historic District in Des Moines, Pella Collegiate Neighborhood Historic District in Pella and the Cedar Falls Downtown Commercial Historic District in Cedar Falls.

The National Register of Historic Places is administrated in Iowa by the State Historic Preservation Office in conjunction with the National Park Service. The State Historic Preservation Office is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.