DAVENPORT— That the building at 1420 W. 16th St. was used as a Catholic grammar school, and housed a convent on the top floor, was air-brushed from the article in the Quad City Times reporting the building’s conversion to a senior living facility. One supposes the secular developers would have freaked if it were mentioned.
Its public history as Jackson School or Public School No. 6 was news from the article to me, although one never thinks to ask the history of a building as a grader. We were caught up in the existential reality of learning to read, operating a paper route, waiting turns to swing on the swing set, playing marbles, softball, red rover and four square in the playground, and figuring out how society worked. When I was last there, the building was abandoned— replete with broken windows in my former second grade classroom.
It was here I took piano lessons, plagiarized the encyclopedia for a report on Johannes Brahms, experienced Kennedy’s assassination, heard Charlotte’s Web read by the fourth grade teacher, lost my Baltimore Catechism, served Mass in the convent, sang songs from the play “The Sound of Music,” learned the Palmer method of handwriting, and spent some of the best days of my life with people I would come to know well. I finished sixth grade in the building, before moving to the new school on Marquette Street. It was the best of times. Times before society started chipping away at native instincts.
The conversion to senior living space is okay with me, although there is an unseemly side to the government money, without which the project would not likely move forward. The neighborhood has declined, and this island of new among the worn down homes seems out of place. Not my problem, I guess. The proposed rent is much higher than our budget would allow for an apartment.
J.P. Morgan Chase Bank N.A., the Renaissance Companies, and Baxter Construction Company will likely make out on the government backed deal. Private companies often know how to negotiate their profits, something government these days does not. At least the construction company is based in Iowa, keeping some of the money in-state.
Regardless of the building’s use going forward, it will always be a source of memories for me. Memories to be revisited from time to time as life brings me back to the old neighborhood.