Friends of Hauberg banner

  The Denkmann-Hauberg Story

John and Susanne Hauberg

John & Susanne D. Hauberg ca. 1914
Photo courtesy of Fay Hauberg Page

It was 1909.

She was in her late 30s, highly-educated (Dana Hall and then Wellesley); the well-to-do youngest daughter and heiress to a lumber fortune; and well-travelled since her college days. Her father was F.C.A. Denkmann, who, with his brother-in-law Frederick Weyerhaeuser, established the lumbering business that still bears the latter's name, right here in Rock Island. The wives of Denkmann and Weyerhaeuser were sisters. Susanne was a philanthropist, sharing her fortune by building and supporting a settlement house in Rock Island. She was religious, sharing her time and money with her Presbyterian church and the YWCA she helped establish. And she was cultural, donating the Augustana College library building along with her four living sisters and two brothers. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she probably thought that marriage was not in her future. So in late 1908 she bought this hilltop acreage and retained a well-known Chicago architect, Robert C. Spencer, to design this large Prairie style home that she intended to occupy with two single teacher friends. She also retained a well-known colleague of Spencer's, Jens Jensen to create the 10-acre landscape that surrounds the house and carriage house.

He was 40, the fourth child in a family of eight surviving children, a farm boy, used to hard work and little money, but with a deep intellectual curiosity and a penchant for travel. He left the farm when still young, but never left his family roots. While still in his 20s, he bicycled to Boston, making his way by working as he travelled. He visited throughout the western US, once again working his way from place to place. He even went to Europe, working on a cattle boat for his fare. He bought a box camera and became an avid photographer. Then he decided to go to college and quickly earned two college degrees, followed by a law degree. He came home and opened a law office in Moline, but he retained his avid curiosity about nearly everything, and a commitment to social and religious causes. Although he had never married and had no children of his own, he loved working with the children in his Lutheran church.

Photo of a decorative window inside the Hauberg house

Then Susanne Christine Denkmann (1872-1942) and John Henry Hauberg (1869-1955) were both on the board of the Bethany Home (for orphans). Something clicked between these two dynamic and independent people, and it didn't take too long before they were engaged. Each had finally found an equal and their common interests in social, religious, and civic activities made them well matched. Both gave generously of their time and money (although Susanne had more of this) to the community.

After a very short engagement they married in June 1911, in Susanne's family home near the old lumber mill and her settlement house. The wedding was followed by a honeymoon in Wisconsin. When they returned, this hilltop home was finished and they began their life there together.

The family called this the Great House, but today it is known as Hauberg Civic Center. It was given to the City of Rock Island in 1956 by John and Susanne's children, John H. Jr., and Catherine Hauberg Sweeney. Little had changed from the time it was first occupied in 1911. The Hauberg descendants even left many family furnishings for Rock Island citizens to enjoy.

It is most fitting that the home designed for a lumber baron's daughter features many different varieties of wood trim, including mahogany, oak, walnut and birch. The several fireplace mantels are works of art in themselves. Iridescent glass tiles depict a tulip garden in one, while Rookwood tiles with a tulip motif are used in the master bedroom. The living room features an Aeolian pipe organ that can direct sound throughout the house. It's not an ordinary pipe organ, either, it will play automatically!

Photo of tulip wall

The 7 acre wooded landscape, currently undergoing restoration, is a masterpiece of Jens Jensen's philosophy of woodland design. Created from a once featureless hillside, it has meadows, a fire circle, and a stream with an arched bridge. All is accessed by a winding brick driveway (no motorized vehicles permitted). There is even a terraced garden that once provided a variety of fruits for the family and neighbors.

The large garage/stable building is largely intact, complete with an apartment on the second story. It appears to have been inspired by the German "Haubarg" style of farm building and perhaps was designed by architect Spencer as a sly reference to honor the Hauberg name. He had traveled extensively in Europe and was a scholar of European styles.

Friends of Hauberg Civic Center is a non-profit group that was created in 2016 to restore this historic home and promote its use for both civic and private activities. The civic activities ensure that the wishes and intents of the Hauberg-Denkmann heirs are followed, while private rentals of the facility provides an income stream to support the continued maintenance of this urban treasure.


Friends of Hauberg Civic Center
PO Box 3174
Rock Island, IL 61201
(309) 373-5080

FOHCC Facebook FOHCC Twitter