Certainly there are other things to do in Moline than Deere attractions (Lagomarcino's for one,
but more about that later on). But Moline is certainly John Deere Central in many ways. Even if
you're not into farming, a visit is just plain fun!
Named after the French word for mills -- mills that once lined the banks of the Mighty
Mississippi using its ever-flowing water for mill power -- Moline is in many ways the city that
John Deere built. If your knowledge of John Deere doesn't extend past the Joe Diffie song
in which a love-struck young man paints I LOVE YOU in
John Deere green
, Deere was a blacksmith transplanted from Vermont who set up a shop
in Grand Detour, Illinois. He noticed that farmers faced a vexing problem. The sticky
Midwestern soil stuck to their cast-iron plowshares and made it difficult and frustrating to turn
the fields. But in 1837 Deere changed the world of farming. He created a plow with a highly
polished steel share designed to shed soil. In the process, he also changed Moline. Deere, reputed
to have said I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in
built a company that became one of the largest manufacturers of agricultural and
construction equipment in the world.
John Deere Pavilion
Opened in 1997, the John Deere Commons was developed as the centerpiece of the Quad Cities
Riverfront Project that includes a conference facility and entertainment arena, Radisson Hotel,
and the John Deere Pavilion.
The bland name can not convey the excitement city-bred folks can experience staring into the
eye-level treads of a rumble-ready truly heavy metal colossus, or climbing up a flight of stairs to
sit in the cab of one of these behemoths (and waving to the tiny people standing below). During
warmer weather of late spring and summer there are also pieces displayed outside. The result is a
kind of playground for adults.
There are also antique tractors, an exhibit area where you can learn how food is grown from seed,
story of farming from 1830 to the year 2000, including details about how farms operated during
different periods of time and what machinery and equipment were used. Videos describe the John
Deere tractors made during those years.
Behind the pavilion is the retail store. No, not for the jumbo equipment but all kinds of goodies
emblazoned with the John Deere name.
John Deere Collector's Center
Just down the road is the Collector's Center, a replica of a 1950s-era John Deere dealership.
You can watch skilled technicians restore these historic pieces and view their antique tractors,
the oldest going back to 1918. If you've got tractors of your own to restore, parts and manuals are
available. And the nostalgia doesn't end with tractors, they also display memorabilia.
Not all the houses of Deere and his descendants are intact, but two survive -- the Deere-
Wiman House and the Butterworth Center. Both of these gracious homes were built in the late
1800s by Charles Deere, son of John Deere. He built the beautiful, three-story Victorian Deere-
Wiman home in 1872 for himself and his wife. Later, in 1892, he built the Butterworth Home as
a wedding gift for his daughter and son-in-law, Katherine and William Butterworth.
Originally 5,000 square feet, the Deere-Wiman House, know to the Deere family as Overlook,
kept getting larger and larger, eventually tripling in size to 15,000 square feet. Tours of the house
reveal its history and the lives of the people who lived there, and are definitely worth taking.
One of the highlights seeing the once ground-breaking innovations that were incorporated
into the house. Indoor plumbing was revolutionary, even if the shower now looks charmingly
quaint, and the house was electrified in 1890. An elevator that runs from the lower level kitchen
to the third floor and a central vacuum system were installed before 1900.
Katherine and William Butterworth's home is dramatically different from Katherine's childhood
home, but is also a house that tripled in size. The Butterworths had no children and their home
reflects their emphasis on entertainment, 1900s style. Highlights include the sunken living room
created to accommodate a 26-rank pipe organ. Largely hidden behind screens, the sound is
powerful enough to almost fill the entire downstairs. The other highlight is the library that was
literally designed around a 25 by 50 foot 18th century Italian ceiling painting. Of course,
enjoying the ceiling meant looking up all the time, so a tabletop mirror was devised enabling
visitors to view the ceiling painting without neck strain. Stonework and stained glass window
inserts, together with antique pieces, result in a room reflecting Italian renaissance.
More John Deere
Grand Detour It's also possible to visit the John Deere Historic Site with Deere's original homestead where he created that first steel plow. There's a replica of his blacksmith shop. Tours are available from April through October.
Corporate Headquarters Besides the offices, there's a display floor with current and historic John Deere products, including the Griard Mural created from more than 2,000 historical items from 1837 through 1918.
More Than John Deere
While Deere certainly put him imprint on the city of Moline, there are non-Deere attractions in
The Rock Island Arsenal Museum is the Army's second oldest museum, opened to the public on July 4, 1905.
Lock & Dam No. 14 at Arsenal Island
is a system of locks that enables river traffic to safely navigate the Mississippi, evening out the water levels. The visitors center of the US Arm Corps of Engineers provides a great viewing deck, and they offer tours of this fascinating system.
Public Art Along the Water
Paths along the river beckon walkers, bikers, and families. Besides the view, there's public art. One piece in particular captures the excitement of living on the river.
Museums of Davenport
Just across the river is Davenport, Iowa. Among the museums of city is the River Music
Experience preserving and celebrating American roots music as well as the Quad City
music legends. An 81 foot interactive multi-media wall exploring the music and lives of musicians like Prince, B.B. King, and the Beatles from the American songbook.series of computer databases with over
300 biographies, 1000 audio files and in-depth information on America's music on America's
river. It's got something for everyone and is well worth the visit. Probably well worth several
A little further down the road is the charming town of Le Claire. The river pilots who led the boats up and down the Mississippi often chose to live in the little water-side town. The houses, dating back to the mid-1800s are now private homes but the nine-block Cody Road area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information call the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association at 800 891-3482.
For more information on visiting Moline and the nearby cities visit Visit.QuadCities.com.