DAVENPORT — Standing on Davenport’s East Second Street, facing The Half Nelson restaurant, one would never guess there’s a penthouse tower rising five stories at the back of the building.
But go around to the alley, and — yes! — there’s a three-story, stair-stepped addition built atop the original two-story building that isn’t visible from the front.
And when Pete Stopulos bought the building for development into a restaurant, meadery and apartments, he knew the addition he calls the penthouse tower had spectacular redevelopment potential as a residence.
Now that the penthouse is finished, he’s renting it as an Airbnb rather than a leased apartment as he has with the seven units he built on the second floor.
The tower offers a place to stay in downtown Davenport with spectacular views of the Mississippi River and lots of architectural character that sets it apart from run-of-the-mill hotel rooms. It sleeps six, has 2 1/2 bathrooms and a full kitchen.
That’s quite a change for a space that was built in 1934 by a seed company to use for cleaning grain.
Step through the front door and the first impression may be that, wow, this place is bright!
While the tower was full of grain bins when Stopulos took possession, it also contained many windows. Today these windows let in light that brings out the warmth of the red clay block walls and the Douglas fir floors.
Retrofitting this space wasn’t easy, though.
The tower posed many challenges, mainly because — with the metal grain bins still in place — it was initially impossible for Stopulos or architect Andrew Dasso, owner of Streamline Architects, East Moline, to see what they were working with.
Even access was difficult, as there were no staircases per se, just a 16-foot metal ladder and grain chutes that had to be crawled through from one level to another.
“It was like a Chutes and Ladders game,” Dasso said.
As workmen cut out the heavy gauge steel bins with torches and the space revealed itself, Dasso had to change some of his design plans to fit reality. He also found “more neat nooks we weren’t aware of because the bins were there. It was also a lot bigger than we thought.”
The first level of the unit contains a living room with a 16-foot ceiling and five windows with river views. Up two steps, there is the kitchen — a long, narrow space that is laid out the way it is because that is what the structure dictated. It’s outfitted with white cabinets, black granite countertops and a microwave, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and coffee maker.
“The kitchen is in a nook,” Dasso said. “It’s hard to understand how it (the building) went together.”
Between the living room and kitchen there’s a wide, switchback staircase that leads up to the second and third floors.
The second level has a bedroom, office area, sitting room with futon that can be opened for sleeping, laundry and full bath.
The third level has a bedroom, full bath and a private deck off what is the fifth floor of the building, facing west.
The two full baths and the handicapped accessible half-bath on the first floor are outfitted in similar fashion — gray walls; white vanities with black granite countertops; white toilets, sinks and showers; white tile floors with black diamond insets and brushed gold hardware.
“This place is going to be good for a long time to come,” Stopulos said. “We didn’t skimp.”
Photographer Brandon Pollock’s favorite photos of 2019.