Ambrose Hall (Davenport, Iowa)

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Ambrose Hall
SAU Ambrose Hall 01.JPG
Ambrose Hall in 2014
Ambrose Hall (Davenport, Iowa) is located in Iowa
Ambrose Hall (Davenport, Iowa)
Location 518 W. Locust St.
Davenport, Iowa
Coordinates 41°32′20″N 90°34′51″W / 41.53889°N 90.58083°W / 41.53889; -90.58083Coordinates: 41°32′20″N 90°34′51″W / 41.53889°N 90.58083°W / 41.53889; -90.58083
Area 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Built 1885
Architect Victor Huot
Architectural style Second Empire
Governing body Private
MPS Davenport MRA
NRHP Reference # 83002395[1]
Added to NRHP July 7, 1983

Ambrose Hall, located in Davenport, Iowa, United States, is the first building constructed on the campus of St. Ambrose University. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Ambrose Hall before 2013 renovation

St. Ambrose University was founded in 1882 by Bishop John McMullen, the first bishop of the Diocese of Davenport. The school initially held classes in two classrooms in the school building at St. Margaret’s Cathedral. The desire, however, was for the school to have a campus and a building of its own.[2]

Bishop Henry Cosgrove initially chose the corner of Eighth and Ripley Streets as the new location for the school, as it would be convenient for the day students. However, others suggested Noel's Grove along Locust Street as a possible location. Cosgrove was familiar with the location as he had held parish picnics at the location when he was pastor of St. Margaret's. He was concerned that the location was too isolated and inaccessible, and Locust Street was not a decent roadway. In the end, convinced that the location was accessible by way of the Brady Street car line, Cosgrove bought Noel's Grove [3] (renamed Moeller Grove in April, 2013).[4] The cost for purchasing the property and building the central section of the building amounted to $20,000.[5] The Revs. Aloysius Schulte, the college president, and James Davis, the cathedral rector, toured the diocese to solicit funds for the project.

Victor Huot was chosen as the architect for a new building. Previously he had designed St. Joseph's and St. Mary's churches and Mercy Hospital. He also designed the building for the Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport. Both Ambrose Hall and the academy building were designed in the Second Empire style, and they were designed so they could be built in stages over a period of time.[6]

The cornerstone for the building was laid on July 5, 1885. The central section of Ambrose Hall, with the entrance tower and spire, was the first section built. It had space for 75 boarding students as well as office space and classrooms. The Congregation of the Humility of Mary was placed in charge of the dining room, cooking and housekeeping.[5] The structure was expanded in 1887, 1893, 1901, 1908 and 1912.[7] The building is constructed of yellow stone and red brick with marble and stone trim. A mansard roof, typical of the Second Empire style, rings the structure on all its additions. The building housed the entire school until 1927 when Davis Hall was built.

An exterior renovation of the building in the 1960s altered the mansard roofline of the central section of the building.[8] The rest of the exterior has remained largely unchanged. The interior of the building has been renovated numerous times depending on the college's needs.

Marian Grotto

A chapel occupied the third and fourth floors of the western-most section of the building and served the school until construction of Christ the King Chapel in 1952. The space now serves as the board room. Ambrose Hall also housed the Seminary Department until Hayes Hall opened in 1967. A grotto with a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary lies just north of Ambrose Hall. The altar and ambo at the grotto were constructed from the altars from the crypt chapels below Christ the King.

The LeClaire Gym, now known as LeClaire Hall, is attached to the rear of Ambrose Hall and included a swimming pool. It was built during the presidency of the Rev. William Hannon (1915–1926), and was replaced by Lee Lohman Arena in the 1980s.

The building houses offices for admissions, financial aid, student accounts, records and registration, the John R. Lewis Board Room, classrooms, faculty offices, and the student union.[9] In 2013, the university began a $5 million renovation project to bring the building back to its late 19th and early 20th century appearance. Among other upgrades, the tower and spire will be restored along with the bell housed within. A clock depicted in the original plans but never installed, will be added. The university expected to complete the work in December 2013.[10]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ "About St. Ambrose". St. Ambrose University. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  3. ^ Schmidt, Madeleine M. (1981). Seasons of Growth: History of the Diocese of Davenport. Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport. p. 150. 
  4. ^ "‘Moeller Grove’ Honors Former Administrator". St. Ambrose University. March 2013. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  5. ^ a b Schmidt 1981, p. 151.
  6. ^ Svendsen, Marls A.; Bowers, Martha H. (1982). Where the Mississippi runs West: A survey of Davenport History & Architecture. Davenport: City of Davenport. p. 10-1. 
  7. ^ Svendsen 1982, p. 9-4.
  8. ^ "Ambrose Hall". The Council of Independent Colleges. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  9. ^ "Virtual Tour". 
  10. ^ Tara Becker (19 July 2013). "St. Ambrose University hall gets facelift". Quad-City Times (Davenport). Retrieved 2013-07-19. 

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