Cork Hill itself is the western section of a larger area of Davenport known as the LeClaire Reserve, named after the landowner and city founder Antoine LeClaire. It was a large non-German neighborhood on the east side of town. LeClaire himself built his home in the Reserve in 1855 and St. Margaret’s Church, later renamed Sacred Heart, was built in 1856. Other promenate families, such as the French’s, also moved to the area. The family of industrialists were also patrons of the arts and literature in the city. Alice French, whose pen name was Octave Thanet, was known as the first Iowa author with a national reputation. The Irish started moving to Davenport after the Great Famine in Ireland of the 1840s and 1850s. Because large numbers of Irish settled around St. Margaret’s the area became known as Cork Hill.
The homes built in the Cork Hill District reflect most of the major architectural styles of the 19th century. They are, however, simpler than the homes found in the Hamburg Historic District, which is located on the bluff to the west. The contrast shows how the various styles were adapted to suit different income levels and tastes. The earliest houses on Cork Hill were built in the Greek Revival style that was popular in early Davenport architecture and continued as the city matured. The Italianate style started to appear in the 1850s. It was followed by the Queen Anne and Gothic Revival styles. As the 19th century came to a close the Colonial Revival style became more popular, as did the Craftsman style. A couple of houses were also influenced by the Prairie School. While most of the homes were built as single family structures, there is also a significant number of double houses on Cork Hill.