Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House

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Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House
Smith Murphy House (Davenport, Iowa).JPG
Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House is located in Iowa
Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House
Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House is located in the US
Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House
Location 512 E. 6th Street
Davenport, Iowa
Coordinates 41°31′34″N 90°34′3″W / 41.52611°N 90.56750°W / 41.52611; -90.56750Coordinates: 41°31′34″N 90°34′3″W / 41.52611°N 90.56750°W / 41.52611; -90.56750
Area less than one acre
Built 1854
Architect Willett L. Carroll
Architectural style Italianate
MPS Davenport MRA
NRHP Reference # 83002508 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 7, 1983
Designated DRHP April 2, 1997[2]

The Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House is located east of downtown Davenport, Iowa, United States. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and on the Davenport Register of Historic Properties as the Octagon House in 1997.


Henry H. “Variety” Smith was a successful Davenport merchant and a member of the city council. He and his wife Mary moved to Davenport in 1850. His downtown store, Smith's Philadelphia Variety Store, was known for its “splendid stock of fancy goods from numerous buying trips to the East.” [3] Mary served as the store's assistant manager and was the city's first female clerk.[4] It is believed he hired one of Davenport’s first professional architects, Willett L. Carroll, to design his house in the 1850s.[5]

The Smith's sold the store in 1867 and moved to East Davenport where they were engaged in agriculture. After it sat empty for a short time, the house was purchased by J.H. Murphy who was a partner in the law firm of Martin, Murphy and Suksdorf.


The house was designed based on the philosophy of Orson Fowler, a leading phrenologist, who held that the octagon was the closest thing to a circle and it was conducive to good health.[3] While it is one of several octagon houses in the state of Iowa, it is the only one left in Davenport.[5] It is the earliest of the remaining octagon houses in Iowa that was built to the precepts of Fowler who recommended that they employ "plank wall" construction and a plan adapted from the Howland House, which he published in A Home For All in 1853.[4] The house exhibits features found in the Italianate style: hipped roof, bracketed eaves, and a small belvedere on top, which has subsequently been removed. The entrances into the house are on the main floor, which sits atop a raised basement level. They are all covered by columned porches and are located on the four cardinal points of the compass.[3] The grounds of the estate also featured a carriage house, stable, grape vines and a picket fence, all of which are now gone.[5]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Historic Preservation Commission. "Davenport Register of Historic Properties" (PDF). City of Davenport. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  3. ^ a b c Roba, William, Anderson, Fredrick I. (ed.) (1982). Joined by a River: Quad Cities. Davenport: Lee Enterprises. p. 72. 
  4. ^ a b Martha Bowers; Marlys Svendsen-Roesler. "Henry H. Smith/J.H. Murphy House" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-03-17.  with photo(s)
  5. ^ a b c Svendsen, Marlys A.; Bowers, Martha H (1982). Davenport where the Mississippi runs west: A Survey of Davenport History & Architecture. Davenport, Iowa: City of Davenport. p. 13.1. 

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