The records also furnish the following, respecting the first licenses
for hotels: To Jonah H. Case, July 1833. His tavern was the first licensed
within the corporate limits of Rock Island, though travelers had been kept
at Barrell's house in Farnhamsburg.
In June, 1836, Jonathan Buffum was licensed to keep a tavern in Stephenson. At the same session of the Court a tavern license was also granted to Henry Powars and Company, who built the old Rock Island House, which was opened July 4, 1837 with a big ball, and torn down in 1875, to make room for the present commodious brick structure. The old frame Rock Island House, having been in existence as a hotel for over forty years, and with the new one up to the present time, the Rock Island House has stood on the old corner seventy-two years. The old hotel up to 1854 for a period of years was the. old stage station-the stage office being in the hotel office, S. S. Stevens being stage agent. Stage barn accommodations were afforded in the hotel barn where the feed store is on Market Square. When the railroad got as far as Tiskilwa -then Indian Town-Joe Barnett ran a hack from there to Rock Island.
The old-time landlords of the Rock Island House were Henry Powars, B. F. Barrett; in 1856 Woodin and Hughitt; 1858-59, Albert Tuxbury.
In issuing the old tavern licenses, the County Commissioners fixed the prices for all kinds of liquors sold, and the rates of fare both for "man and beast."
At the present location of the Harper House there have been several differently named hotels. Prior to and in the early fifties, there was the Hadsell House, kept by James R. Hadsell, who, over the front door, had on the cap stone the three links of Odd Fellowship; afterwards, with improvements that came, was the Island City Hotel, which was built in 1854 by C. H. Smith. Its dimensions being ninety-six feet by one hundred and four feet, four sto:-ies high, with one hundred sleeping rooms. Mr. Smith being its first landlord, with his wife, Mrs. Nancy Smith, as housekeeper. In 1855 Tuxbury and Arnold were proprietors. In 1856 B. 0. Stanley was proprietor. Mr. C. H. Smith again took charge in 1858. It was afterwards called the Rodman House, which burned clown in 1870, and the present Harper House erected that year. The old Island City Hall, in connection with the hotel, was where all the dances, lectures and shows were held before Dart's Hall was built.
The American House, built opposite the Court House on Orleans Street, in the forties, Mathias Stem being proprietor. On this site, in 1856, was built the Farnam House, a four-story brick building, with one hundred sleeping rooms; Stem and Delano, proprietors.
The Graham House' in the forties was built on the corner of Illinois and Washington Streets-the Rock Island National Bank corner-where was afterwards built the City Hotel, a three-story brick building. At one time there was a butcher shop there.
Ohio House, corner of Madison and Rock River Streets; A. H. Garver, proprietor. It is still standing; used for business and private uses; a one-story -brick business block surrounding it west and south.
Mansion House, Buffalo Street, south of Water Street. David Noonan, the first proprietor, followed by his brother, Patrick Noonan.
Union House, Madison Street, opposite Spencer Square. Proprietors, 1855-1858--1860, William B. O. Skelton, John Sargent, T. S. Teal. And then we had the old Sham-rock on Adams Street, between Illinois and Orleans, kept by James Broderick. Later the Black Hawk on the levee, west of Madison Street, kept by Hugh Conwell; but these were two large boarding houses, and in their day well known. In early rafting days, when the rafts tied up for the night, the levee was a rough spot; with cheap low shows, and drunken rafters, it was tough.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908