Mitchell House (Philemon Libby & Catherine [Hall] Mitchell)
1131 2nd Avenue
Rock Island Landmark, 1995
Significance StatementRare towered Queen Anne associated with important pioneer entrepreneur in Rock Island.
Architect / Builder
The Confident P.L. Mitchell
The house was built about 1857, presumably for occupancy by Philemon Mitchell, who had grown to wealth and prominence in the early financial and manufacturing circles of Rock Island. History relates that Philemon Mitchell and his partner, Philander Cable, arrived in Rock Island in 1856 with $80,000 in cash guarded by a shotgun between them on a train from Louisville, Kentucky. They came to Rock Island to purchase a local banking house. During the panic of 1857, instead of failing, they prospered, and eventually formed a successful banking enterprise.
Philemon Mitchell was involved in many commercial and manufacturing companies in Rock Island. Among them were the Rock Island Plow Works, Rock Island Buggy Company, and the Rock Island Children’s Carriage Works. He organized the Rock Island Stove Company and the Rock Island Glass Works, both of which were later run by his son, Phil Mitchell. Mitchell was also one of the chief stockholders in the Moline and Rock Island Horse Railway, which was later called the Davenport and Rock Island Street Railway System. In addition, he was one of the principal founders of Chippiannock Cemetery. In 1896, the funds to build Memorial Christian Church at 217 15th Street were donated by Mrs. Mary Hall Wadsworth in honor of her father, Philemon Mitchell, who had passed away the previous year.
The grand home of Philemon Libby Mitchell is distinctive for its Italianate architecture and prominent tower, which is covered with multi-shaped slate shingles. Few know that the home was originally built without the tower, which was added sometime between 1867 and 1886. The brick walls, decorative brackets and narrow windows are also wonderful features. The brick from this home came from Rock Island’s own Atkinson Brickyard.
Nicholson Funeral Home
The property went through few owners after the Mitchells. By 1961, the house was purchased by prominent African-American couple George and Alysine Nicholson for the purpose of a funeral home. The distinctive carriage house was moved when the Centennial Expressway was constructed and attached to the rear of the home. The carriage house addition was demolished in 2011. The house is now in the process of restoration by descendants of the Nicholsons.