Sexton's House (Chippiannock Cemetery)
2901 12th Street
Chippiannock Cemetery National Register District, 1994; Rock Island's 100 Most Significant Unprotected Structures, 2009
Significance StatementGothic Revival house that predated Chippiannock Cemetery and served as Sexton's House
Architect / Builder
As early as 1854, a group of citizens organized to create a cemetery, located just beyond the "Mealman place." The site chosen was a 62 acre tract that belonged to Ebenezer Lathrop. Encompassing the hilltop known as Manitou Ridge, the site was midway between the Mississippi and the Rock (Sinnissippi) rivers and north of the former Sauk-e-nuk village. The location was wooded and hilly, with peerless vistas throughout. The cemetery organizers executed a bond agreement with Ebenezer Lathrop and announced on July 20, 1855, that they had engaged the services of Mr. Almerin Hotchkiss, who was in charge of Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, to plan and design Chippiannock's grounds.
The naturalistic landscape of Chippiannock is complemented by the architecture and art found throughout the grounds. Perhaps most notable is the charming Sexton's House near the entrance of the cemetery. Gothic Revival in style, it includes steeply pitched gables, graceful bargeboards (ornately sawn boards along the gable roof), and a central cross-gabled bell cupola with more bargeboard trim. Its location makes it a part of scenic vistas when viewed from the cemetery's hilly grounds.
The house is believed to have belonged to Ebenezer Lathrop. Curiously, the July 20, 1855, minutes from the Board of Directors of the Cemetery Association make reference to needing to "advise another appropriation, as it will be necessary....for a residence for the principal keeper of the grounds." While the minutes speak with delight about Mr. Hotchkiss, the grounds survey, and grounds improvements, no mention is made of the construction of a house. This was unusual given the detail on other financial matters. The next reference to housing of any sort is in the December 3, 1859, minutes, which make reference to a reduction in salary for Sexton Patrick O' Shaughnessy for a year's house rent and firewood.
Hotchkiss's design notes a "Porter's Lodge" near the entrance to the cemetery off 12th Street, in proximity to where the Sexton's House is today. The location and shape are not that of the existing Sexton's House. The lack of detail regarding the house in the Director's minutes may imply that a house was not constructed, and that Lathrop's house was used for the Sexton and the on-site office.
The Sexton's House is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture, one of only three examples of the style remaining in the city. The house appears much as it did historically. The tiny cottage was enlarged in 1922 to provide additional living space. At that time, a porch was added on the west side, and a rectangular wing was added on the east side. Until the 1970s, the house also included the cemetery office, and quarters were cramped. Throughout Chippiannock Cemetery's history, this house has been the residence of the cemetery superintendent or a member of his family.