Davenport is an old city. Old cities have seen a lot of people, a lot of events. Every single one of those individuals and events left a mark, whether good or bad. The city has a lot of memories. It would stand to reason that some of those memories…linger on.
This week, I would like to share with you an unusual story that I happened upon while doing some research. Whether you, the reader, believe it or not, the story is there. I am only here to tell the tale, not to make a convincing argument for the existence or non-existence of the supernatural. I leave that up to you.
Main Street is one of the oldest streets in town. As such, it runs through some of the original parts of the city and has many historic buildings and houses along its length.
The road begins at the Mississippi River, then winds northward through the downtown area. Main Street was one of the primary roads through the original part of Davenport, and early pioneers such as Antoine LeClaire, Colonel George Davenport, Ebenezer Cook, and J.M.D. Burroughs strode along it. They built their businesses there, along with hotels and mercantile.
As time passed, the city began to grow. Like an ink blot on parchment paper, it spread it all directions. Main Street was extended northward up the bluff, and then beyond. Old businesses were replaced with new ones, such as the Putnam Building and the Davenport Bank.
Along the bluff, houses were built. Some of them were relatively modest, but others were not. Perhaps chief amongst the latter is the Ficke Mansion.
The House That Parker Built
The mansion was originally built in 1884 by ultra-wealthy Davenport financier James Monroe Parker. The brick home boasted three stories and thirty-eight rooms, done in the Second Empire style. The mansard roof featured colored roofing tiles and a widow’s walk.
Inside, the rooms were gigantic, featuring twelve and a half foot ceilings. They were filled with lavish woodwork and had such features as sliding doors and a wine cellar. There was even a form of primitive air conditioning that allowed fresh air to travel through the house via ducts in the foundation.
When Parker died in 1892, Charles August Ficke bought the home from Parker’s widow the following year.
A Local Legend
Born in Germany, he immigrated to America with his family as a small boy. His father, who had been very wealthy, eventually bought a farm in northern Scott County, around the Long Grove area. Unfortunately, the elder Ficke’s talents did not extend to farming, and he did very poorly his first year.
Still, he never gave up and strived to learn his newfound trade. After several mistakes and bad harvest years, Mr. Ficke eventually became a successful farmer. Young Charles, however, was determined that he would never again face those lean years.
He left home at the age of thirteen, moving to Davenport to begin his life’s journey. Charles would eventually learn the banking trade, and then give it up to attend law school and become a successful lawyer. Charles served two terms as the mayor of Davenport but gave it up to pursue a quiet life with his family.
In 1882, he had married Frances Davison. The daughter of a prominent Davenport man, Fannie, as she was more commonly known, was attractive and well-educated. She bore Charles three children and loved her family dearly.
C.A. Ficke and his family would travel extensively all over the world, and he brought back several pieces of art to his home. Fannie was both encouraging and supportive of his hobby. Ficke eventually collected so much that he converted the entire third floor of his huge mansion into a private art gallery. It was this enormous collection that would eventually form the core collection for the Davenport Museum of Art, later named the Figge Art Museum.
Ficke died at the age of 81 in 1931. He and Fannie had been married for almost five decades.
Frances continued to live in the home at 1208 Main Street.
Fannie Ficke: Community Leader
Fannie had been no less a leader in the community than her late husband and continued doing so after his death. She was a leader on the Davenport Public Library Board and the Ladies Industrial Relief Society. During World War I, she had also been actively involved with the Red Cross.
Fannie was a quiet woman, and humble in her demeanor. However, she had a keen intelligence, and strove to make the world her lived in a better place through volunteering and monetary donations.
In 1945, she passed away at her home in late 1945.
The mansion passed through several different people, until it was purchased by Delta Sigma Chi chiropractic fraternity from nearby Palmer College of Chiropractic. They have strived to both renovate and maintain the historic property and have done an outstanding job for the past several years. But there is at least one person who claims that they are not the only one who occupies the house.
Aunt Fanny’s Still Watching
In 2003, one of Charles’s and Fannies relatives contacted the Quad City Times, a newspaper based in Davenport. She talked about her father, who had spent time in the Ficke Mansion as a youth. But she also related something else – that she believed the house was haunted.
She claimed that Fanny still walked the halls of the old mansion and was known to stare out the widows walk that features so prominently on the upper floors. Whether the current occupants of the home have seen her or heard footsteps walking down the hardwood floors is uncertain, and they’re not saying.
However, at least some of the family believed that she did. The relative who wrote the times jokingly implied that Fanny was watching out the window for another art delivery for her husband Charles.
But, for such an intelligent and open-minded woman as Fanny, who, along with her beloved husband, had invested so much into Davenport, Fanny just wanted to watch out the window and see what was becoming of the city of her birth. Perhaps her spirit wanted to watch Davenport grow and develop, to see what new wondrous inventions the minds of men would make and change the world with.
Does Fanny Ficke really walk the halls of her former home? Who can say? If she does, she is seemingly as quiet and polite as she was in life.
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7 thoughts on “Does the Spirit of Fanny Ficke Still Reside at her Former Davenport Home?”
That is a gorgeous and perfectly creepy mansion. I would be very happy to share it with Fanny if it meant I got to live there. Heck, I’d probably share it with a full-on poltergeist as long as it didn’t damage my furniture too badly.
Isn’t it great?! I’ve always loved that house. I would probably share it with Fanny, too. The view from the widow’s walk was probably really cool when the house was built, but I’m willing to wager that it’s not so great now, with urban sprawl since 1874 and all that. So, if she wants to hang up there while I live in the rest of the house, I’m absolutely cool with that!
It’s a beautiful home and is being well cared for by the Brother’s of Delta Sigma Chi (not Cha) – I lived there for 3 years and never met Fanny, but would love to have a chat with her. We’re doing everything we can to keep it standing and honor her and her husband at all times.
I’m very glad to hear that it’s in such good hands! And thanks to you and your Brothers for looking after it so that it can continue to be enjoyed by everyone in the area. Sorry about the misspelling, too. I made sure to go back and fix that. Thank you so much for reading, and for reaching out!
I also lived in this house and met my wife on the front steps 35 years ago. While most my days in the house were shared with many other occupants, there were 3 occasions where I spent over 5 days alone in the house. While I never met Fanny, I would say there is a feeling of a presence in the house especially by the oval window that overlooks the yard. Despite periods of the house feeling occupied, I have great memories of the house. I still serve on a committee (The Delt 100) I founded to preserve the house and we have raised and spent over $700,000 to preserve the house in the past 15 years. Recently, we have renovated the front porch and the external bricks. We currently have 2 ore big projects in the works. All of these monies came from donations from alumni chiropractors. I think Fanny is likely smiling at the changes.
I would agree – I think she would be very pleased! I’m glad to hear that so much work is going into the house. It’s one of my favorite houses in the QC, and I’m glad that it’s being preserved for generations to come. I would also like to think that Charles and Fanny are still around keeping an eye on things, even if it’s only their presence is felt. Thank you for all the good work and for reaching out!
Maybe a good place for me to get assistance looking for a living Ficke relative!
Charles’ son, Arthur Davison Ficke grew up in that house. I’m not sure how long into adulthood. He had a son, Stanhope Blunt Ficke, with Evelyn Blunt Ficke. Stanhope married Jane Jonson (Ficke). They had no children. Stanhope and Jane built a home on Bird Key in Sarasota, FL. Stanhope passed in (I think) 1975. In the early eighties we began caring for Jane. When she passed in January of 2001, there was supposedly no one known to be family. We have what’s left of that branch of the Ficke family. We are now becoming older, and would like to find this family. We’ve tried several times over the years to get a response from someone we thought might be family with no luck.
There are photos, death, birth, and marriage certificates. Handwritten post cards, diaries and more. I’ve held tight to these family items for years, hoping to find family that wants them. I am not family, but I am well aware of what these items could mean to family members searching their roots. Maybe Stanhope’s grandmother, Fannie will rest once her family records are safe in the hands of her remaining family. And perhaps, just perhaps, the ghosts that walk the Ficke family storage area in my home, will also finally be at peace.