Sylvan Island



Kevin Danforth/ David Zemke
Professor Tweet
College Writing 101-15
16 Nov. 2000
The Sylvan Island Dream
Jumping into the water from a dam, running around through the trees, and fishing from the shore were some of the many exciting activities experienced by a young little boy on Sylvan Island during the 1930’s. Although these times were plentiful, they would soon diminish over the years. Republic steal which provided many jobs for members of the community went out of business and left no one to maintain proper care for this child’s playground. This island that once supported trails for people to walk and ride bikes, open land for family picnics, and a peaceful atmosphere for one to relax was now full of pollution and brush that made it impossible for one to enjoy. Nothing was really made of the island until the 1960’s when Professor Norm Moline from the geography department at Augustana College decided to take a class over for fieldwork. At the time the only intention was to provide labs and experimentation for the students. As the class continued, the student’s focus started to involve the island’s history and possible changes that could be made to the island in the future. What originally started out as a class project now turned out to be a starting point in returning childhood memories to many who spent time making this island their home. Many students and faculty had long and short-term ideas of what could be done to restore the island back into what it used to be. Eventually many volunteered hours of hard work would be spent restoring the island. The project would not however be completed by professor Moline and his students. It would become a starting point in which a once young boy named Jesse Perez who experienced and grew up with the beauty of the island, would take over and continue the quest in making Sylvan Island a home for many to experience the islands pleasures for years to come.


History of the Island

Sylvan Island was created in 1865 because the U.S. government needed more power in order to make a weapon store for the arsenal in Rock Island. The government and Moline Water Power Co. decided to make a dam that would provide power for the arsenal as well as the water company. The government would supply for all the expenses but the water company would supply the land needed. Plans for the dam were concluded in 1869 and stated that the dam would be connected to the mainland at 6th Street. The dam would continue along the island until it crossed the channel into Rock Island. By 1871, all creations of the dam were completed and both Moline Water and the arsenal received the power needed. Between 1941 and 1942 Mid American Energy moved the dam to the eastern part of the island. Since then, no changes have been made.
In 1894 Sylvan Island was leased to Sylvan Steel Company which would take over the island. The mill would on average produce 25,000 tons of steel every year. This amount was so high because in 1898 a 5-ton furnace was purchased, and could produce refined iron, hard and soft steel, agricultural iron, merchant bar steel, and steel shapes. There were also coal and gas-fired furnaces along with four mills ranging from eight to sixteen inches. That same year Sylvan Steel and Republic Iron and Steel Company of Chicago would merge and become Republic Steel. There would be a total of 150 employees. When the two companies joined, the manufacturing of steel would now be from used rail steel. Many different agricultural tools and supplies were now produced due to the merger. The most prosperous year came in 1931 when 38,605 tons of steel was produced. Republic Steel would be in business until 1956. Many different conclusions have been made as to why the plant shut down. If you were one of the laborers, you would probably say the reason was because the steel being produced was too thick and unable to be cut easily, so large companies such as John Deer would no longer purchase from the plant. Owners of Republic Steel said the reason for the company’s depletion is because the costs for operation increased, proper rails being produced were in