Nickname: “The Pearl of the Mississippi. AKA the Pearl City. Because, of course, the heavy pearl industry, later destroyed by foreign competition. Kidding! That would be ridiculous. I think my favorite part of the history might be this, Iowa-wise: it was founded by a guy named Davenport! Same Davenport as the other Iowa city. It was Bloomington for a while.

Kidding about kidding, by the way.

In 1884 J.F. Boepple, a German immigrant, founded a pearl button company. He produced buttons that looked like pearls by machine-punching them from freshwater mussel shells harvested from the Mississippi River. Muscatine's slogan, "Pearl of the Mississippi," refers to the days when pearl button manufacturing by the McKee Button Company was a significant economic contributor. In 1915, Weber & Sons Button Co., Inc. was the world's largest producer of fancy freshwater pearl buttons. From that time forward, Muscatine was known as "The Pearl Button Capital of the World". Weber is still manufacturing today and celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2004.

Here we begin: Shamrock Hall.

Built in 1868: this part of the country isn’t as young as you might think.

I’m telling you right now, without fear of contradiction, that this was a Woolworth’s.


Wonder how the walk-in traffic is these days.

What a beaut:

Bit too much awning, but it’s looking as good as it looked on day one:

Did those tiles bother anyone? Was this an OCD test?

The basics abound in Muscatine, and they’re noble examples of every genre and style.

No one ever thought it odd that buildings in the middle of the continent should look like buildings from another continent, 2000 years ago.


That’s a bit alarming. It takes advantage of the river view; no one can accuse it of shirking that opportunity.

Hey wait this is an 8-bit video game

Nothing special, but impressive nonetheless:



1917. The historical designation site says “It has several early 20th century American stylistic influences, including the Chicago School and some Art Deco.”

Er, no. From its history page:

The Laurel Building is the only known building in downtown Muscatine that was built as a department store with upper story offices.

The McColm Department store occupied five floors. Penneys moved in around 1930.

A familiar sight . . .


. . . in its style, and its vacancy.

Good God No

The 60s really lost their way.

Just a shot of the street for context, to show you how nice it is.

It’s the Building Building. That’s my name. As generic as they came, but invaluable to a small-sized downtown.

Mauled on the bottom floor, as you see.

Could be New York.

Really: buildings of that scale and style and battered appearance were common on the East Coast. Still are.

We couldn’t keep that lucky string up forever, could we.


OUMB, I think.

If not, it should be.

Fixing up the dome on the County building:


Quick! What did this used to be?


That’s one busy piece of work:


Originally built in 1851 as a hotel.

Finally, a modern building with all the modern trappings:

Late 70s, early 80s, I think.

People were actually proud of these things.