This site holds many special memories for generations of local German-Americans and other area residents. In 1870, the Davenport Schuetzengesellschaft (later called the Schuetzen Verein) created this “Schuetzenpark,” or shooting park, as a target range for rifle marksmanship. In addition to the shooting and target houses, the park included an inn, dance hall, music pavilion, zoo, bowling alleys, roller coaster, refreshment stands, athletic field, picnic grounds, and other amusements. As many as 12,000 people visited the park in a single day for major events.
In 1885, Theodore Jansen wrote of our Park: “In the charming area of Blackhawk lies the magnificent Shooting Park (Sch¸tzen Park) with its spacious shooting gallery and twenty gun stands……You cannot feel better anywhere than you do in the fresh, woods-scented and shady lap of (Mother) Nature, with the jolly crack of rifles, the deep rumble of bowling balls, the endearing charm of the mighty German menís chorus, the intoxicating sounds of superb German music added to which is the happy sound of our dear mother tongue falling on our ear almost everywhere. You believe that you have been transported back to the dear, old German motherland, and forget entirely that you are separated from it by a trivial five thousand miles.”
The popularity of Schuetzen Park began to decline around 1917, when the anti-German hysteria from World War I restricted the activities of German-Americans and led to the prohibition of the use of the German language in public. Many businesses and organizations changed their German names. For a time, Schuetzen Park was renamed Forest Park. The Davenport Schuetzen Verein became known by its English equivalent, the Davenport Shooting Association.
The park was dealt another serious blow in 1919 when the “Prohibition Act” outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, which had been a major source of revenue for the park. The park was sold in 1923, and it became the site of the Chiropractic Psychopathic Sanitarium. The Davenport Shooting Association continued to use the park for many years after the 1923 sale. However, today, the Association has a new range in Scott County near Princeton. In 1960, much of the property again changed hands to the Davenport Good Samaritan Center.
Today, what remains of this special site is being preserved as a “Wildpark.” The only original park building that remains is the 1911 street car waiting station, which was named a local historic landmark in 1998 by the City of Davenport. Currently, the Park encompasses nearly as much land (ca. 25 acres) as it did in 1870. The non-profit Schützenpark Gilde owns and maintains the site.