By: CBS 4 Newsroom
For several months now, our own Steve Long has been taking you Inside the Gates of the Rock Island Arsenal, an assignment he says he's truly thankful for.
I look back at some of the highlights so far, and I've learned so much on this journey. But there are a few pieces that have been especially memorable.
It used to be the second biggest home owned by the U.S. Government, second only to the White House. So you can understand why Quarters One left such a big impression on me.
From the intricate iron work, made from melted down cannon balls, to the ornate plaster on the ceiling, there are treats for the eyes everywhere. But what I've found most interesting, a room in the basement. believe it or not, it used to be a courtroom.
"That was the 1870's, 80's, 90's and it would have been the soldiers who were stationed here. Maybe for desertion or not following orders," said Kris Leinicke, Director of the Rock Island Arsenal Museum.
And speaking of prisoners, did you know the arsenal was home to a confederate pow camp during the civil war? Just one of the many fascinating things I've learned while working on "Inside the Gates".
More than 12,000 prisoners spent time at the camp, and their arrival was big news here in the Quad Cities.
"They actually gathered on the island to watch the train arrive on December 3rd 1863 and they watched the soldiers then being taken from the railroad cars and being marched to the camp."
Many confederate prisoners actually died at the camp. Today, you can visit the confederate cemetery, still located on the island, another piece of history you still see today; The Government Bridge.
The original bridge was built back in 1872. That bridge was eventually replaced, but pieces of it remain. In fact, you may well drive right over them.
"So if you don't like the fact that this bridge is 110, 115 years old, you're not gonna like the fact that really the pierings are 140 years old," said George Eaton, Historian-Army Sustainment Command.
And you may get frustrated when you're sitting in traffic, waiting for the draw span to close, but consider this, "What's really interesting about this bridge I think is it's only 1 of 2 in the world that turns 360 degrees both ways so that span can follow a barge through both directions. The goal? to get the draw span shut faster, so you can get going again," said Eaton.
And there's so much more, from the stone shops, to the clock tower, and the people we've met who have told us amazing stories. You could say, the Rock Island Arsenal is a treasure chest of history.
And next month CBS 4 will take you Inside the Gates of the Rock Island Arsenal like never before.
We're airing a half hour special, December 4th at 6:30pm.
It will feature never before seen footage of the Quad City's best kept secret.