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Tourists flock to Moline, Illinois for John Deere, both the company and the man

He’s been gone since 1886, but John Deere continues to be the reason that people are drawn to visit Moline, Illinois.

MOLINE, Ill. — John Deere, both the industry and the man himself, is a top attraction for tourists heading to Moline, Illinois.

The John Deere Pavilion is a good first stop. The pavilion is located in the heart of downtown Moline, at 1400 River Drive.

“So the pavilion really is John Deere's welcome center here in Moline" Brandon Jens, Branded Properties Lead at John Deere, said. "And we want to reflect what we're doing here in the community, the equipment we're building, our employees and what impact we're having around the world while also telling our company's rich history."

One of the most impressive pieces right when you walk inside is their X9 combine.

“When you walk in the front doors, you can't miss it and people are quite shocked at the size of it when they do walk in,” Jens said.

The pavilion was refreshed with new permanent exhibits, which were installed while it was closed during the height of the pandemic

RELATED: After 21 months, John Deere Pavilion is back open

There is an enclosed immersive space where visitors can "meet" four customers from around the world and see Deere’s technology and its impact.

Another one of those new exhibits features 30 hats worn by employees, customers and ordinary folks impacted by the John Deere brand.

"We all know that John Deere hat is very iconic. It's a way for us to showcase people and their pride and love for the brand," Jens said.

There are lots of photo opportunities, with one popular spot being inside the bucket of a loader. You can also climb up to check out the interior of multiple other vehicles.

Another interactive spot is a game called “Stomp and Spray.” It's very similar to the popular "Dance Dance Revolution" video game. The game illustrates the company’s weed-spraying technology.

“Basically you're being the sprayer and you're stomping on the weeds as you go through the crops. And hint, you're probably not going to win because the other side is the John Deere sprayer spraying the weeds," Jens said.

This free attraction is a spot you could spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple hours.

The pavilion is open on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but is closed on Sundays.

"We hope when people leave the pavilion is that they do realize that we're here in their community to build equipment to make their lives better, to innovate on behalf of, you know, humanity, to see our technology kind of in their face," Jens said.

The Pavilion features the modern, factory side of the John Deere name, but what if a visitor would like to know more about John Deere and his family’s legacy in Moline?

"Well, you can go down to the Pavilion and learn about company history. But people also want to see that personal side. And so they come here to learn about the family history," Gretchen Small, director of programs and collections at the Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman House, said.

That personal side is on display at the Deere-Wiman House and the Butterworth Center.

The Deere-Wiman home was built for Charles Deere, John’s son and second president of the company.

The home was originally known as “Overlook” and was built in 1872. The home is celebrating its 150th year, starting in June 2022 and continuing into 2023.

"The two homes are homes to the descendants of John Deere. John Deere did not live here. He would have visited here. He was still alive when this house was built," Small said.

The Deere-Wiman House was designed by famous architect William Le Baron Jenney.

Four generations of Deere descendants lived in the home, up to John’s great-grandson.

"Deere-Wiman was lived in from 1872 to 1976 by the family. The Butterworths home was lived in by the Butterworths from 1892 to Mrs. Butterworth's death in 1953," Small said.

The house showcases 90% of furnishings that belonged to the Deere family, from all those different generations.

The home has some features that were ahead of their time.

There is a working 1890s elevator, believed to be the oldest residential elevator still operating in the Quad Cities.  Another guest favorite is an early 1900s spa shower with multiple jets, in an upper level bathroom.

"The company was built on invention. And so he was willing to try new inventions, even in his own house, adding electricity quite early and the elevator, all those things,” Small said.

On the opposite corner across from the Deere-Wiman House, sits the Butterworth Center, built for Katherine Butterworth, John Deere’s granddaughter.

The Butterworth Foundation was created to fund a meeting center for not-for-profits. Katherine left her home to the same foundation, which has since expanded programming to tours, concerts, lectures and kids camps in the summer.

The original home was built in 1892, with multiple additions throughout the years.

But the most impressive addition is that of the mural room in 1917.

The family purchased a massive ceiling painting from a hotel in Venice, Italy that had been created in the 1710s.

It tells the story of a peace treaty between Venice and Turkey at the end of the 1600s. Small said the staff has given the mural an unofficial name of "Peace Coming to Venice."

Credit: WQAD

"The Butterworths then had an architect design the room to fit the size and shape of the painting. So we have about a 400-year-old painting right here in Moline," Small said

The mural was originally painted on stretched canvas on a frame, then meticulously taken apart to be transported.

"I think it's the best room in the Midwest. It's just a spectacular room," Small said.

It’s a piece that is unique to the Midwest, making its value hard to appraise.

Whether visitors come to Moline to tour John Deere sites for the history or for the modern technology, it's easy to see where John Deere’s legacy remains imprinted on the city.

Deere passed away in 1886 and is buried in Moline's Riverside Cemetery, located at 3400 5th Ave.

The family's plot is in the upper northeast quadrant of the cemetery, overlooking the town the patriarch helped shape. 

He’s been gone for more than 135 years but John Deere continues to be the reason that people are drawn to visit Moline.

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