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The Ryan Houses, Dubuque, Iowa

On the southwest corner of Loras Boulevard (named after one of the many of Dubuque’s universities up the bluffs to the west and what was originally 14th Street) and Locust Street are two of the most beautiful houses in the city, and the Midwest. They were both owned by William Ryan, who made his fortune in meat packing.

The first house is simply known as the Ryan House, which is a pure example of the Italianate villa style from the 1870s, and something I would expect to see around Tower Grove Park or Lafayette Square in St. Louis.

Consciously asymmetrical, but still compositionally balanced, the tower, built for the venting of hot air in the summer when the windows would be opened to draw the air upward, the massing of the house is then arranged around it.

Next door, the house is in a different style, but they work together as a pair.

The Andrew-Ryan or the Thompson-Ryan House, to the south, is one of the most amazing examples of the Second Empire in the country, in my opinion. It has an interesting history; it was built in 1873, but was moved thirteen feet to the south in 1890, when the elaborate porch on the south was added. It was originally built for Mayor John Thompson, and William Ryan eventually moved in from the house we just saw to the north.

By 1890, the style was already falling out of favor, so it’s an interesting commitment to the house to save it and not tear it down and replacement it with a Romanesque Revival house, which is what would have been in style at the time.

The belvedere on the roof is rare to survive this long, and is restored to its original appearance.

The yellow sandstone, which is common in northeastern Iowa, also prevails on the window and door treatments. I believe the bay window below may have been added in 1890, as well.

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