From the Vault: Dubuque, Iowa, October 2018

Back in October of 2018, I visited Dubuque, Iowa. I had visited before, but had never taken any pictures. The city has an important link to St. Louis; much of the woodwork in our city originally was made in Dubuque, and was sent down the Mississippi on barges first, and then obviously by railroad. There is much of the wealth in the built environment from after the Civil War still here, and in fact I remarked that in some ways portions of Dubuque preserve the appearance of what St. Louis once looked like east of Jefferson in the 1860s through the 1880s.

And those lumber mills and woodworking factories; they’re still here, many of them, preserving one of the most beautiful collection of industrial buildings in America. The success story of Dubuque’s revitalization of those buildings is also remarkable.

From the workers’ houses that sit across the street from the old titans of wood along the Missisippi River…

…to the amazing Italianate and Second Empire mansions up the hill, Dubuque has some of the best architecture in the Midwest, if not the nation.

And what’s even more amazing, those houses that would have been torn down in St. Louis, often times in the early Twentieth Century, as I mentioned above, are still standing. We’ll be looking at some of the most spectacularly preserved streetscapes in America, where there are literally entire blocks without a single loss since the Nineteenth Century.

And downtown, there are some fascinating early Twentieth Century skyscrapers, which have also survived the wave of demolition that afflicted many American cities last half of the century.

I think Dubuque is a great example of a how city, that was once a the butt of jokes from the rest of Iowa, can preserve its historic architecture, and parlay it into a resource that helps to revitalize the community in the post-industrial age.

In the next couple of weeks, we will see my explorations of the city.

And see how St. Louis can learn from the success of the city upriver on the Mississippi.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Charlotte says:

    Recently found your site, fun. My husband was interested in the most recent posts: his father was from Dubuque, and family legend includes his father’s stint at the Sash and Door Co. Thanks for including that photo, he enjoyed it and it brought memories

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      More photos of that building Friday!

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