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about Dubuque

Dubuque is a city located in Dubuque County, Iowa. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 57,686. It is the county seat of Dubuque County.

Several ships of the US Navy have been named USS Dubuque after the city.

Dubuque geography

Dubuque is located at 42°30'16" North, 90°41'13" West (42.504321, -90.686865).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 71.8 km² (27.7 mi²). 68.6 km² (26.5 mi²) of it is land and 3.2 km² (1.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.44% water.

Dubuque history

Early Years

Dubuque was the first permanent white settlement in what would become the state of Iowa. The city is named for Julien Dubuque, considered the first white man to settle in Iowa. Julien Dubuque's tomb remains a local landmark.

In 1833, the area where Julien Dubuque worked was opened up to settlement. Miners created a settlement, this settlement eventually became the city of Dubuque. A small Catholic parish was established that year, it eventually became the Saint Raphael's Cathedral parish. The parish was the first church of any Christian denomination in what would become the state of Iowa.

A Catholic church council recommended to the Pope that three new dioceses be created, one of which was at Dubuque. In 1837, the Dubuque Diocese was created, and Matthias Loras was appointed as a Bishop. When he arrived in Dubuque, there was only a few priests to cover a large area that consisted of several states.


Bishop Loras encouraged large numbers of immigrants to come to the area from the crowded cities in the eastern US. Many immigrants settled in Dubuque and the surrounding area. Also, immigrants tended to gather with other immigrants from the same ethnic background, this often helped with their assimilation into their new nation.

Many Irish families came to the area because of their desire for a fresh start from the poor conditions in Ireland, and the crowded conditions in the east. For many years, Irish families mainly settled in the southern parts of the city - that area was often referred to as Little Dublin.

They were followed by a small group of Germans. However, over the years the German population grew until Germans became one of the two main ethnic groups in the city.

While other groups - such as Hispanics and African Americans - have become more prominent over the years, many living in Dubuque are descendants of German and Irish immigrants.

The Civil War

A number of people living in Dubuque served their nation in this war. A few of these people went on to play an important role in government. David Bremner Henderson (1840-1906) was a Representative in the US House, and was Speaker at the turn of the century. He was wounded in the war and lost a leg. William Boyd Allison (1829-1908) also served in the war. Afterwards, he later served in both houses of Congress.

A few Dubuque citizens found themselves in trouble with the government during the war. George Wallace Jones (1804-1896) was imprisoned on a charge of disloyalty based upon correspondence with Jefferson Davis.

Many Catholics and immigrants in Dubuque were opposed to the Republican party because parts of the Know Nothings movement who had harassed them had been absorbed in to the Republican party. It caused trouble for both groups when the President and other government officials misinterpreted this opposition as disloyalty. This was responsible, in part, for Dubuque becoming a stronghold for the Democratic party.

After the Civil War

The years following the war were ones of growth and expansion for Dubuque. When the Milwaukee Railroad Shops opened in Dubuque, a population explosion occurred when a number of young German families moved to the area in search of jobs.

Lead mining no longer played a central role in the city. Now Dubuque was becoming a transportation center due to its position on the Mississippi River. Also, the lumber industry had a large presence in Dubuque.

The Ku Klux Klan was an unwelcome presence at times in the area. In the 1920s, at the height of its power, Klan influence became visible in the area. Several crosses were burned in the area over an 18 month time period. One Klan meeting near the Center Grove section of the city degenerated into a huge fight when anti-klan demonstrators attacked Klan members. In 1925, the Klan held a gathering which they called a "Konklave." The Klan claimed over 50,000 people attended the rally. The Klan held another "Konklave" as well as a prade.

Fortunately, the influence of the Klan soon began to weaken. National scandals and power struggles weakened the Klan, which was mirrored locally. The Klan had pretty much disappeared from the public view for a number of years.

The Great Depression

Dubuque was also affected by the Great Depression that had affected the rest of the nation. Many people were forced to move into what was called Hoovervilles. The one in Dubuque was in the southern part of the city.

The city was the site of several disastrous floods over the years when the Mississippi River went over its banks. An installation of a floodwall in the late 1960s helped keep the city from experiencing serious flooding in 1993 when the entire midwest was prone to widespread floods, while other cities - such as Davenport, Iowa - sustained major damage.


In the late 1970s, the movie F.I.S.T. was filmed in Dubuque. Sylvester Stallone starred in this film as a trucker who compromises his principles as he moves up through the labor union organization. Dubuque was chosen because without TV antennas it looked more like Cleveland of the 1930s than Cleveland did.

In the late 1980s Field of Dreams was filmed. Parts of the movie were filmed in Dubuque, as well as the nearby towns of Dyersville and Galena, Illinois. The movie starred Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, and Burt Lancaster. Both well known Hollywood actors, and members of the community were cast as extras.

Racial Problems

In the early 1990s the city experienced racial strife that attracted national attention.

The problems began when a Cross was burned in the garage of an African-American family. In the ruins, parts of the cross were found, with the inscription "KKK Lives." Another cross was burned a few weeks later. This was found to be the work of a group of young men who were well known racists - several members already had criminal records. Those responsible eventually were convicted and sent to prison.

At about the same time, the city embarked on a plan to encourage more minorities to move to the area. Some of the critics tried to stir up fear by telling people that the city was planning on taking a bus to a large city and grab the first 100 African-Americans that they found. In reality, the city was planning on making a recruiting drive to bring African-American professionals to the city.

The city's program, and the cross burning polarized the community. People took up strongly held views. Dubuque police had to be summoned to Dubuque's Senior High School at one point because racial tensions almost boiled over into a large fight at the school. Jim Brady, who was mayor at the time, had even went to the schools in Dubuque to talk about his experiences with racism over the years. When the Guardian Angels arrived in Dubuque, it was felt that their presence would only complicate the matter. Brady flat out told them that if they caused problems he'd have them arrested.

The cross burnings, and the city's plans had the affect of bringing negative media attention to the city. ABC's 20/20 did a news segment on race relations, many feel that the news segment was biased against the city and the people living in it in general. An episode of Donohue featured some of the major personalities in the controversy.

The problems also attracted the unwelcome attention of hate groups. One hate group held a parade through the city, it was only attended by a couple hundred people. The Ku Klux Klan held a rally in downtown Dubuque. To counter the Klan rally, the city held a free diversity public gathering at Dubuque's Eagle Point Park.

In recent years, the racial strife has subsided to a degree. While some people still harbor racist views, there have been no major problems since the early 1990s. In recent years, African Americans have become a larger part of the community.

Traffic Improvements

In recent years, the city has moved to improve the road and highway systems in Dubuque. For many years, the city of Dubuque has been plagued by problems that resulted from the design of the roadways throughout the city. In recent times, government bodies (Federal, State, County, and City) have attempted to improve the traffic conditions in Dubuque.

US 61/151

One of the first major traffic improvement projects undertaken was to build a US 61/151 elevated highway through the city. Previously, U.S. Highways 61/151 used several downtown roads from Locust Street up to the Wisconsin border. This resulted in a lot of heavy truck traffic on local streets, and was a cause of major congestion.

In several stages from 1988 to 1993, a new four-lane divided highway was built through the city of Dubuque. The sections were built from south to north. Most of this new highway was designed as an elevated highway - except for one section near the riverfront. Highway planners went ahead with this despite opposition over having an elevated highway through the city. Initially the highway was planned as a complete limited access roadway with no at-grade intersections. But after a campaign by local business interests, the design was changed so that there would be two at-grade traffic lights near the riverfront. The approach to the Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge was rebuilt to accommodate the new highway.

In 1993, the new US 61/151 highway was completed. The highway has helped to reduce much of the congestion in downtown Dubuque. Heavy trucks that are merely going through the city are now able to use the highway instead of local roads. Plus to go from the southern to the northern ends of the route - once at least a 20 minute journey - has been at least cut in half.

The second major improvement project undertaken was Dodge Street. While originally built as a divided highway, the design of the highway had not kept up with demand. Most intersections were built at-grade level without traffic lights - which made turning left almost impossible at times. Plus the hill leading from Grandview Ave down to Hill Street had one of the steepest, and most dangerous grades in the state. A number of people had died when they had lost control traveling down the hill.

The many homes and businesses located along Dodge Street were mostly torn down. While some businesses were closed, others were relocated with government assistance. During the 1990s, a new four lane highway was built. From the Mississippi River west for about three miles until Plaza 20, the highway was rebuilt as a limited access roadway. The number of intersections was reduced, with the remaining intersections rebuilt as limited access (with bridges, on, and off ramps). The highway was built so that the grade of the road leading up to Grandview Ave was not as steep.

By 1997, most of the improvements had been completed. When it was found that one of the sections of the road in front of the Plaza 20 shopping center had serious design flaws, the contractor rebuilt that section at the company's expense.

Improvements on Dodge Street continue. However the results have been mixed. While the roadway east of the Plaza 20 center to the river has shown positive results and improved traffic patterns from having been rebuilt, Dodge Street as it goes through the western end of Dubuque still has a number of problems resulting from heavy congestion. Work continues on that portion of Dodge Street in order to improve traffic. Plans are currently awaiting state approval that would remove all at-grade intersections from just west of Dubuque to Peosta, and build three interchanges.


In the 1980s, a new Northwest Arterial project was begun. It was intended to serve as a bypass around Dubuque, going northeast from US 20 at the west end of Dubuque out to US 52 / State Highway 3 north.

Initially, a four lane section from US Highway 20 up to JFK Road was graded. However, only two lanes were brought to completion. In the 1990s, the other two lanes were completed, and several stoplights were added to the road. In the late 1990s, Dubuque turned control of the road over to the state, who then named the road as state highway 32. At that point, the Northwest Arterial was expanded from JFK Road out to US 52. As a result, there is now a four lane bypass of Dubuque to the north. With the completion of the Northwest Arterial, more and more businesses are locating their operations along the highway. And the number of houses located near the Arterial has greatly increased over the past 15 years.

For a number of years, a Southwest Arterial, or a bypass from the south to the west ends of Dubuque has been planned. However, the Southwest Arterial has yet to proceed from the design stages. Business leaders have voiced concern about not having such a bypass. They have shown that it has caused the city to miss economic opportunities. One businessman who was considering beginning operations in Dubuque, which would have brought 400 jobs to the city, decided not to proceed when he drove through congested traffic on Dodge Street and found there was no southern bypass for the city. Some people have taken to driving over secondary roads to avoid Dodge Street. As these roads - particularly Kelly Lane - are mainly residential streets, it has caused concern among residents who

Westward Migration

During the latter half of the 20th century, residents and businesses of Dubuque began migrating out primarily to the western part of the city. This movement has changed the face of many areas of the city, and pushed out the western borders of Dubuque. Many homes and businesses were built on areas that were once farm fields in "the middle of nowhere."

Following World War II, the baby boom also took place in Dubuque. A number of these young families settled in the west end. Areas that were once fields were turned into housing for these young families, and Dubuque began pushing westward. Because of this, the Archdiocese of Dubuque opened Walhert High School - a central high school for the Catholics of the city. The Dubuque Community School District opened Hempstead High School - the city's second public high school - in 1970.

During this time, a number of new businesses were established in Dubuque. The Kresgee corporation opened a new K-Mart on a parcel of land on what was once the western border of Dubuque. This was the first K-Mart in Iowa. Target Stores opened their own location about a mile west of K-Mart it the late 1960s. And by 1970, Kennedy Mall - the first climate controlled mall in Iowa - was formally opened.

A number of businesses moved to the western part of the city. In 1964, Montgomery Ward decided to move their store from the downtown out to the west end. Both Wards and Roshek's Deparment Store moved into Kennedy Mall when it was opened. In the 1980s, both J.C. Penny and Sears moved their stores from the downtown out to Kennedy Mall.

This westward migration had redefined the lower main street area. Instead of being the main shopping area of the city, it became mostly a business park. After hours and on weekends, the area was deserted. The city has made a number of efforts to increase the importance of the downtown area once again.

City Redevelopment Efforts

In recent years, the city of Dubuque has made a concerted effort to redevelop the downtown and riverfront areas. This included a number of controversial decisions. But so far most people seem to have positive opinions of the redevelopment efforts.

In the downtown area, the gas station featured in Field of Dreams was torn down to make way for expanded parking spots for downtown businesses. In the years following that decision, the Bricktown Resturant opened in the building behind the gas station after the owners made major improvements to the building. The local Historic Preservation Commission had recommended that the gas station remain intact, however the city government overrode their decision.

The Merchant's Hotel - despite being a National Historic Landmark, was demolished to make way for a new building for the chamber of commerce. This was a very controversial decision. People interested in historic preservation felt that the building was worth saving. However, the Merchants Hotel building was allowed to deteriorate until it was unsafe and structurally unsound. It was also considered an eyesore. The historic preservation interests were not able to put forth an effective plan to save the building, so it was demolished. The chamber of commerce then built a modern building that was designed to blend in with its neighbors.

The city placed a new parking ramp behind the chamber of commerce building. Unfortunately, this caused structural damage to several nearby buildings, including the old German National Bank Building. The city has been working to encourage the owner to repair the building and reopen the Silver Dollar Cantina - which he had to close when the damage was done.

A number of redevelopment efforts focused on the riverfront just north of the Ice Harbor. This was part of the America's River project. It included a newly expanded National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Private investors built the Grand River Hotel and Waterpark on the riverfront. The Grand River Events Center was built next door as a place to host events for parties ranging from very small to very large parties. The nearby old Dubuque Star Brewery also is being renovated into spaces for businesses.

Developers have also recently begun construction efforts on the area at the bottom of the bluffs which the Eagle Point Park is located on. They plan to build condominiums at the base of the bluffs. This has caused controversy in that people feel that having buildings there would take away from the natural beauty of the area. The controversy gained further momentum when it was found that several rockslides had taken place after construction efforts had begun. The rockslides led to concern that construction efforts may be causing geological instability in the bluffs.

Recently, the Dubuque Community School District has decided to replace a downtown elementary school building with a new building a short distance away. This plan has run into opposition by historic preservation interests, who claim this would result in the destruction of several historic buildings.

Recent Events

On May 7, 2004, President George W. Bush visited the city. He is the first sitting President to have visited the city since Jimmy Carter in 1979. While some were excited to have a sitting President in the city, others reacted with mixed feelings - especially when most of those allowed to attend a speech by Bush were only those who planned on voting for him in November. A World War II veteran who was denied tickets by campaign staffers only added to the controversy.

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry also visited the city several times during his campaign. On July 3rd of 2004, Kerry watched the fireworks celebration that evening from a private boat sitting in the Mississippi River. On July 4th, he continued on to visit several other communities in Iowa, including Cascade, and Cedar Rapids. On August 3, 2004, Kerry again visited the city, and spoke to a large crowd at the Five Flags Center. From Dubuque, he went to another campaign stop at Davenport, Iowa.

From June 27 to the 29th, Dubuque hosted the Grand Excursion. This excursion - which ran from the Quad Cities to the Twin Cities made a stop at Dubuque. This brought several riverboats participating in the event, a steam locomotive passenger train, the Budweiser Clydesdales, and a large number of people to the city.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dubuque, Iowa".

This city is also known as: Dubuque.

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