Masterpiece On The Mississippi

by Camellia Staab July. 21, 2021 390 views

The total driving distance from Galena, IL to Dubuque, IA is 16 miles or 26 kilometers. Thus, it would make no sense to drive all the way to Galena and not visit Dubuque as well.

Mural Art by Ryan Christenson, but prefers to go by ARCY.

Mural Art by Ryan Christenson, but prefers to go by ARCY.

Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city and is among the oldest settlements west of the Mississippi River. The first permanent settler to the area was French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque. When he arrived in 1785, the Mesquakie (Fox) Indians occupied the region which included an abundant amount of lead mines. Knowing lead’s importance to Europeans, the Mesquakie kept the locations of the mines a secret. But Julien Dubuque developed close relationships with the Mesquakie while trading fur and the Mesquakie informed him of the region’s wealth of lead deposits. Working together to mine the lead with the Mesquakie, Julien Dubuque was eventually given control of the mines, which he named the Mines of Spain ,and successfully operated until his death in 1810. On June 1, 1833, the land Julien Dubuque had worked so hard to develop was opened up for settlement by the United States Government under the Black Hawk Purchase Treaty and came to be known as the city of Dubuque when it was chartered in 1837.

Dubuque’s location to the Mississippi and its abundant land and resources, attracted large numbers of immigrants, particularly Irish and Germans, from overcrowded cities on the east coast. The Black Hawk Purchase Treaty allowed miners the first opportunity to settle along the banks west of the Mississippi and those that moved westward referred to Dubuque as the “Key City”—the place in which the door to their dreams of a better life was opened. Settlers to this vibrant river city were known for mining and fur-trading, but later flourished in the industries of button making, boat building, logging, mill working, meat packing, and other heavy industries. Since then, the community has had a long-standing manufacturing sector and a growing service sector. Dubuque is now the major retail, medical, education and employment center for the tri-state area.

Dubuque takes great pride in the slogan, “Masterpiece on the Mississippi,” but such was not always the case for Dubuque. In the 1980s, Dubuque was a city experiencing difficult times. The city had double-digit unemployment, an exodus of residents from the community and the state, struggling downtown businesses, and disconnected neighborhoods. However, community leaders from the private and public sectors came together in four community visioning efforts over the past 20 years that helped change Dubuque. These leaders focused on grassroots efforts to address downtown redevelopment and industrial expansion. 

Julius Dubuque Bridge

Julius Dubuque Bridge

Dubuque's Town Clock resides in Town Clock Plaza on Main Street in downtown Dubuque. The clock, accurate to within two seconds each week, was operated with weights wound by cranks, which ran through a shaft into the basement of the building. Two boys spent an hour and a half winding the weights sufficiently to operate the clock mechanism for one week. In 1927, a new Seth Thomas mechanism was added. The clock was electrified by Interstate Power Company and synchronized by Western Union.

Dubuque County Courthouse was originally a two story red brick building. The courthouse was considered old and inconvenient so there was talk of a new courthouse. In 1890 the decision was made to have the new courthouse located at the site of the old one. In 1891, $125,000 worth of bonds were sold and the cornerstone was laid.

The building was made of red brick and Bedford limestone. Its architectural style is early Victorian. At one time, 12 massive statues, in Classic Greek style, adorned the roof and upper part of the building. Six of them have mysteriously disappeared, however, atop a golden cupola, the statue of Justice still stands 213 feet above street level.
The structure had a $145,439.22 price tag when it was built at the end of the last century, but since then over $800,000 has been spend to renovate the building. In 1976 and again in 1994, the tower was repainted. The guilded dome and statues were also repaired. Most recently, a geothermal heating and cooling system replaced the old boiler.

Back in 1882, everything closed for an hour and a half over the lunch hour. Unfortunately for Mr. J. K. Graves, the route to his house required a half hour buggy ride around the bluff. He decided to build a cable car to cut down on his commute. The original cable car was hauled up and down on two rails by a hemp rope. After the cable car burned down twice, ten neighbors founded the Fenelon Place Elevator Company.

This historic cable car is 296 feet in length, and transports passengers 189 feet from 4th Street to Fenelon Place.

Once on top one has a magnificent view of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Constructed in 1856 to manufacture lead shot ammunition, the Shot Tower is one of only a few remaining shot towers in the United States, and the only one west of the Mississippi River. The 120-foot Shot Tower produced lead shot from 1856-58, and then was closed. It was briefly refurbished for use during the first year of the Civil War. It was used by the Standard Lumber Company as a fire watchtower from the late 1880s until the company was destroyed in the 1911 lumberyard fire. The tower stood deserted in its post-fire ruin from 1911 to 1959. The 1911 fire destroyed the original wooden stairs, leaving no ready means to access the tower interior for maintenance and repairs. In 1960-1961, the tower was repaired using methods that are now known to promote deterioration. Mayor Roy Buol declared 2006 as the Year of the Shot Tower in recognition of the structure’s sesquicentennial.

The shot tower was closed when we were there so we could not see what the inside looked like. But I found a photo of the inside.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Dubuque Rail Bridge was rebuilt in the 1890s and has 5 spans and a swing-span. Because of a 150-foot (46 m) bluff very close to the Mississippi riverbank on the Illinois side, the railroad tracks enter a 1/4-mile tunnel that curves 90-degrees to the south to allow trains to proceed along the tracks adjacent to the river south of the bridge.

The Dubuque Star Brewery is a visually dominant, five-story brick brew house located in the Port of Dubuque. Typical of other breweries built in its era, it is designed in Romanesque style. Iowa's oldest brewery was founded by the Rhomberg family in 1898.

Until the beginning of Prohibition, the brewery produced Dubuque Star beer. As with many other breweries, the Dubuque Star brewery was forced to close down. Before Prohibition, there were 138 breweries in the state, but afterwards Dubuque Star was the only small brewery left in the state.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the brewery was reopened. Because of its location near the Mississippi River, when the river flooded it would often cause problems for the brewery. The 1965 floods were particularly bad. The brewery operators made protective measures for the river reaching 23 feet, but the river soon reached 26 feet. This caused serious damage to the lower floors of the building, and the production equipment.

In 1971, Joseph Pickett purchased the brewery. He found that the brewery was not in good shape. Most of the equipment was outdated 1930s era equipment. The brewery had very low market share. Pickett began a massive renovation and modernization of the brewery.

Pickett introduced Pickett's Premium beer, which by the late 1970s accounted for about 12% of sales in the region. The hospitality room was featured in the movie F.I.S.T., as well as the 1981 comedy Take This Job and Shove It.

Agri Industries purchased the brewery in 1980. They produced Rhomberg Beer until 1985. The beers made by the brewery were technically superior products, but the company had a limited advertising budget, which resulted in limited public exposure. The efforts were not successful, and the brewery closed in 1985. There were a couple more attempts in the following years to reopen the brewery. However, despite making superior products, the efforts were again not successful, and the brewery was closed down in 1999.

Between 1988-1998 or thereabout, the brewery was operated by Zele Brewing Company management. A number of contract brewing were made and the brewery showed promise. However, this was a period when large breweries choke distribution and forced their distributors to abandon micro breweries or craft beers, "shake out period." This shake out period lasted between 1996-2003. During this period, Erlanger Beer Brand was owned by Stroh's and it was a licensed product. It also brewed a private label for TGIF chain which increased its production to about 25,000 barrels or more a year. It also brewed under joint ventures for Tuan Chau Tien, his brands

On March 23, 2006 it was announced that Stone Cliff Winery had signed an agreement with Port of Dubuque LLC to lease part of the brewery. This lease was contingent on the city and Port of Dubuque signing a development deal. Under the lease, Stone Cliff Winery leased 10,000 feet of the ground floor for an expanded winery and tasting center - which they opened in the summer of 2007.

(source)

(source)

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There are 16 comments , add yours!
Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Great trip to somewhere new.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

😉😉

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

#13Such a simple and yet very complex process. Fascinating.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Agreed! Who knew? At the least, I didn't know the process.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

#12Looks very like the medieval towers in central Italian towns.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Gethin Thomas 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Bet that is where the inspiration came from smile

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Leon Linder 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Excellant documentary.+1

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Leon Linder 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Thank you sir smile

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Abigail Gossage 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I love following you on your trips through America😃🍷

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Abigail Gossage 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Thank you Abigail. Happy that you are following me smile

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Antonio Gil 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Cheers 🍻 Love the pictures, especially that interesting Shot Tower

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Antonio Gil 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I wish we could have gone inside. I would have rather had my own take of the inside instead of a borrowed photo.

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
John Durham 1 month, 4 weeks ago

What fun! A great trip - someday (sigh!).

1 month, 4 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to John Durham 1 month, 4 weeks ago

You do realize if that someday comes...you need to go further and visit your buddy.....just saying smile

1 month, 4 weeks ago Edited
John Durham Replied to Camellia Staab 1 month, 3 weeks ago

That will happen - first trip will be  Labor Day to Tuscaloosa for my brother's annual get together. I should be able to take four hours of driving and still function by then. Then, seven hours to Springfield - no problem. But be careful for that which you wish!

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to John Durham 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Doors are open.....I'll keep the light on for you smile

1 month, 3 weeks ago Edited
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