Guido Beck’s St. Joseph’s Chapel at Loras College

Guido Beck’s St. Joseph’s Chapel at Loras College

St. Joseph’s Chapel at Loras College

Built 1909

Located at the Intersection of Loras Blvd and Walnut St

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Northwest view of St. Joseph’s Chapel. date unknown. (Photo Credit: Loras College Center for Dubuque History)

Architect, Guido Beck’s next major design in Dubuque came in 1909 when he was granted the contract for building St. Joseph College’s (Loras College) chapel and auditorium. He designed the structure in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. Upon entering the building, a stairway leads to the chapel on the upper level while another stairway leads to the auditorium directly below the chapel. The stage in the auditorium was equipped with “the latest in lighting and scenic devices” and features a turntable for set changes. Upon completion of the building, a new Dramatics Club was formed and the first production took place on Thanksgiving in 1910 with the performance of “My Friend From India.” The Dramatics Club was the forerunner to the Loras Players, the oldest continually running theater group west of the Mississippi River.

The chapel consists of seven altars of Carrara marble, a pipe organ, and beautiful stained glass windows. The chapel has a seating capacity of 520 with the choir and gallery while the auditorium has a capacity of more than one thousand. In 1979-80, the chapel was remodeled and rededicated to St. Joseph on March 19, 1980. The chapel and auditorium are connected to an academic building now known as Hoffmann Hall.

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Inside St. Joseph’s Chapel (2015)

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Inside St. Joseph’s Chapel (2015)

Architect of the Month: Guido Beck, October 2016

Architect of the Month: Guido Beck, October 2016

Guido Beck (1853 – 1936), was a Dubuque architect who specialized in the architecture of churches and schools. Beck was born on January 25, 1853, in Hohenzollern, Germany where he received his early education and later studied architecture at Stuttgart and the University of Heidelberg. As a young architect, he was awarded the position of superintendent and was given one of his first building commissions by the German government to construct an asylum at Schussenried, Germany.  Beck completed the asylum in 1882, and then, against the wishes and advice of all his friends, left his native country and immigrated to the United States. He thought his chances for success were infinitely greater and the field for work much broader in the U.S.

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Portrait of Guido Beck

Upon his arrival to the United States, Beck traveled to Rock Island, Illinois and worked as a stone-cutter in the government arsenal. There he familiarized himself with the language and customs, thoroughly mastering the American style of architecture.   With the knowledge he already possessed, Beck quickly became one of the foremost architects in the State of Iowa. In 1885 he came to Dubuque and partnered first with fellow German émigré architect Fridolin Heer.  After a few years, he left the partnership to develop his own architecture practice.  With the booming Catholic population, Beck specialized in church architecture.  He designed over 100 church buildings throughout the region, one as far away as Bozeman, Montana.  Beck-designed churches are found throughout the State of Iowa.  His preferred architectural style was the Gothic Revival style, with its pointed arches and soaring steeples.

Among the notable Dubuque buildings, Beck designed St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, St. Columbkille Catholic Church, St. Joseph Chapel at Loras College, Holy Ghost Church, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the mortuary chapel at St. Raphael Cathedral. Beck also designed many parochial schools and residences including the St. Raphael School on Bluff Street, recently converted into apartments. Beck also designed the following churches in the surrounding area: St. Clement Church in Bankston, St. Joseph Church in Bellevue, St. Martin Church (now St. Matthias Church) in Cascade, and St. Joseph Church in Rickardsville.