Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

If walls could talk, historic buildings would have many stories to tell. Historic buildings are not just bricks, mortar and boards. They are an accumulation of the history of the various occupants of those buildings over time. Dubuque is fortunate to have many long-standing businesses that have given life to buildings downtown. These businesses are sometimes known as legacy businesses.

What is a legacy business?

Any local business that has been in operation for 30 or more years and is significant to the identity of the city can be considered a legacy business. Whether they are manufacturers, service providers, small shops or restaurants, legacy businesses create jobs, generate revenue and contribute to their towns’ distinct brands.

Why are they important?

Dubuque was chartered in the 1830s, making it the oldest town in Iowa and one of the oldest towns west of the Mississippi. Over the years, plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, clothing shops and manufacturers have done business in Dubuque. Legacy businesses have continued to grow and invest in our community, despite the challenges that small businesses face, such as rent increases and the rise of ecommerce. According to a study by the City of Seattle, “legacy businesses serve as community gathering spots, hubs of social capital and cohesion, and valuable ‘third spaces’ apart from home and work that support local culture and stability.” Large corporations do not offer the same community value.

What can we do to help legacy businesses thrive?

Local businesses are integral to our city’s economic success and cultural vibrancy and they need community support. There are plenty of ways to help out.

  • Shop small whenever possible and encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Dine at locally-owned restaurants.
  • Attend community events with local vendors.
  • Share your positive experiences with small businesses on social media.
  • Support events like your local farmer’s market and Shop Small Saturday.
  • Give small business products as gifts for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.
  • Leave positive reviews online.
  • Support your local and national Main Street organizations.

While preservation work is usually building-focused, saving places means more than preserving physical property. Preservation is about celebrating the history, people and businesses that have given life and purpose to our buildings. After all, buildings would not exist without the people who built them.

In the coming months, we will be sharing stories of some of Dubuque’s legacy businesses. Follow along by joining our e-mail list and following Heritage Works on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@heritageworksdbq).

Read below for our first legacy business spotlight, Graham’s Style Store.

Legacy Business Spotlight: Graham’s Style Store

Ed Graham started Graham’s Style Store as Ed Graham & Sons when the store opened on 845 Main Street in Dubuque on August 15, 1936. The store was originally a men’s clothing shop, at a time when a full suit sold for $20 and neck ties and dress shirts sold for $1 each.

Ed Graham’s sons, John and Joseph, were associated with the family business from the beginning and helped their father run the store. John later went on to become a member of the clergy.

The store moved to 888 Main Street in 1943.

Joseph Graham’s son, Thomas, began working at the store in the late 1960s. During this time, Ed Graham owned the store and Joseph operated it. The business briefly moved into the Fischer Building at 923 Main Street in the midst of urban renewal in the late 1960s through 1971. Joseph Graham bought the site of the 888 Main Street store and built the current Graham Building at the north entrance of a newly created pedestrian mall. Graham’s Style Store moved to its current location at 890 Main Street in 1971, by which time Joseph Graham was president of the company, with Thomas Graham as vice-president.

This photo shows Graham’s at its 888 Main Street location circa 1968 next to what was Arenz Shoe Store. Photo credit: Encyclopedia Dubuque.

After the financial difficulties that plagued Dubuque in the 1980s, Thomas Graham became a leader in the revitalization of downtown Dubuque. He helped lead other downtown business owners in an effort to garner support for Dubuque’s local businesses and economy. He also purchased the adjacent Stampfer’s Department Store. Later, Thomas helped establish Dubuque Main Street, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the downtown neighborhood. He spent 30 years running the business before retiring in 1995. Thomas’ brother, Joseph, bought the business in 1995.

Ben Graham joined his father, Joseph, in 1996. Joseph encouraged Ben to give Graham’s a new voice at the turn of the century. They worked hard to give the store a fresher look through the addition of tuxedo rentals, younger men’s sportswear and shoes, even adding women’s clothing to their product mix in 2006. On January 31, 2014, the Graham’s moved to 960 Main Street for two months for an extensive store remodel. Joseph Graham retired in April 2016. Today, Graham’s Style Store is run by Ben Graham and Katie McFadden, who are both great-grandchildren of Ed Graham.

Graham’s Style Store provides a wide selection of high-end dress and casual clothing and in-house tailoring for anyone looking for exceptional products and service.

To learn more about Graham’s Style Store, visit www.grahamsdbq.com.  

Dubuque’s Streetcar Lines

Dubuque’s Streetcar Lines

By Bill Doyle, Preservation & Programs Manager at Heritage Works 

As a young person, I was interested in understanding the world around me. I did my undergrad in Anthropology, and one of my favorite courses studied the interactions between humans and the environment.  In the class, we learned about the extinction of a great swathe of animals that coincided with humans crossing into North America for the first time. My teacher, Dr. Jamie Hodgkins, of University of Colorado Denver asked:

“Does anyone know what the fastest land animal in North America is?”

None of the students knew.

“It’s the Pronghorn, it can run sixty miles per hour.” She paused. “Do you think it’s odd that it can run so fast?”

We sat there nonplussed.  

“The pronghorn evolved to escape the former fastest animal in North America, the American Cheetah.”

This event, strange as it may seem, taught me to appreciate the fact that anything I was studying may be missing a key piece of historic context. It also taught me a good method of learning. Look for oddness. When something seems odd, there is usually an explanation.

Like the American Cheetah, Dubuque’s streetcar system is gone. However, the urban environment that it informed, the urban design, remains remarkably intact. A chief example of the streetcar design are the rows of worker housing set between small commercial buildings that characterize Dubuque’s north end, especially north of 20th Avenue on Jackson and Central, as well as the neighborhoods around Rhomberg and Windsor.  

Dubuque’s downtown design was created by a city of walkers. The walking culture valued the dense, multi-story, mixed-use, commercial buildings that shouldered up next to one another on Main Street. And the blocks around them, such as those on Bluff Street had simpler duplexes and fourplexes. Those buildings housed the factory workers and laborers that enabled this town to grow so quickly one hundred and fifty years ago.

The streetcar network started in 1868, to meet the needs of an industrializing city. A handful of wealthy Dubuquer’s formed a horse drawn streetcar that drove development northward, up to the street car barn at 24th and Central.

The inside of the bus barn at 24th and central. Photo from Center for Dubuque History and Tim Olson.

In 1877, another company was formed to carry passengers up the bluffs with a noisy steam locomotive. It was able to ascend a carefully plotted route, chosen to minimize the grade increase as much as possible. The streetcar trundled up Hill Street, turned on Third, then on Alpine Street westward onto University Ave. The older houses in that neighborhood were served by the streetcar line.  And on University Avenue, west of Alpine, that odd strip of old commercial buildings is also explained by the streetcar. Those commercial spaces served the commuters that lived in the streetcar neighborhood.

Image: Dubuque County Historical Society

In the late 1880s, three electric trolley companies battled it out to establish dominance of Dubuque’s transportation network. During this time the North end and Rhomberg neighborhood filled with worker cottages. The competition lasted a little over a decade before the Union Electric Company consolidated the network into one company in 1900. The golden era of streetcars was underway, and they became the dominant method of transportation for the common man.  

Like the American Cheetah, the streetcars are extinct, but we can still ponder all of the remaining Pronghorn’s, those parts of our town that seem puzzling at first, but make sense with the forgotten context.  It is my hope that the Dubuque Streetcar story map will surface that context.

Here is a link to a story map I created that will take you through some of the history of Dubuque’s Streetcar lines.  https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/df7402dad6be4b3399996484f3e7e7ce

Take special care to zoom in and look at the tiled Fire Insurance Maps. They have so much detail about our past environment. If you are a history nerd like me, you may find yourself staring at them for hours.


Why Preservation Matters

Why Preservation Matters

By Megan Viertel, Communications & Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works 

It has been over three months since I started my role as Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Heritage Works. I walked in on my first day as a recent college graduate with only a basic understanding of the impact that preservation has on the community. After some time on the job, let me tell you what I’ve learned about preservation and why my generation needs to care.

What is preservation? 

Preservation is the conservation of materials and architectural elements in a historic structure. The goal of preservation is to revitalize historic, sometimes underutilized, buildings so that they can generate economic and cultural value as they once did. Preservation benefits cities in a variety of ways.


Historic architecture has unique design and charm that has stood the test of time. Revitalized historic buildings add character and authentic beauty to our streets, drawing in residents and tourists alike. Who doesn’t want to live in a beautiful community, after all?


Imagine walking down the street and being transported to a different time period. Imagine being surrounded by some of the same buildings that people lived and worked in decades – even centuries – ago. Once these structures are gone, they are gone for good. Preserving historic architecture preserves the past so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. This is the “feel good” part about preservation; saving places that connect us to our community’s history.

Built to last

Old buildings were built to last for hundreds of years. Newer buildings, on the other hand, are not built in the same way with the same high quality materials. It is not environmentally or financially responsible to demolish buildings with years of life left in them.

Less waste

Demolition creates unnecessary waste and pollution, only to use up more raw materials, energy and funds on new buildings. It is much more sustainable to preserve materials and structures that already exist. For instance, demolitions result in millions of tons of historic building materials ending up in landfills every year. Instead of demolishing historic buildings, it is better to restore buildings and maintain historic character while reducing waste.

Economic development

Historic preservation sparks economic growth. Rehabilitation work creates jobs and gives vacant or underutilized buildings a purpose. Rather than sitting unused, revitalized buildings bring in people and generate income as commercial and residential spaces. And where does that income go? Right back into our local economy!

Preservation makes communities more authentic. We know that younger generations desire authentic experiences. A vibrant, historic town plays a role in attracting and retaining a youthful, talented workforce.


Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a commercial space on Central Avenue.

Before (top) and after (bottom) photos the revitalization of a residential space on Central Avenue.


Downtowns are a place for local businesses, community events, art and culture, stimulating economic growth and a sense of togetherness. Vibrant, authentic communities foster pride in their citizens and offer a space for heritage to be remembered and celebrated.

As someone born and raised in Dubuque, I love seeing how our historic city has transformed over the years. With a bustling downtown, plenty of job opportunities and affordable housing, it was an easy decision to continue living here after college. The revitalization of our unique town has made it a more lively and attractive place to live, work and play for all ages. Investment in preservation leads to more investment, attracting people and creating jobs. It is, without a doubt, an exciting time to live in a historic town. If we want to keep the momentum going, preservation work needs to continue. The younger generations are the ones who are going to need to make it happen.

At Heritage Works, it is our mission to provide resources for those engaging in preservation work. We offer consulting services, assistance with the tax credit application process and training opportunities for the next generation of preservationists. If you are interested in learning more about historic preservation and our work, visit www.heritageworksdbq.com. To contribute to our continued preservation efforts, educational programming and fulfillment of our mission, consider becoming a Heritage Works member at https://heritageworksdbq.com/donate.

Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes

Energy Efficiency in Historic Homes

Living in a historic home is both uniquely challenging and rewarding. The way in which we live today is far different from how people lived when historic homes were built. It is a fair assumption that most historic homeowners will want to modernize their homes to conserve energy. Fortunately, there are ways to do so that save money and do not compromise the structure’s character.

Before making any decisions, it is important to assess the home. During this process, ask the following three questions:


  • What gives your home its character?  
    First, identify the visual aspects of the home. This could be anything frowindows to chimneys to the overall architectural design. Second, examine the exterior details, like the surface quality of materials, for example. Finally, identify the visual character of interior spaces, features and finishes.
  • Does your home have inherent energy efficient features?
    Examples include existing storm windows and doors, wide overhanging eaves and shade trees.
  • What is your home’s current energy use? A professional energy audit is recommended, as it will help measure the effectiveness of energy enhancements.

    A thorough assessment of every aspect of a home is essential before considering updates.

    After a close examination is completed, it is time to begin enhancements. In order to increase the effectiveness of any upgrades that are made, it is important to reduce the use of energy in your home and commit to those habits. Then, seal any gaps in the barriers of the home so that air cannot escape or enter the envelope of the house. Once energy-saving behaviors have been implemented and all barriers leading to the outdoors have been sealed, it is time to make necessary upgrades. These upgrades could include restoring historic window sashes, adding or replacing storm windows and doors, replacing the boiler or furnace, or adding solar or geothermal power to the home. Replacing material such as historic windows and doors is likely the least cost-effective method of upgrading an older home’s energy efficiency and should be done only as a last resort.


      The graphic above illustrates the many ways that air can enter or escape a home.
      Source: nps.gov

      It is possible to modernize and increase the comfort, livability and energy efficiency of a home without damaging what makes it unique. For a more in-depth explanation of energy efficiency in historic homes, read our brochure.

      For more information on historic preservation, call us at 563-564-4080 or email us at info@heritageworksdbq.com.

      Guido Beck’s Holy Ghost Catholic Church

      Guido Beck’s Holy Ghost Catholic Church

      Holy Ghost Catholic Church

      Built: 1915

      Located: 2921 Central Ave

      The Holy Ghost Catholic Church was one of the last major Dubuque church designs by architect, Guido Beck. Beck designed this church in the Italian Renaissance style of architecture in 1915, reflecting a change in church design style. Beck’s design for Holy Ghost, St. Joseph Chapel at Loras College, and St. Philomena Catholic Church in Asbury (1920) illustrate the waning popularity of the Gothic Revival style for church architecture in the first couple decades of the 1900s, in favor of Romanesque and Italian Renaissance styles.


      Rendering of Holy Ghost by Guido Beck (photo credit: Archdiocese of Dubuque)

      The Holy Ghost parish was formed in 1896 in response to rapid population growth in the northern parts of Dubuque and the Sacred Heart parish. The Sacred Heart parish was established in 1879 to meet the demands of the German immigrant population that St. Mary’s could no longer accommodate. With the continued influx of German immigrants to the area, Archbishop Hennessy created Holy Ghost parish at the 2900th block on Central Avenue. Initially, a combination church and school structure was built with the anticipation of increased growth in the student population. The building also contained living space for the Sisters who taught at the school. As the parish continued to grow there was need for additional space. Guido Beck was again commissioned by the archdiocese to design a new church. At just over $10,000, Beck designed the church in the Italian Renaissance style of architecture and in the form of a cross.

      Joseph Walter, renowned artist of Midwest church interiors, painted the murals and art works for the interior. Walter was originally from Tyrol, Austria and settled in Dubuque in 1898. He would go on to decorate 185 churches across the Midwest. Unfortunately, most of Walter’s murals have been removed or painted over. The mural of Jesus on the ceiling of the transept is the only remaining artwork of Walter’s in Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost church, school, rectory, and convent are now listed together as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.


      Inside of Holy Ghost. circa 1950’s (photo credit: Tom Welu)


      Inside of Holy Ghost (2016)

      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


      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.


      Inside St. Joseph’s Chapel (2015)


      Inside St. Joseph’s Chapel (2015)