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.

Aesthetic

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?

History

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.

Community

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.

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      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.

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

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      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

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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)

      Guido Beck’s St. Columbkille Catholic Church

      Guido Beck’s St. Columbkille Catholic Church

      St. Columbkille Catholic Church

      Built 1904 – 1905

      Located at 1240 Rush Street

      Four years after the completion of the St. Anthony Church, the Archdiocese of Dubuque again commissioned Dubuque architect, Guido Beck to design his second church in Dubuque for the parish of St. Columbkille. The St. Columbkille Church was built between 1904 and 1905 in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. Prior to the establishment of the parish, Bishop Hennessy invited four Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to open the West Hill School in 1879, which was shortly after named St. Vincent. In 1887, Bishop Hennessy established the new parish under the holy patronage of St. Columbkille to accommodate the growing population and those living on the West Hill. Unlike the St. Anthony parish which consisted primarily of German parishioners in the “West Dubuque” area, the St. Columbkille parishioners were primarily Irish in an area known as “Little Dublin” and “West Hill.”

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      St. Columbkille Catholic Church circa 1910. (Photo Courtesy: St. Columbkille Church, Alice Noethe, and Sue Schmitt; Encyclopedia Dubuque)

      Father John Fogarty was the initial pastor and soon ordered the construction of a small frame church that lasted 17 years. A June 20, 1904 Telegraph-Herald article mentioned that the original church was not an “admirable example of church architecture, nevertheless the simple little structure was satisfactory to Father Fogarty and his parishioners.” In 1903, Archbishop Keane hired Beck to design a new church to again accommodate the growth of the parish. Beck’s design called for towering vaulted ceilings and colorful stained glass windows within the Gothic structure.

      The cornerstone for the new church was laid in place on June 19, 1904. Bishop Patrick O’Donnell, of Raphoe, Ireland, and good friend of Archbishop Keane, donated the stone as a gift to the parish. Bishop O’Donnell was of the same lineage as St. Columbkille and, according to Archbishop Keane, “always takes much pride in having the honor to show his reverence for the memory of St. Columbkille.” The 2,200 pound sandstone cornerstone was taken from the St. Charles quarry in Ireland. The Telegraph-Herald noted that “the laying of the cornerstone of the magnificent new St. Columbkill’s church on West Hill this afternoon will undoubtedly attract the largest concourse of Catholics that ever attended any similar event in the history of the city.” A procession of the Catholic societies in town began at Fourth and Main Streets and marched towards the Archbishop’s house to escort him up the hill to St. Columbkille.

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      Photo from St. Columbkille Church calendar. Date unknown. (Photo Courtesy: St. Columbkille Church, Alice Noethe, and Sue Schmitt; Encyclopedia Dubuque)

      On the occasion of the June 19 cornerstone dedication, a Telegraph-Herald article gave a detailed description of the design, construction, and interior layout: “The basement and foundation walls are built up with Dubuque quarry stone. The whole structure above the basement will be built with Dubuque brick. All the cut stone trimmings will be of Bedford, Indiana, limestone and the cornices and gable moldings, etc., of galvanized iron. Mr. Tom Byrne and Ed McClain are the general contractors of the whole building. Both gentlemen are members of St. Columbkille’s parish. The Klauer Mfg. Co. will furnish all the metal work. The cut stone work will be done by Doran and Wagner.

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      Inside St. Columbkille Church (2015)

      The principal dimensions of the new church are as follows: The main body of the church is 108 feet long by 60 feet wide. The total length, including sanctuary and tower projection, is 141 feet. The tower is 17×17 feet square and 150 feet high from the top of the water table to the top of the (cross) spire. The seating capacity of the auditorium is 700 to 750. The sanctuary is 29 feet wide and 25 feet deep. To both sides of the sanctuary are quite roomy sacristies.
      A passageway behind the high altar connects these sacristies. Besides the two sacristies there is on the left side of the sanctuary a chapel for the sisters. The wall between the sanctuary and the sisters’ chapel contains a large, overarched opening. This opening will be decorated with artistic gothic ornamental work and art stained glass. Three large double doors form the main entrances to the auditory, leading through the vestibule. From one vestibule one little room is cut off for an office. A gallery for the organ and choir is most beautifully arranged. The rows of graceful columns carry the roof and the Gothic arch system. The main nave and sanctuary are 40 feet high in the clear and the side naves are 27 feet. The basement under the whole building is 14 feet high in the clear, and is divided into a meeting hall and winter chapel. Between said hall and chapel.”

      Detail of the Screen that separated the Sanctuary and where the Nuns sat. (2015)

      Detail of the wall between the sanctuary and the sisters’ chapel. (2015)

      The structure was estimated to cost $30,000 exclusive of furnishings and interior decorations. The same article mentioned that the new church will “represent the growth of Catholicity on West’s Hill and will be an admirable testimonial to the untiring efforts of an energetic pastor for the propagation of the faith.” Unfortunately, the steeple met the same fate as that of St. Anthony’s church and was never built.

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      Drawing of the proposed St. Columbkille Church with Steeple. (Photo Credit: Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 20, 1904; P. 7)

       

      The beautiful stained glass windows are from the Ford Brothers Glass Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Ford Brothers were known for incorporating opalescent glass into Munich style windows.  “The frescoes on the church ceiling were painted in the 1920s by Bernard Hillig, a graduate of the Fine Arts Academy of Copenhagen. The Stations of the Cross, hand-painted murals on Zinc, were imported from Germany. A Wangerin Wickhardt pipe organ was installed in 1922.” – From Dubuque Encyclopedia. Koch, Kevin. “Saint Columbkille Catholic Church,” Strasbourg, France, Editions du Signe, 2011, p. 20.