Dubuque Iowa

4th Street Elevator

The 4th Street Elevator: Now (and for many years) a tourist attraction, but originally built by a banker in 1883 to commute between his home on top of of the bluff and his office in the floodplain.

My parents graduated from the U of Dubuque, and my mother’s family all lived in Dubuque. Mom came home from Boca Raton where my folks were living during the war (Dad worked for the Navy) to have me. When the war ended before she could return, Dad came back also to find a civilian job.

Dubuque, on the Mississippi, is the oldest settlement in Iowa. Indeed, it’s older than white settlement in the region: the bluffs overlooking the river are full of lead ore, which Amerinds were mining before voyageur Julian Dubuque settled among them.

For a few years in the 1880s, Dubuque was the wealthiest community in the US with more millionaires and more telephones per capita than anywhere else in the country. The boom (from sawmills) was brief, but it led to some lovely High Victorian buildings.

Because the economy then crashed, many of those fine buildings weren’t torn down for new construction for long enough that people had a chance to appreciate what they had. (Not entirely: the mansion Graystone was bulldozed to become a parking lot in 1945. Its partner Redstone remains as a bed and breakfast, I’m happy to say.)


Redstone: Industrialist AA Cooper’s mansion from the 1880s, preserved as a bed and breakfast.

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