No matter where you are in Dubuque you are never far from the all pervasive Mississippi River. And the Mighty Mississippi is never far from the hearts and minds of the people of Dubuque.
The Mississippi is the largest river in the United States and one of the great rivers of the world. It begins as a small stream in northern Minnesota and cuts southward through the heart of America to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, other great rivers, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Illinois, the Arkansas and many others, empty their waters into the Mighty Mississippi.
This is a hard working river. If you look for only a few minutes you are sure to see great barges plying these waters with their heavy cargo. But the river is also a playground, and you will also see lots of pleasure craft on the river.
From it's source, at Lake Itasca in Mississippi, the Mississippi flows 2,320 miles to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It drains most of the land between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. Theoretically, a drop of water falling into the headwaters of the Mississippi would take 90 days to flow downstream to the Gulf.
The Mississippi is truly "America's River."
Dubuque is named for Julien Dubuque(1762-1810), a French Canadian from Quebec, who in 1788 became the first person of European descent to settle on what is now Iowa.
Julien Dubuque received a land grant from the Governor of Spain, giving him permission to work the land which was owned by Spain and specified the 189-square mile area to be named as "Mines of Spain." Dubuque befriended the Mesquakie Indian Chief, Petosa, and it is widely believed that he married the chief's daughter, Potosa. Dubuque died on March 24, 1810, and was burried on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.
The Mines of Spain are still in existance and lie to the south of the city of Dubuque.
Eagle Point Park is a great place to watch for flying things! It's also a notable example of recreational landscape design and architecture. The park itself dates from the early 20th century when a prominent local judge donated the hilltop land to the city of Dubuque. In the 1930s, WPA money was used to construct a series of outstanding shelters and public buildings in the park. Noted Prairie School Architect Alfred Caldwell skillfully used local limestone to create an intriguing mix of ledge gardens, picnic pavilions and sheltered walkways.
Fondest memory: Eagle Point Park is in the bluffs just north of downtown Dubuque.
Favorite thing: Alfred Caldwell was one of the most important public designers to emerge in America in the first half of the 20th century. After studying with Prairie School master Jens Jensen, Caldwell spent some time at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, which is only about 100 miles distant from Dubuque. (See my Taliesin travelogue on my Spring Green Wisconsin pages.) Although Caldwell worked for the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, he alienated clients and co-workers alike with his brusque and domineering manner. Reportedly, he was fired from working on Eagle Point Park because he was spending too much time and money on perfecting the details of his design! Later, after World War II, he was intimately associated with Mies van der Rohe at the influential Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago. Caldwell died in 1998, at the age of 95.
The Mathias Ham House is maintained by the Dubuque County Historical Society. It is one of the oldest surviving homes in Dubuque County, originally constructed in 1856 for the prominent businessman Mathias Ham. The house was designed by the prominent architect John Rague, who also planned the old State Capitols for both Iowa and Illinois. (These are still standing in Springfield and Iowa City.) Supposedly, the Ham House is haunted - ask one of the guides for details!
Fondest memory: 2241 Lincoln Avenue, on the outskirts of Eagle Point Park.