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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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BELL TOWER THEATER. In 2014, Bell Tower Theater was located in Fountain Park at 2728 Asbury Road. The building in which it was located was completed in November of 1930 by the Sisters of the House of the Good Shepherd, who operated MT. ST. ROSE SCHOOL for girls. Known for years as "St. Rose Priory," the building of the L-shaped chapel included a 300-seat theater in the basement. (1)

The chapel continuously changed ownership. In 1950 the Good Shepherd Sisters sold the property to the Dominican Fathers who used it as a priory until 1958 when the new priory was completed. WAHLERT HIGH SCHOOL used it as housing for clergy teachers. Sometime before 1960 it was renamed the Vianney House. (2) In 1983 it was owned by CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH. The basement theater was neglected and became unusable. (3)

In 2001 Fountain Park, LLC, an investment group, purchased the property and began renovations which led to the Fountain Park Business and Creative Arts Center. The complex houses a school of music and over forty businesses that range from a dental practice to the Dubuque Arts Council. (4)

In 2003 the Bell Tower Theater opened its doors in 2003 with Oz, a musical. Since that first production, the Bell Tower Theater has presented more plays and musicals than any other theater in the area. The Theater has presented the area premieres of plays like "We've Been Friends Forever," "Nana's Naughty Knickers" and "Spreading It Around" and musicals like "Nunsensations;" "Beehive;" and "Motherhood, the Musical." World premiere productions of two shows by local playwrights were Robert Lynn's "With Friends Like These" and "Behold My Shorts" by Robert BYRNE. (5) Susan RIEDEL has been the artistic director and theater manager.

In 2014 Bell Tower Theater was awarded $18,200 in grants to support its youth programs. Started in 2005, the programs included Kids Take the Stage, youth theater classes for kids in pre-school through 8th grade, and the Free Summer Musical Program, which produced two full-scale musicals each year--one for kids ages 7 to 16 and one for high school students. The grants provided scholarships to families in need whose children wished to participate in the "Kids Take the Stage." Offered three times annually, the classes offered participants acting, singing, pantomime, improvisation and stage make-up. (6)

In its tenth year, the Free Summer Musical Program annually provided a free theatrical learning experience for more than two hundred children and a low-cost cultural opportunity for three thousand adult and child audience members. The program allowed children to participate on state and behind-the-scenes. (7)



1. "History of the Bell Tower Theater," Bell Tower Theater, Online: http://www.belltowertheater.net/bt/default.asp?title=Mission-History&contentID=45

2. Schemmel, Robert. "Dubuque Sketchbook," Telegraph Herald, August 1, 1960, p. 6

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. "Bell Tower Theater Awarded $18,220 in Grants to Support Youth Programs," Julien's Journal, September 2014, p. 67

7. Ibid.