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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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Home of the Dubuque Club and later the Chamber of Commerce
DUBUQUE CLUB. An early ancestor of the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, the Dubuque Club was established in February 1902. Many attempts had been previously made to organize a group that could advertise the commercial advantages of the city. A BOARD OF TRADE had been organized in 1854. Attempts were made to obtain better steamboat and railroad connections, but poor economic conditions and the CIVIL WAR led to the group disbanding. In the 1860s the DUBUQUE MINERS' ASSOCIATION and a second and third Board of Trade were attempted but failed due to a lack of organization.

Influenced by the optimism that Dubuque was destined to play an important role in the nation, the Key City Building Club was organized on April 8, 1902. The only goal of the organization was erecting a building and renting it to a new organization, the Dubuque Club. The site chosen was City Lot 632 which had been purchased by Dr. E. R. Jackson. A house that stood on the site was believed to have been owned by Francis GEHON, one Dubuque's first settlers who operated a LEAD smelter with Thomas MCKNIGHT. The building was said to have been cut in half and moved from Peru, north of the city, to the Ninth and Locust street site.

Eager for a building of their own, the club's 118 stockholders furnished the $50,000 needed. Of this amount, $10,000 was used to purchase the site from the Key City Building Club, $30,000 was used for construction of the building, and $10,000 was planned for furnishings.

Leather settee used in the club. Photo courtesy: Jim Massey

On April 23, 1903 President James W. CONCHAR received the keys to the Dubuque Club Building. (1) The new building, designed by E. G. Williamson of Chicago who had also designed the BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING, JULIEN HOTEL, and the GERMAN BANK, offered a library, kitchen, several large reception rooms, a massive ballroom on the third floor, many meeting rooms, a game room and a bowling alley. Senator William Boyd ALLISON offered one of the keynote speeches. The grandeur of the building, he assured the audience, showed that Dubuque had entered a new era of prosperity. On June 2, 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt spoke to ninety-four members assembled around a large banquet table with a oarge "R" of carnations and roses on a bed of moss. Regular light bulbs were replaced with those colored red, white and blue. (2)

In the same year, the Club originated the idea of an excursion by train of Dubuque businessmen to other regions. Governor A. B. Cummins labeled this practice, the "Dubuque Idea". The second visiting trip of Dubuque Jobbers, Manufacturers, Bankers and Insurance and Freight Lines was considered a great success. The train included an eight-section compartment and observation car, a sixteen-section sleeper, a tourist sleeper for the band and a combination library and buffet car. Principal stops included West Union, McGregor, Lansing, Elkader, Waukon, Calmar, Oelwein, Decorah, Iowa and Austin and Hayfield, Minnesota.

In 1909 the Dubuque Club was the scene of the founding of the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION. In 1911 this organization sponsored the raising of funds to attract the BRUNSWICK-BALKE-COLLENDER COMPANY, the first large industrial firm to locate in the city.

In April, 1915 directors of the Dubuque Club suggested in a letter to the directors of the industrial corporation more cooperation between the two organizations. A committee drawn from both organizations was formed and at the next meeting it was agreed that both organizations should be housed in the Dubuque Club. Management of the Club and the secretary's position of the industrial corporation would be held by Conrad G. Bulfer, a resident for several years and the operator of a cafe on Eighth Street. He was to be paid by both organizations. (3)

The Dubuque Industrial Corporation renamed itself the DUBUQUE COMMERCIAL CLUB and later changed its name on February 16, 1920 to the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce. In 1922 the Chamber purchased the Dubuque Club building making it one of the few chambers of commerce to be the owner of a modern building. The Dubuque Club moved to the Federal Building.

Social events of the club included its Maytime Dancing Party, Inter-Fraternal League (baseball), bowling, and Dubuqueland Amateur Golf Tournament. The banquet rooms were often used by such organizations as the Dubuque Shippers' Association for business as well as social events. The organization also sent messages of condolence such as the one received by Mrs. David B. HENDERSON upon the death of her husband. (4)

In 1935 the Dubuque Club invited the needy families of Dubuque to a Christmas day dinner, a tradition of the organization since its founding. Served from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Christmas morning at the Club's headquarters in the basement of the Federal Bank Building at Ninth and Main, the event included the distribution of presents including toys and clothing donated by people in the community. (5)

The Dubuque Club in 1935 also announced the formal opening of "The Tower," their modern dining and social room on the tenth floor of the Federal Bank Building. The modernistic tone included aluminum lighting fixtures and indirect lighting. The dining facilities could accommodate 175 people for dinner or a banquet in the afternoon or evening. (6)

See: Curry HOWARD



1. "Club is Opened," Dubuque Telegraph Herald, April 24, 1903, p. 8

2. "Head of Nation Accorded Enthusiastic Welcome in Dubuque," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 3, 1903, p. 5

3. "Industrial Corporation in Changes," Telegraph-Herald, May 19, 1915, p 1

4. "Send Words of Condolence," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, March 2, 1906, p. 3

5. "Turkey Dinner for Needy," Telegraph-Herald, December 22, 1935, p. 13

6. "Tower Room to Open Saturday," Telegraph-Herald, April 19, 1935, p. 7

Photo courtesy:Dr. Darryl Mozena
Photo courtesy: Dr. Darryl Mozena



Gibson, Michael, "Yesterday and Today," The Golden View, January 2012

Pamphlet. "Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Celebating Its 60th Anniversary March 31, 1976