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DUBUQUE CUSTOM HOUSE AND POST OFFICE

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Dubuque Custom House and Post Office
DUBUQUE CUSTOM HOUSE AND POST OFFICE. The fifth act of the First Congress of the United States established fifty-nine customs collection districts in the eleven states that had signed the Constitution. (1) The Service was to aid and protect the new nation from bankruptcy by providing the country with its first form of revenue to pay for public roads and land purchases.

The act placed a duty on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the country. Any designated harbor set aside by the federal government where vessels unloaded good was designated a "port of entry." Through the tireless efforts of Senator George Wallace JONES, an act of Congress in 1858 made Dubuque an official Port of Entry. (2) E. Spottswood, the first Surveyor of Customs, initially operated an office at 110 Main Street near the river. It was his job to assess, register and license boats and vessels, detect fraud or smuggled goods and preserve copies of all documents issued. (3) Senator Jones also petitioned Congress to appropriate money for a custom house. The contract was awarded to the firm of John Bostater and Jacob Fonts which offered the low bid of $87,344.50 for the project. (4)

In late 1858 construction on the three-story limestone building was started at the corner of Ninth and Locust STREETS. (5) Designed by Ely S. Parker, a former colonel on the staff of Ulysses S. Grant, the Custom House and Post Office was completed in 1866 at a cost of $175,000 or almost double the original estimate due to interruptions caused by an economic panic and later by the CIVIL WAR. Cut limestone, supplied by Mathias HAM, was said to have come from the ruined Mormon Temple at Nauvoo, Illinois. The new building housed the Surveyor of Customs, Post Office, Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. District Court. When Customs moved into the new building, Jesse M. Harrison was the surveyor. (6)

Tea, one of the principal products imported through Dubuque, came primarily to the MCFADDEN COFFEE AND SPICE COMPANY and the firm of JOHN T. HANCOCK & SONS. (7) Customs duty at ten cents a pound resulted in a great source of income for the government. (8) Other imports included tobacco from Havana, Cuba for BRADLEY BROTHERS and glassware, lamps and china for C.H. LITTLE, BECKER AND COMPANY and BECKER-HAZLETON COMPANY. (9) In 1900 legislation sponsored by David B. HENDERSON led to the construction of an annex to the north side of the customs house and nearly doubled its size. (10) This new addition was used in part by railway mail clerks who were provided on the third floor a dormitory, meeting rooms, and work rooms. (11) An elevator was installed in the main building. (12) The installation of a boiler and heating apparatus in the annex also made it possible for the federal government to heat its own building. Prior to the construction of the annex, heat was provided by the company which owned the BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING. (13)

In 1921 city officials discussed purchasing the building as a replacement for the DUBUQUE CITY HALL. During the GREAT DEPRESSION, the federal government consolidated many customhouses to save money. (14) The Port of Dubuque was closed in 1933. The building was demolished in 1947 to allow construction of the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company offices. (15)

Other surveyors included:

D.E. LYON 1875-1883

Robert Armstrong 1883-1887

Owen McLoughlin 1887-1890

George FENGLER 1890-1894

William J. Sweeney 1894-1896

John M. LENIHAN 1896-1912

Conrad B. Scherr 1912-1915

N.E. Winnie 1915-1918

J. L. Green 1918-1921

Conrad B. Scherr 1921-1933

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Source:

1. "History," Customs and Border Protection website. Online: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/about/history/

2. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History-Loras College, p. 24

3. Ibid.

4. "The Custom House, Post Office and Court House at Dubuque, "The Keokuk Saturday Post, April 4, 1857, p. 2. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7xJcAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9FQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3418,2620948&dq=dubuque+custom+house&hl=en

5. Kruse, Len., p. 24

6. Ibid., p. 25

7. Ibid.

8. Kruse, Len. "Custom House Knew Its Duty," Telegraph Herald, February 23, 1988, p. 28. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UY5dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=j1wNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4586,4575501&dq=dubuque+custom+house&hl=en

9. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque. p. 25

10. "Uncle Sam's Building," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 28, 1900, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ThhBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cKgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4851,7762219&dq=dubuque+custom+house&hl=en

11. "Cosy (sic) Quarters," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, August 12, 1901, p. 2. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=3VZBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3qgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3744,5228278&dq=dubuque+custom+house&hl=en

12. "Custom House Elevator," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 3, 1900, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OhhBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cKgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4151,5966322&dq=dubuque+custom+house&hl=en

13. "The Contract Let," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, October 5, 1901, p. 2

14. Ibid., p. 26

15. Kruse, Len. "Custom House Knew Its Duty," p. 28.