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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.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Plat Map (1906)
DUBUQUE HARBOR IMPROVEMENT COMPANY. In 1854-55, the Harbor Improvement Company was organized for filling in the sloughs and making other improvements required by the growth and wealth of the city. Investors included were Mordecai MOBLEY, Lincoln Clark, Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY, James LANGWORTHY, Thomas S. WILSON and James Ogilby.

The Mobley proposal, which was substantially accepted, planned to fill up Seventh street extension and bridge the sloughs with double track bridges in three months or fifteen months at the most; fill up Seventh street forty feet on top in twenty months; build a levee 320feet long and sixty-four feet wide.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Payment was to be a strip of ground one block wide out to the river on one side of Seventh street extended, blocks to be 206 feet deep, as soon as the work was half done; also alternate blocks on the other side; also the right to use the dredge boat for three years. The Dubuque Harbor Company sold many lots at good prices to private individuals.

In April, 1856, the Harbor Improvement Company asked permission to extend Fifth street to the river. Many warehouses were going up along the levee and along Seventh and Jones streets. Eighth Street extended was the northern boundary of the Harbor Improvement Company's tract. (1)

The work done by them had lasting value, but the officers decided to discontinue active operations when a financial panic struck the city around 1857.

The PANIC OF 1857 lasted about three years. In 1860 the Dubuque Harbor Improvement Company was back in business:

                  The Harbor Improvement Company will offer 
                  for sale at auction at their office on Seventh 
                  Street today at 10 o'clock 200 lots in their
                  addition to Dubuque. The land dividend scrip of 
                  the company will be received in payment." 
                                      (Herald, November 1, 1860.)

The Dubuque City Directory of 1857-1858 listed as officers of the company: Lucius Hart Langworthy, President; Samuel Duncan, Secretary; Ed. A. Lull, Treasurer.

In 1892 the extension of 4th Street to the HIGH BRIDGE over property owned by the company led to a marshal's jury appraising the value of the land and damages due to the construction. Their findings caused the council to react quickly. The jury report found that forty-nine lots would be affected and for the portions of them used the jury approved payments of between $5.00 and $1,200. Investigation of the assessor's office found that the most taxes paid on any lot was $100. Joseph A. RHOMBERG would alone receive $35,160 (equal to $38,374,628.60 in 2015 economic power (2)). The Dubuque Daily Herald stated that the council members found it hard to "repress a smile" as the list of awards was read. Alderman Smith suggested that the report be rejected and then turned over to the assessor "for guidance when he goes to making up his books." The council did reject the report. The paper went on to suggest that perhaps the jury had "peculiar sources of information as to what water lots were worth." (3) At the August 1, 1892 meeting of the council considerations were heard that the inflated values of the property were perhaps meant to stop the construction of the road. A resolution for a new plat of the project and a new jury to assess damages was passed. (4)



1. Oldt, Franklin T. The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=u9xDAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA464&lpg=PA464&dq=Burton%27s+Furnace+%28dubuque+history%29&source=bl&ots=0CkCGLFR0v&sig=a0Ou1vN3ew6nQUYoq2aOJsXF9Mg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=j3HVT5XALaP42QXVp9iFDw&ved=0CGgQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Burton%27s%20Furnace%20%28dubuque%20history%29&f=false (p. 532)

2. "Measuring Worth," Online: https://www.measuringworth.com/ppowerus/

3. "Where Dirt is Dear," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 6, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920706&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "They're After Joe," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 2, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920802&printsec=frontpage&hl=en