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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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

GEHRIG, Joseph

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=ftm109&id=I07694

GEHRIG, Joseph. (Canton, St. Gallen, Switzerland, Dec. 26, 1819--Dubuque, IA, Apr. 13, 1885). Gehrig came to Dubuque in 1844 and worked in P. E. Lorimier's stone quarry for fifty cents a day. He earned an additional thirty cents chopping wood. Lured by the desire for GOLD, Gehrig left for California in 1849.

With success, he returned to Dubuque and bought property at the corner of 7th and White. The land contained a mound, described by Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY as "immense." In 1852 during the grading of 7th Street, the mound, which extended into the proposed roadway, was leveled. It was at this time and during the excavation for the hotel, that the body of Patrick O'CONNOR was discovered along with Native American artifacts proving the mound was created for burial purposes.

Gehrig began building his hotel in 1854 with a stable and several connected outbuildings to accommodate laundry facilities and more. His brother-in-law, Peter KIENE had already built HARMONY HALL across the alley, on Clay Street, now Central Avenue, between 6th and 7th. Completed in 1856, Gehrig's hotel was very large with four stories topped by a cupola. The hotel contained an estimated forty guest rooms on the upper two floors, parlors on the 2nd floor, and an office, saloon, dining room, kitchen and "washroom" on the first floor. Gehrig's hotel was constructed primarily of brick, three courses thick, which may have come from his brother-in-law Peter Kiene's brick manufacturing company. (1)

Cemetery Marker.
Gehrig rented his hotel building to another person who opened it as the Adams House in 1856. Gehrig resumed operations of the hotel in 1858 or 1859 and renamed it the JEFFERSON HOUSE, in honor of Thomas Jefferson as Gehrig was himself a Democrat. Gehrig and, later, his son Henry GEHRIG who was born in the hotel and Henry's wife Mary, operated the Jefferson House nearly until it closed around 1918. (2) The building was renovated many times and saw use as SANITARY MILK COMPANY and finally in 2015 as SMOKESTACK (THE).

Gehrig served on the city council during the administrations of Turck and Graves.



1. The Smokestack Website: http://www.smokestackdbq.com/#!history/c24ml

2. Ibid.

Oldt, Franklin T., The History of Dubuque County, Iowa, Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 792-793

Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 164