"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Revision as of 15:25, 25 November 2018 by Randylyon (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Boat building to skating kept the ice harbor a busy place all year.
Dubuque's Ice Harbor c. 1948. Photo courtesy: Larry Friedman
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
1854 map showing the early waterfront.
ICE HARBOR. Early commercial development of Dubuque was hampered by physical barriers to STEAMBOATING. The western bank of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER was a maze of peninsulas, sloughs, and bayous. Physical obstacles to transportation in the channel included many islands. The landing was also a considerable distance from the business district of the early 1800s.

Plans for solving the problem began early in the history of Dubuque. As early as 1836 a proposal was made to cut a canal approximately one-third mile long to link the riverbank with a steamboat landing on the inner slough. This plan called for a channel that would allow boats into the business section of town. It would also form a channel through LAKE PEOSTA that would drain both the inner and lower sloughs. Despite a public meeting and the offering of a number of suggestions, nothing was done.

Acting under authority of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, a board of trustees was organized in 1837. The first ordinance passed by the trustees called for the removal of obstructions from the slough to make it navigable. A committee carried out this order to the best of its ability.

The St. Louis to Dubuque steamboat commerce continued to expand. While in 1835 only ten steamboats were operating between the two cities, by 1838 twenty-two were part of the commercial link. Newspaper editorials called for action that would allow steamboats to use all or a great part of the two-mile long riverfront at Dubuque.

In 1850, the Dubuque city council’s canal committee recommended a channel from Lorimier furnace to EAGLE POINT through Lake Peosta and the sloughs. To promote the project, the council ordered 600 copies of the report printed and distributed. (1) The committee recommended a channel 100 feet wide and four feet below the low water standard; total excavation to be 279,190 cubic yards; length of improvement. 24,220 feet; cost of dredge, $8,000: two flatboats, $300; channel to be extra wide in places to permit boats to pass each other; the channel to skirt closely the inner shore line of Dubuque; distance by river from Lorimier furnace to Eagle Point, 25,800 feet; shortening of the line would cause a quicker current; stagnant water in the sloughs would be drained . (2) At this date there were an estimated two hundred steamboat arrivals annually.

      Shall our city three years hence be without 
      a harbor and' out of debt or shall we, by 
      creating the debt, construct a harbor worth $250,000 the 
      moment it is completed? Without a harbor or any facilities 
      to overcome the want of one, at an objectionable distance from 
      the bank of the river and this bank separated from 
      the main river by a series of sloughs often too shallow for 
      steamboats, Dubuque has nevertheless derived her existence and 
      growth from the navigation of the Mississippi. With these 
      difficulties she has had constantly to struggle and by such 
      efforts she has attained to sufficient size and capital to command 
      a harbor of unsurpassed excellence." 
        ([[MINER'S' EXPRESS] (THE)], September 18, 1850; 
        Report of the Harbor Committee.) (3)

The committee voted against a boat canal from the main channel across the sloughs and islands to the city shore proper — boats would have to go back after coming in. (4)

Railroad trestles ran through the sloughs of the harbor before filling in of the shallow water began. In the background the Rhomberg Distillery DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY and the SHOT TOWER can be seen. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/45737582684/
On the question of borrowing $20,000 for use on the steamboat channel from Lorimier's up to Eagle Point, an election was called. The record of the vote on securing a loan of $20,000 for the proposed steamboat channel was — for the loan 315 against the loan 14.(5) A harbor tax was ordered levied to meet the $20,000 authorized for harbor improvement. (6)

It was found necessary to buy for $10,000 a large dredge boat to be used on the proposed steamboat channel. (7) In April, 1850, the citizens voted down the proposition to secure a loan of $10,000 for harbor improvement.

    We announce the defeat of this measure
    as we do the death of a friend — briefly 
    and sorrowfully. On the first day of April, 
    a majority of the citizens of Dubuque 
    decided that they would have no harbor 
    unless someone would make it for them. 
         Miner's Express, April 3, 1850.) (8)

Late in September, 1851, work was begun by Abel Hawley of Milwaukee to cut the channel from Lorimier's furnace to Eagle Point, one hundred feet wide and four feet deep at low water, for $24,300. Between Fifth and Sixth STREETS the channel was to be 200 feet wide. Hawley was paid by installments as the work progressed. B. J. O'Halloran, Caleb H. BOOTH, Henry A. Wiltse and Edward LANGWORTHY supervised the work which was to be completed in two years. (9)

In January, 1852, George W. BURTON and others were granted the right to cut a canal through the island opposite First or Second street to intersect the channel through which steamboats entered from the main river. This ambitious project was named the "Waples Cut" for Peter WAPLES. (10)

In 1853 many people in the city began to oppose the construction of the canal along the city front. They demanded that the work on the canal should be abandoned and the inner and other sloughs should be filled. (11) By the spring of 1853 work on the canal was not profitable to the contractors and operations slowed. (12) In 1852-1853 Waple's cut afforded access of boats to the wharf; it was where the ice harbor was later located. Hundreds of steamboat landings in Dubuque were now recorded annually. Increasing the need to improve the riverfront was the extension of Dubuque streets to the river's edge. This was accomplished between 1855 and 1857 by the DUBUQUE HARBOR COMPANY, DUBUQUE HARBOR IMPROVEMENT COMPANY and the DUBUQUE CENTRAL IMPROVEMENT COMPANY.

The proposal of giving Brush island to the DUBUQUE AND PACIFIC RAILROAD as a site for their depot was considered early in 1854 and submitted to the voters. The vote, 666 in favor with 285 against, was understood to indicate that the sloughs and islands were eventually to be filled up. (13)

            All know our city has suffered greatly for the last 
            fifteen years, in her business and reputation, at home 
            and abroad, in consequence of the extreme difficulty of 
            getting to and from the river in low water. Strangers 
            destined for Dubuque (ladies not infrequently) have been 
            landed from steamboats at night upon the outer island 
            and were compelled to grope their way by land and slough 
            to the city, benumbed and saturated with rain. Our own 
            merchants, business men and hotel keepers can attest the 
            hardships they have been subjected to, in getting to and 
            from the river a great portion of the year.
               (John KING, Miner's Express, March 14, 1854.)(14)
1855 causeway plan diagram.
In place of the old plan of a long canal, the 1855 causeway plan proposed to build a plank road bed supported on pilings at a height above the level of water needed by the largest boats, of not less width than Main street and with a landing 300 feet long and about 150 feet wide sloping toward the water. (15)

F. E. Bissell was sent to Milwaukee to settle with Abel Hawley. The latter gave up the dredge boat and $1,000 to be released. In September, 1854, the council voted four to three in favor of submitting to the voters the question of a $50,000 loan to be used in building causeways to the river. (16)

The Mobley proposal, which was substantially accepted, planned to a) fill up the Seventh street extension and bridge the sloughs with double track bridges in three months or fifteen months at the most, b) fill up Seventh street forty feet on top in twenty months ; and c) build a levee 320 feet long and sixty-four feet wide. 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. This organization was known as the Dubuque Harbor Improvement Company composed of Mordecai MOBLEY, Lincoln CLARK, Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY, Thomas S. WILSON and James Ogilly. (17)

Another company, called the Dubuque Harbor Company, composed of Charles H. GREGOIRE, Henry L. STOUT and eight others, agreed to build a similar causeway south of Waples' cut, the payment to be all the city land south of the cut except enough for streets, alleys, etc. They agreed to extend Jones or Dodge street to the river. Both of the proposals were accepted by the city council and Second and Seventh streets were to be extended to the river. (18)

The Dubuque Harbor Company completed their contract within one year. Their land extended from the Waples' cut southward about 3,400 feet. The city reserved the frontage on the river and on Waples' cut. The railroad owned a small tract below the cut; they exchanged this for ten acres farther south and extending from the river to Main street. 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. (19)

Any bridges between Barney's cut and Waples' cut were to be draw bridges; all bridges above Barney's cut and below Waples' cut were to be fixed. Boats passing in at either cut could go on through the canal and out at the other cut. By the last of August, 1855, the bridges over the sloughs on Jones and Seventh streets were almost completed. (20)

The Central Improvement Company was organized January 23, 1857, with a capital of $2,100,000. The corporators were Jesse P. FARLEY, Franklin V. Goodrich, Austin J. Goss, Robert C. Waples, Christopher PELAN, Robert M. Walmsley, Alexander Anderson and Frederick E. BISSELL. The company became the owner of two islands with a total of twenty-eight acres and enough shallows to make a total of sixty acres when filled in. Its boundaries extended from the line of the Harbor Company on the south to the line of the Harbor Improvement Company on the north. Its plan was to make a levee the whole extent, to fill all the intervening lands and sloughs and to run First, Second, Third and Fourth streets to the Mississippi. (21)

Supplies were purchased with "currency" issued by the construction companies.
Confidence in the “currency” came from the names of important Dubuque residents who were stockholders in the company.
Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque, Iowa

In 1858 Congress designated Dubuque a "Port of Entry." Waples Cut was by then evolving into a protective harbor in which barges and other river craft escaped the ravages of winter and crushing ice floes in the spring.

A committee of the city council in September, 1864, reported that in its opinion it had no authority to open a harbor on Third street as desired by officers of a packet company. The council thereupon passed a resolution instructing the harbor committee "to open a channel at the intersection of Third street with the slough leading into the inner harbor and to build a bridge across the channel with a draw of enough width to allow boats to pass up into the inner slough giving steamboats access to the inner harbor and levee, affording a safe and convenient place for sheltering steamboats and barges in winter and also furnishing a convenient place for building barges and doing all kinds of steamboat repairs. The committee was also instructed to take up the bridge which now crossed the inner slough at Third street and to fill up the channel under the bridge. (22)

In 1873 Dubuque and Keokuk were the only two cities between St. Louis and St. Paul that collected wharfage. St. Louis had given up the charge for years while St. Paul abolished the practice in 1872. Shipping companies protested that Dubuque should end the practice. (23)

While Dubuque was attempting to improve its waterfront, Congressional financing attempted to develop a winter harbor for riverboats. For the Upper Mississippi, an ice harbor had to offer certain characteristics: the site had to provide absolute safety in a bay with still water and freedom from running ice at all stages of the river; sufficient depth to float vessels of any kind; and accessibility to the main channel, stockyards, machines shops and all other facilities of a large town. (24) Various sites were studied by the United States Army Corps of Engineers before it proposed widening and dredging Waples Cut. (25)

Waples Cut, however, had its problems. It was constantly filling in from deposits for the sewers, muddy water typical of the Mississippi, and debris from lumber rafts. (26) In 1882 little of the area had more than two feet of water when the river was low. This could lead to boats freezing in the mud and then sinking when the water rose in the spring. (27) In 1882 Congress appropriated twenty thousand dollars to dredge down six feet below the low-water mark and provide room for twenty steamers and fifty barges. In 1884 Congress appropriated another twenty thousand dollars for the ice harbor. (28) By 1885 most of the work had been accomplished.

In addition to a safe haven for ships, the Ice Harbor developed into a prime BOAT BUILDING site on the upper Mississippi. The IOWA IRON WORKS and later the DUBUQUE BOAT AND BOILER WORKS constructed vessels along the harbor's north side.

Winter meant the use of the area for community ICE SKATING. A circular wooden fence surrounded the skating area on the western half of the harbor. ICE HARVESTING was done outside the harbor and north along the Iowa side of the river. When there were no bids for a skating rink in the harbor, the FISCHER ICE COMPANY agreed to clean off the skating area after every snow. (29)

Such cooperation was not always the case. In December 1895 Mr. Keckevoet and Mr. Bohn each wanted to have a skating rink on the harbor. When they disagreed as to how much each should have, a committee decided that each should occupy half the space. Keckevoet ignored the decision and fenced in a much larger area. The mayor and council then got involved and served him with a notice to move the fence to the committee's position in five hours or the fence would be removed. Keckevoet and his attorney then obtained an injunction. Angered, the mayor and harbor commissioned then proceeded to revoke his license on the grounds that he had violated its conditions. (30) On December 8, 1895 Mayor Olinger sidestepped the matter by obtaining permission to flood the old baseball field at Jackson and Sanford to offer free skating to the citizens. Advantages cited included the fact that people did not need to cross railroad tracks or fear the ice cracking and plunging into the harbor. (31) In 1896 the city council averted the problem completely by awarding the right to operate a rink on the Ice Harbor to Mr. Bohn whose bid of $150 was the highest. (32) The rink proved profitable with 550 tickets being sold on January 3, 1897. (33) On January 19, 1897 a masquerade was held on the ice with music provided by the First Regiment Band. (34)

Actual use of the harbor came into question in 1909-1910. For thirty years, John Keckevoet had operated a ferry across the Mississippi River and maintained a small boat livery in the harbor. He moored a houseboat, barge, and other equipment in the northeast corner of the harbor. (35)

Municipal dock in the Ice Harbor. Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
In 1907 the city council empowered the harbor master to assign places in the harbor, collect wharfage fees, and prohibit some types of boats including houseboats from the site. When Koekevoet refused to pay his fees and the issue ended up in district court which ruled he had to pay $290. Koekevoet paid fees for the years 1909-1910 but appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. (36)
Houseboats were once common in the Ice Harbor and along the Iowa bank of the Mississippi. Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Ice harbor c. 1910
The work of the DUBUQUE BOAT CLUB in 1910 led to the first DUBUQUE REGATTA in 1911. The potential of the Ice Harbor becoming an important motor boat harbor was not lost on city officials. A petition was circulated and sent to officials in Washington asking for more dredging and surveys were made of the land. (37) Apparently pressure was brought on the houseboat owners already using the site. In 1912 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that houseboats and pleasure craft belonged in the harbor. Fees were collected, with difficulty in some cases, through the early 1930s when the water level became so low that boat owners claimed they would be paying for a "drydock." (38)

Water level in the harbor was a concern in 1934 for private boats and the DUBUQUE BOAT AND BOILER WORKS. In a letter to the city council, Ira DAVENPORT said that discharge from the city's large storm sewers made it difficult for his company to launch boats it had manufactured. He suggested the city purchase a hydraulic dredge. The council was concerned, but found it had no funds for dredging. The cost estimated to be between $15,000 and $20,000 had formerly been paid by the federal governments. (39)

Ice Harbor in the 1940s.

In 1941 citizens questioned the legality of the Dock Commission charging fees. (40) The City Solicitor stated that the Commission did have the power to control property along the water front belonging to the city and to charge reasonable fees according to an ordinance adopted on April 9, 1930. (41) The complaint that the Commission did not charge fees from the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works was then made. The solicitor stated that the City Council had made an agreement with a predecessor company "for valuable consideration" to use the north shore.

In 1957 the Dock Commission requested a survey by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the commercial value of the harbor. The survey completed the following year found the harbor was adaptable for commercial use. Although federal funds had been used in other places for pleasure facilities for boaters, the fact that the original request had been to determine commercial use, funds from Congress for dredging were improving the commercial use of the harbor only. This threw into question the future of pleasure boating in the harbor. (42)

In December 1960, the use of the harbor included 1,030 feet which was practically the entire northern shore by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works. The Dubuque Dock Company had 625 feet on the south side extending from Terminal Street west to within thirty feet of the U. S. Coast Guard frontage. Molo Oil operated on 800 feet in the northeast corner of the harbor and Miller River Excursions had about 45 feet at the southeast corner. Commercial users, the exception of the Boiler Works and its 1903 agreement with the city, had $2.00 per foot of frontage and wharfage rates.

An estimated thirty-three private boat owners leased frontage at $1.00 per foot annually. Before the Corps of Engineers began its $40,000 in dredging in the spring of 1961, all the pleasure boat owners were to leave. (43) This action foreshadowed the Dubuque Dock Board proposal in July, 1966 that boaters would be prohibited from living in their craft moored along city-owned land. This gradually did away with houseboats along the shore below the ZEBULON PIKE LOCK AND DAM (44)

On August 4, 1973 the flood wall was dedicated. Constructed at a cost of ten years of planning and congressional lobbying, five years of construction, $12 million, and the life of one construction workers, the project included flood gates which were closed when the river's level reached sixteen-feet. The flat lands including the Ice Harbor area were now protected. (45)

By 1974 the years of the Ice Harbor being a site of manufacturing seemed well past. In June three members of the Dubuque Dock Commission informed a city consultant that they would endorse two proposals for the land once owned by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works. One plan, a product of a committee of the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE called for parkland around the north and west shores of the harbor. (46) The second proposal from Robert KEHL envisioned the construction of an arcade with shops, a restaurant, a museum and other tourist attractions, a pedestrian plaza and a boat-docking facility on the harbor. (47) A land-use plan for the area bordered by Dove Harbor, the river, and the Ice Harbor was commissioned of Westbrook, a planner for Victor Gruen Associates, Inc. who had prepared a master plan for Dubuque in the 1960s.

In 1982 developments in the Ice Harbor included placing a paddlewheel outside the Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum and construction of a $300,000 floating lounge and gift shop operated by Robert Kehl. In 1984 when the development was to be completed the Ice Harbor was scheduled to feature the museum, the WILLIAM M. BLACK, the lounge, the Spirit of Dubuque, the ICE HARBOR EMPORIUM and a paved parking lot. Dubuque tourism officials promoted a new campaign under the banner “Port of Dubuque” which included the Ice Harbor, Old Main Street District, and the FOURTH STREET ELEVATOR. (48)

In 1984 the potential of the Ice Harbor was still to be determined. In that year the Welton Becket/Peat Marwick study of the Dubuque economy was received by the City Council. The study proposed the development of the Ice Harbor to encourage tourism in an area that already offered a tour boat and museum. The Ice Harbor would contain a mix of commercial and tourism businesses including the potential of another hotel along the north edge of the harbor. A river shuttle was proposed between the harbor and dog track. A pedestrian bridge would link the harbor over the downtown highway to lower Main Street. (49)

The Welton/Becket study proposed a public square between the Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum and the William S. Black. East of the square the Dubuque Pavilion, another square for festivals, would stand. Beyond that to the east would be the landing for Robert Kehl’s riverboats. This would mean switching the places then occupied by the William M. Black and Kehl’s boats. East of the landing would be a public boat dock and on the river itself would be Dubuque’s first riverfront restaurant. Connecting everything would be a boardwalk along which would be 40,000 square feet of rentable space for shops and offices. (50) Road improvement on the peninsula would allow development to the north to include the SHOT TOWER and the Dubuque Star Brewery.

In 1985 the GREATER DUBUQUE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION began the effort to transform the Ice Harbor from a scene of manufacturing into a tourist center of eastern Iowa. Development of the Ice Harbor had been part of a recent five-year economic plan for the city. The Corporation's plan was to go to the City Council and propose that Newt Marine Service should move to CHAPLAIN SCHMITT ISLAND. A new $1 million harbor would be constructed between the 16th street boat ramp and the DUBUQUE-WISCONSIN BRIDGE. (51)

Small paperweight. Photo courtesy: Ken Tully
In 1986 the idea of renaming the Ice Harbor to the “Port of Dubuque” came to the Dubuque City Council through Mayor James BRADY. The request for a specific name came from City Manager Kenneth GEARHART who wanted to place traffic signs with only one name being used. By a small margin, those who responded to a poll by the "Telegraph Herald" supported keeping the name "Ice Harbor." (52) The Council voted 6-1 to retain the name just days later. (53)

The naming of the area was a small part of the activity surrounding the Ice Harbor in 1986. The Dubuque Development Corporation in May, 1986 suggested that the Fourth Street peninsula could become a river and historical theme park capable of attracting a million tourists annually. The Corporation’s Ice Harbor committee was expected to suggest a park stretching from the north side of the harbor across largely unused or vacant land to Fourth Street and the DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY. The theme park would offer tourist-related business and recreational activities including the possibility of canal and carriage rides.

Development would be made in coordinated steps with existing businesses including ROBERT'S RIVER RIDES which brought an estimated 200,000 visitors annually, the proposed HARBOR PLACE MALL, the planned National Rivers Hall of Fame and non-tourist businesses on the peninsula. The Development Corporation also announced that it had commissioned DURRANT GROUP to study expanding the concepts of the Ice Harbor included in the 1984 Welton Beckett economic development report. The city’s Department of Community Development found that the Corporation’s announced study was not unique. Since 1973 there had been eight studies or meetings on the potential of the Fourth Street peninsula. (54)

Believing the riverboat gambling would encourage commercial and recreational development of the entire peninsula, city officials in 1989 proposed designating the 90-acres as an urban renewal area. The designation would allow the city to finance public improvement, develop aid, and condemn land for new uses. (55)

In January 1990 the Dubuque City Council rezoned thirteen acres on the northern side of the Ice Harbor from heavy industrial to commercial-recreational. This was done without receiving an opinion of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding the use of the harbor. The importance of the issue was that if the corps did not dredge the harbor, the city would have to pay about $200,000 for the work. (56) In February the city was told by the Army Corps of Engineers that the center of the harbor would still be dredged since there was still commercial activity. The city would have to pay $15,000 to dredge a forty-foot area where the gambling boat would dock. (57)

September 20, 1990 was the last day of demolition in the Ice Harbor in preparation for the construction of buildings associated with riverboat gambling industry. The only building remaining was a three-story brick warehouse to be converted into the Iowa Welcome Center and the buildings housing the Woodward Riverboat Museum and the National Rivers Hall of Fame. (58) The city of Dubuque paid $1.75 million for land owned by MOLO OIL COMPANY and Newt Marine Services and their relocation costs. (59)

The start of riverboat gambling on April 1, 1991 was credited with being the real “impetus” for the redevelopment of the Ice Harbor. (60) The biggest change was the addition of the DUBUQUE CASINO BELLE. (61) On land, the major change was the “expansion and conversion of a riverfront warehouse into a sort of "tourist mecca mosque." (62) The older part, rebuilt with state and private funding, housed the Welcome Center, historical exhibits and archives. The new portion, constructed by Robert Kehl, served as the headquarters of the Casino Belle. The city installed six parking lots-five paved and one to be paved in 1992 to accommodate the museum visitors and expected traffic from riverboat gambling and excursion boats. (63)

Efforts to develop the land north of the Ice Harbor had grown bitter until the formation of the 4th Street Peninsula Study Group in early April 1992. Composed of city staff, property owners, council members, and Long Range Planning Commission members, the group met on a regular basis from July through October. (64)

In June 1997 the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE and the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY announced they were partnering to raise $1.3 for improvement to the riverfront targeting the HERITAGE TRAIL extension and Riverwalk Project and the Mississippi River Museum's River Discovery Center. The city's Long Range Advisory Planning Committee had already recommended the $1.9 million plan that placed the riverwalk on top of the flood wall. (65)

In February 1998 the Cambridge Iowa Gaming Company, the proposed buyer of the DIAMOND JO CASINO announced plans for a $10 million hotel construction project in the Ice Harbor. The hotel would include 168 rooms, an 80-seat fine-dining restaurant, swimming pool and fitness center. Plans also included a conference center. (66)

In 2000 with the Ice Harbor already busy with the NATIONAL RIVERS HALL OF FAME and the FRED W. WOODWARD RIVERBOAT MUSEUM utilized the harbor with their popular floating museum, the William M. Black and earlier plans to construct a plaza, amphitheater and sidewalks on the river front, Mayor Terry DUGGAN and other civic leaders announced with $60 million raised locally, the City would be requesting $54 million from the State of Iowa for further Ice Harbor renovation. The money would come from “Vision Iowa” or the “Millennium Fund,” a measure for which a bill creating it had not yet been introduced into the Iowa Legislature but was considered to have the support of Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack and the Republican-controlled legislature. (67)

Dubuque had an advantage over other cities as “Vision Iowa” was being readied for the legislature because the city’s plan had already been written. It called for the construction of a 250-room hotel, a convention center and a parking ramp, all in the vicinity of the DIAMOND JO CASINO. Also planned was a large-screen “IMAX-type attraction” which would offer a three-dimensional theater experience connected to the River Discovery Aquarium. (68)

In 2000 the City of Dubuque and Peninsula Gaming Company, the owner of the DIAMOND JO CASINO, were unable to agree upon a plan to construct a hotel and convention facility on the riverfront. In a letter to the Iowa Racing a Gaming Commission, City Manager Michael VAN MILLIGEN said the plan offered by the casino owners was not ambitious enough. (69) No sooner than this occurred, Platinum Hospitality Group and the city agreed upon a plan to construct $40.5 million, 200-room hotel complex that became the Grand Harbor Resort and Water Park. (70) In October, 2000 the city purchased 13 acres from Plastic Center Inc. for the proposed hotel. Land acquisition continued the same month when five acres, the former site of PETRAKIS PARK were purchased. Peavey Company and FLYNN READY-MIX CONCRETE COMPANY would relocate. (71)

The former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot, the last surviving building of its kind in Dubuque, received the promise of restoration in 2001. The Dubuque County Historical Society received a $100,000 Iowa Historic Site Preservation Grant in addition to more than $600,000 in federal grants for the project. (72) This was part of the larger NATIONAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM AND AQUARIUM.

Ice harbor marina 2014.

In 2005 the Abonmarche Group, a consulting firm specializing in waterfront development, was commissioned for a transient boating market feasibility study. The research indicated a theoretical potential demand for 800 slips in the primary and secondary Dubuque market area. MIDTOWN MARINA then had ten transient slips. DUBUQUE MARINA INC. offered twenty. Frentress Lake Marina in East Dubuque had a few and the DUBUQUE YACHT BASIN, INC. had between thirty and forty. (73) In 2007 the City of Dubuque in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was awarded an $3,037,802 BIG (Boating Infrastructure Grant) Tier II from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a transient boating facility at the Port of Dubuque. (74) This was one-third of the total money available for grants and one of the largest grants ever awarded by the Service for a single project. (75)

Originally the marina was to be constructed in the main channel south of the train bridge. When problems arose, city staff recommended the Ice Harbor as the alternate location. The dock was planned for 70 transient slips including 46-30 foot slips, 20-40 foot slips and 4-50 foot slips. Each slip would include water and electrical connections. A fueling dock was planned with sanitary pump-out facility. An amenities building was planned to provide dockside restrooms, showers, a laundry facility and a ship store to sell supplies. To not compete with other marinas in the area, boats would be able to park in the Ice Harbor for a few hours, over-night, or for a maximum of ten days. (76)

In 2015 the $4.3 million Port of Dubuque Marina beat its financial projections. From July 1 to October 31, the marina brought in nearly $132,000 in revenue--$7,000 more than was projected for the entire fiscal year 2016 which runs through the end of June. This compares to $192,600 in expenses for fiscal year 2016 for a loss of $60,682. City officials had anticipated a $154,845 deficit for the fiscal year. (77) Much of the increase was due to a revenue-sharing agreement between the city and SWAT RIVER TOURS. In 2015 the city also partnered with Fever River Outfitters of Galena, Illinois. This company offered paddleboard, kayak, and bike rentals, yoga classes, and river tours.

In 2016 the Grand River Center hosted more than 180,000 people, bringing in more than $9.5 million in economic impact to the Dubuque area. More than 55,000 of those people came from out of town, and on average, each person spent about $175 during their time in Dubuque. The Grand River Center hosted events on 332 of the 365 days during 2016, was named a 2016 Best of MidAmerica Award Winner by Meetings Focus Magazine, and intended to launch a brand new website in 2017. (78)

(Photo Courtesy: http://www.dubuquepostcards.com)

Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque
Postcard featuring iceskating.
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
{Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Postcard shows the ice harbor in the 1950s.
Facing the ice harbor, this wall lists major donors to the America's River project.
Situated on the site of the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works, this building signifies a new major attraction to the city.
The Diamond Jo Casino attracts thousands to the ice harbor to gamble or enjoy its entertainment.



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880 http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-10-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid. p.11

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., p. 13

22. Ibid., p. 17

23. "Against Wharfage," Dubuque Herald, May 4, 1873, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18730504&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

24. The Ice Harbor," Dubuque Herald, May 14, 1882, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DKNCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PKsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4728,140932&dq=ice+cut+through+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. The Ice Harbor, Dubuque Herald, May 4, 1884, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XsdCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=YasMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4189,6504579&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

28. Ibid.

29. “Will Clean Off Ice in the Harbor,” Telegraph Herald, Dec. 22, 1909, p. 2. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=mR9CAAAAIBAJ&sjid=a6oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3560,5732406&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

30. "The City on Top," Dubuque Herald, December 1, 1895, p. 8

31. "A Free Ice Rink," Dubuque Herald, December 8, 1895, p. 8

32. "City Council," Dubuque Herald, November 3, 1896, p. 8

33. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, January 12, 1897, p. 5

34. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, January 18, 1897, p. 5

35. Welch, Wayne. "City Harbor Muddy Problem," Telegraph Herald

36. Welch

37. "How the Regatta Was Brought Here," Telegraph Herald, June 25, 1911, p. 1

38. Welch

39. "Council Meets; Revokes License of Beer Seller," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 7, 1934, p. 4

40. Welch

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Shively, Neil. "City Harbor Has Problems," Telegraph Herald, December 4, 1960, Dubuque News, p. 1

44. "Would Bar 'Boat-Homes' Here," Telegraph-Herald, July 31, 1966, p. 11

45. Fyten, David. “The Floodwall: A Tribute to Those People…” Telegraph Herald, Aug.ust 5, 1973, p. 4. Online. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=wfZQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NsMMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5700,573285&dq=flood+wall+dubuque&hl=en

46. Fyten, David. “Recreation Foothold in Ice Harbor,” Telegraph Herald, June 28, 1974, p. 1.Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=M41FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9LwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3721,4242188&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

47. Ibid.

48. “Port of Dubuque Taking Shape,” Telegraph Herald, July 27, 1982, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=KpFSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wNAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5579,3176384&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

49. Hendricks, Mike. “Report Has Plans for Ice Harbor,” Telegraph Herald, Sept. 16, 1984, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=U7hFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Z70MAAAAIBAJ&pg=5297,1825491&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

50. Ibid.

51. Kraske, Steve. “Ice Harbor Plan Conflicts with Schmitt Theme,” Telegraph Herald, Jan. 27, 1985, p. 33. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Fg9RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=z8QMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5778,3167788&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

52. Cooper, Brian. "TH Readers: Ice Harbor," Telegraph Herald, July 25, 1986, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=3JFdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=klwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6631,4034515&dq=ice+harbor+harvest+dubuque&hl=en

53.Kraske, Steve. “Ice Harbor Name Sticks,” Telegraph Herald. Aug. 5, 1986, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=s59dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6FwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5525,699750&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

54. Kraske, Steve and Kirchen, Rich. “Ice Harbor Theme Park,” Telegraph Herald, May 13, 1986, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=RpVdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rFwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5708,2238494&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

55. Kirchen, Rich. “Officials Seeking Urban Renewal Designation,” Telegraph Herald, Nov. 18, 1989, p. 42. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=eyFFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LrsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1491,5096258&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

56. Japsen, Bruce. “Dubuque Council Approves Partial Rezoning of Ice Harbor,” Telegraph Herald'Italic text, Jan. 23, 1990, p. 12. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=6VVFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zLsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4558,3940850&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

57. Pritchard, Ken. “Ice Harbor Demolition Completed,” Telegraph Herald, Sept. 20, 1990, p. 16. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LVxFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5rsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3640,4776650&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

58. Japsen, Bruce, “Dredging at the Ice Harbor to Continue,” Telegraph Herald, Feb. 22, 1990, p. 2. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=gU9FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=z7sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6755,3793889&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

59. Gilson, Donna. “Ice Harbor Price Tag Totals $1.75 Million,” Telegraph Herald, Mar. 31, 1900, p. 12. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7FlFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3LsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3701,5667980&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

60. Gilson, Donna. “Ugly Duckling Ice Harbor Transformed Into a Swan,” Telegraph Herald, March 30, 1991, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OmpFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UbwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4325,5274202&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid.

64. Arnold, Bill. "Accord Key to Development, Telegraph Herald, October 17, 1992. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19921017&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

65. McDermott, Brad. "Chamber, Society Target Riverfront," Telegraph Herald, June 17, 1997, p. 2. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970617&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

66. Cooper, Brian. "Diamond Jo Bidders Propose 7-Story Hotel," Telegraph Herald, February 15, 1998, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980215&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

67. Pieters, Jeffrey,” City to Seek $54 Million From State,” March 29, 2000, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=5AlaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LEsNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3486,5824709&dq=ice+harbor+dubuque&hl=en

68. Ibid.

69. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2001, p. 30

70. Ibid., p. 33

71. Ibid., p. 39

72. Everly, John. “State Federal Grants to Breathe New Life in Depot,” December 16, 2001, p. 19. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=rI9dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kFwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3516,2271513&dq=chicago+burlington+and+quincy+depot+grant+dubuque&hl=en

73. Moran, John. "What Up Dock? The Third Gateway to Dubuque,"Julien's Journal, July 2011, p. 37

74. Ibid., p. 36

75. Ibid.

76. Ibid., p. 37

77. Barton, Thomas J. "Port of Dubuque Marina Beats Financial Projections," Telegraph Herald, November 20, 2015. p. 1A

78. Hanson, Brad. "Grand River Center Brings in Nearly $10 Million for Dubuque," KWWL.com. Dec. 30, 2016, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/34155403/2016/12/30/grand-river-center-brings-in-nearly-10-million-for-dubuque