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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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The second Irving School. Photo courtesy: William K. Hammel

IRVING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. The first Irving School, opened in 1867, was known as the West Dubuque School until December 23, 1889, when the public schools were renamed. The site for the school cost the public school system $500. This school was destroyed by fire in 1880, and a new building was constructed.

This school was destroyed by fire On March 11, 1892. An alarm of fire had been turned in at Eighth and Bluff STREETS. The team of horses from the Fourth street engine house was attached to the uptown engine and the machine was drawn up the long, steep hill. When the engine arrived difficulty was encountered in securing a supply of water. There was no plug in the neighborhood and the firemen were forced to drain the cisterns of nearby residents. After the water supply had been exhausted, it was discovered that the large cistern on the school grounds was almost full. The hose was attached to the supply fountain and shortly after the blaze was extinguished. The building, however, was a total loss. (1)

The school had been designed by Architect George Thompson, of New York, whose father, John THOMPSON, also of New York, was at that time a member of the board of education. The overcrowded school had caused the board of education to rent additional space in a building in the vicinity. At the time of the fire, it had been planned to build an addition as large as the building destroyed. The building and its contents was insured by the DUBUQUE FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY and three other companies for a total of $6,750. (2)

Irving School in 1907. Photo courtesy: William K. Hammel.
The second Irving School, built on the site later occupied by WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, was built of brick and was the first school with indoor restrooms. This building was used until the opening of the new Irving Elementary School on Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1953 the proposition of selling old Irving School was approved by Dubuque voters by a vote of 433 to 46. On July 1, 1953, the school site was sold to Westminster Presbyterian Church for $46,052.

The $600,000 building on Pennsylvania Avenue, boasting a one thousand dollar intercommunication system linking the office to every schoolroom, was dedicated on October 28, 1953. When opened in September 1953, Irving became the first elementary school built in the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT since 1939.

Irving Elementary School soon after construction of an addition in 2008.
During the 1990-1991 academic year, Irving enrolled 545 students, the second highest enrollment for an elementary school in the Dubuque Community School District.



1. "Irving School in Ashes," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 12, 1892, p. 4

2. Ibid.