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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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1875 map
LAKE PEOSTA. Located in the northeast corner of this map, the area around Lake Peosta was once a hideout for criminals.

During the administration of Christian Anton VOELKER a resolution was presented to petition Congress for the lake area. (1) In December 1891 former mayor Robert W. STEWART was once again involved in efforts to obtain title to the lake bed. The issue had come before the city council when Stewart had been mayor. An suggestion was made to have Senator William Boyd ALLISON and Congressman David B. HENDERSON write a bill and guide it through Congress. Other matters made this impossible. Senator Allison asked Stewart to have the city prepare a sketch of the area and surrounding territory and attach it to a bill for him to present. (2)

The survey was completed in January 1892. Among the reasons the petition was presented was the feeling that by filling the lake bed more water would be diverted to the main channel. It was felt this would be considered a river improvement. The filled area was to be used for building sites for manufacturers. (3)

In April, 1892 when nothing had been done with the survey, several "prominent businessmen" in favor of the project circulated the following petition: (4)

             To the Directors of the Dubuque Board of Trade:
             We, the undersigned, most respectfully call your attention to what
             we consider to be a matter of great interest and importance to
             every citizen of Dubuque--the securing to the city, either for
             manufacturing of park purposes of the property known as Lake Peosta.
             The title to said property now remains with the United States 
             government. We therefore urge upon you are representatives of the
             business interests of our city, to take such action as will most
             speedily accomplish the object in view.

In October 1894, the city council adopted a resolution empowering the mayor, Peter OLINGER, to appoint a committee. This group was to take the steps necessary to obtain a grant to the city from the federal government of Lake Peosta. On October 9, 1894 the mayor appointed three alderman to act with him as the chairperson. The Daily Herald noted that Joseph A. RHOMBERG owned the property around the lake and also claimed it. (5)

The Gantenbein property on Lake Peosta. Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

For Peg Wagner of Dubuque, however, the area was a childhood home of wonder and charm. Located on the eastern side of the railroad tracks, her family's property included the former home of her grandparents, her home, and a collection of out buildings.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

Access to the property, there was no road, was achieved by climbing over a hill from Garfield Street where their car was parked and then down a wooden ramp. Her father also built a series of wooden steps along the path at intervals to ease the walk over hazardous inclines.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

Isolated from other families by fields of willows, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Gantenbein and their children Peg and Chuck lived a life that included the joys of fishing in the summer from their boat dock and skating in the winter.

Peg, his father, and her brother. Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner
Barely visible in 2011, the arch beneath the roadway near the lock and dam was once the access to Lake Peosta from the river. The lake now lies beneath the parking lot visible in the picture.
Lake Peosta was a popular skating site. Peg's mother is the second from the right. Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

Peg's father had one rule,"If you were going to skate, you had to help shovel the snow off the ice." Lake Peosta was only several feet deep and anyone interested in using the quiet waters for water skiing in the summer were warned of the submerged stumps and metal barrels.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

High water in the spring was an annual occurrence. A flood wall was constructed around the family house, but often with little effect. Peg's mother would row her family from the house to the ramp to get to school or work. Peg related that when the basement flooded, her mother would stand on the bottom step with a fishnet to catch floating vegetables for dinner.

In 1956 the family's property was purchased by the city. Plans were underway to fill Lake Peosta to establish the first of the city's INDUSTRIAL PARKS.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

The Gantenbein home with all its furnishings was lifted from its foundation and moved north along the railroad tracks to the corner near the present Point Restaurant. The former site of the house was soon prepared for the construction of BARNSTEAD/THERMOLYNE.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

Several days later, it was pulled along Rhomberg Avenue to its current location.

Photo courtesy: Peg Wagner

In 1961 the opening of the Lake Peosta Channel shoreline north of the E. 16th Street bridge for small boat dock space was approved by the Dubuque Dock Commission. An estimated 750 feet of shoreline beginning 400 feet north of the bridge was to be made available. This would allow approximately 75 boats to be accommodated. Space was leased on a year-to-year basis at the rate of $2.00 per foot. (6)

Use of the shoreline was to be on a temporary basis. When industry chose to locate in the area, the boaters would have to move. The Commission said that those who used the space would be given first opportunity to lease space in the proposed new small boat harbor south of the E. 16th Street bridge on the city island side of the channel. (7)

Space for small boats was limited in Dubuque according to Commission members. There were also many violators who used up to three times the space they needed or paid rent. (8)

The house that had once been located at 1810 Shiras was relocated to 1410 Garfield.



1. "The Survey Completed," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 20, 1892, p. 4

2. "Selectmen in Session," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 8, 1891, p. 4.

3. "The Survey Completed..."

4. "The Lake Peosta Tract," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 15, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920415&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "To Acquire Lake Peosta," Dubuque Daily Herald, October 10, 1894, p. 4

6. Shively, Neil. "To Open Lake Peosta Channel to Boat Rental," Telegraph Herald, March 14, 1061, p. 1

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., p. 4