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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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Circa 1880, people are sitting on the Madison Street steps while in the background Old Mineral Road (West Locust) can be seen. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/45737582684/
This picture c. 1870s shows wooden steps leading to the home of John Vincent RIDER. Image courtesy: Center for Dubuque History and http://www.cityofdubuque.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2926
Madison Street Steps c. 1918
MADISON STREET STEPS. Beginning in the 1800s, a set of steep wooden steps allowed homeowners on the bluff a way to reach their houses and visitors a way to reach MADISON PARK. The neighbors, afraid a long detour would be suggested, petitioned the city council in 1918 for replacement steps when the original wooden planks showed signs of deterioration.

The ornate steps constructed at a cost of $2,100, a 100 percent cost overrun, were as much architecture as sidewalk. The eight flights of steps included a spiral staircase with lights on the landings.

By 1945 the steps were beginning to show signs of neglect. Deterioration was so advanced by 1956 that the Park Board ordered them closed. Some areas of the steps were demolished, while others were allowed to collapse under their own weight.

In 1977, believing that a wealthy person was interested in funding a civic project, the city planner David Dahlquist recreated the design of the steps with a plan that won a national award. Unfortunately, the wealthy donor never materialized to pay the estimated cost of $244,000.

In March 1982, the city announced plans to remove the steps. Actual removal did not occur until October 1989, when wooden steps were installed to reach a residence on the side of the bluff.