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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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MARKET HOUSE. The first petition to establish a city market house was presented to the City Council on June 20, 1842. (1) A committee comprised of councilmen Cline, Wales, Fanning, and Ogilby was formed to study the issue. Councilman Cline reported back to the council on July 11, 1842, and presented an ordinance calling for the construction of a public market house. The MAYOR was authorized to receive proposals for materials and construction. Construction proposals were to include the prices the contractors would charge with the understanding that the lowest bids would be accepted. Dimensions for the building were to be determined by agreement between the mayor and the aldermen.

The proposed ordinance was read twice during the July 11th meeting and once again the following day at a special council meeting. The ordinance passed with Cline, Wales, Fanning, and Ogilby approving the concept and Farley casting the only negative vote. (2) The ordinance was signed by Mayor S. D. Dixon.

Work on the market house was not started until 1845, despite another petition in 1843. (3) Another was submitted in 1845. (4) Reports from the frequently re-established market house committee were repeatedly read into the Council minutes with comments that no work had begun. On February 24, 1845, Simplot and Levi, two local businessmen, stated to the council their willingness to donate to the city ten feet fronting on their lots 184 and 185 along Fifth Street between Main and Iowa STREETS if the property were used for a market house. (5) This plan was not accepted by the council that again tabled the issue until April 21. On this date Charles Miller proposed granting twenty feet along the south side of Fifth Street, between Main and Locust, to the city for a market house. The council approved this plan. (6) On April 28, 1845, Miller gave his deed for twenty feet fronting lot 96 to the Council.

A committee was appointed on May 26, 1845, to determine the funding necessary for the construction of the building. William Hooper, a contractor, was authorized to draw up specifications for the project on July 14. This plan, presented one week later, was rejected. On August 18, 1845, William Cooke presented another plan that was accepted. Proposals for the work were received on August 26. The firm of Ladd and Rumbold was given the contract to build, plaster and paint the finished building. The firm was also to install a cistern capable of holding two hundred bottles of water. (7) The price for the project was $883.

Construction of the first market house on the corner of Fifth and Locust Streets was finally completed in the fall of 1845 at a cost of $1,100. The brick building featured had an upstairs room prepared for a council room in 1847.

At the March 10, 1846, Council meeting, the aldermen appointed George L. Nightengale, city clerk, to draft a code of market house laws. The ordinance, which was completed at a cost of ten dollars, was read and accepted on March 23, 1846. The rent of inside stall was set at $15 annually with choice stalls offered publicly to the highest bidder.

The ordinance stated that the market would be open only once per week. The Council soon received a petition on May 16, 1846, requesting that the market remain open every market day except Sunday. The petition also asked that the market close at one o' clock, except Saturday, when it would remain open until sunset or later. On February 28, 1848, the revised ordinance established the market as being open from May through October every day except Sunday and until one o'clock.

The revised ordinance called for the employment of a market master appointed by the council for one market year. Garland Trower, the first market master, held office from only April to June, 1846 before quitting for health reasons. He was replaced by C. J. Leist. The master was required to take an oath of office and give the City of Dubuque a bond of three hundred dollars.

In 1852 the ordinance was revised. The market master was to attend all market days, maintain order, seize and destroy tainted provisions, rent stalls, provide licenses, and remove filth from the market at the end of the day. Stalls inside the market were used by butchers. During the months of market, no fresh meat could be sold elsewhere in the city. Meat sold within the city limits was to be in quantities less than a quarter. Breaking this law could result in fines between five and fifteen dollars.

Brisk business at the market house led to the need for repairs and repainting. On May 3, 1852, the council accepted a proposal of John O'Meara to build an enclosure around the brick building. On May 1, 1852, the Council extended the hours of operation of the market house from daylight to 9:00 p.m.

The continued growth in business led, by 1853, to discussion about the need to expand the building. The council did not discuss the concept, however, until May 15, 1854. On May 30, 1854, the council heard from a committee that the cost of expanding the building to the west side of an alley located adjacent to the building and enclosing the extension would cost six hundred dollars. Agreement on a construction proposal did not come until July 17, 1854. Hiram Willey was hired to complete the project for seven hundred dollars. The work was completed by October 23, 1854.

Prior to completion of the expansion, the council again revised the City Market ordinance. The new ordinance dated July 17, 1854, stated that the market would consist of all of Fifth Street between Main and Bluff Streets and all of Locust between Fourth and Sixth.

The increase in business led to the establishment of other markets in the city. First Street, between Main and Locust Streets, was the site of Dubuque's first unofficial grain market. The need to regulate the location of these markets as the city grew led to an ordinance August 6, 1860, that established the official grain market at Main Street between First and Jones Streets. A weigher of grain was appointed by the Council with the authority to attend the market, keep order, weigh any grain, and receive payment from the owner of ten cents per draft.

An unofficial hay market slowly developed along Fourteenth Street. Hay, brought to the city in hay racks, was used as feed for horses and milk cows.

The need for wood, used for cooking and heating, led to an unofficial wood market. This was first located along Eighth and Clay Streets. This market was later moved to Fourteenth and Elm.

The City Council on October 16, 1854, passed an ordinance establishing an official hay and wood market on Sixth Street between Iowa and Clay. An official weigher of hay and wood was established with similar duties as the person in charge of grain. The location of the market was changed to Clay Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets by a revision of the ordinance on July 23, 1855.

Gradually the meat market separated itself from the City Market. The Council granted Flynn and McManus permission to establish a meat market on Julien Avenue. Other small butcher shops gradually developed.

Dissatisfaction with the single City Market led a group of citizens in August 1854, to petition for a second market square on the north end of town. A committee from the council was appointed on August 28 to determine the cost of a second square. Their report nearly three months later found that a square between Collier Avenue and White Street could be purchased inexpensively. The report, received by the Council, was tabled until 1855. During this time the butchers petitioned for a new ceiling on the City Market at Fifth and Locust. The council, on October 30, 1854, agreed to the new ceiling if the butchers raised the necessary finances for the project. Problems with the market's cistern finally convinced the council that the market house could no longer handle the business.

September 3, 1855, in response to another petition for additional market houses, the council appointed a committee to find suitable sites in north, south, and central Dubuque. Dissatisfied with the report of the committee, the council abandoned the project for six months. The idea of establishing a third ward market gained support so that on March 3,1856, the council suggested widening Thirteenth Street. James Potter, city engineer, discouraged the council from this action. Placing the market in the middle of a one hundred four feet wide street would leave only twenty feet on each side for the roadway. Sanitary conditions in the area were also poor. Potter advised purchasing lots 456, 457,448, and 449 from James Rowan and Henry Miller. Both men argued against this action until the council abandoned the idea in September.

Possibilities of constructing market houses in the first and fifth wards were again considered by the council on September 1, 1856. Reporting to the council on September 27, the city engineer suggested building one half of the first ward market. Later, if the council desired a new DUBUQUE CITY HALL, the engineer proposed the roof of the market could be raised and another story added for a total cost of five thousand dollars. The lot for the market would be one acquired by filling in Main Street from First to Jones Streets. The council, however, decided to construct the entire first ward market and assigned the project to P. M. Guthrie on October 27, 1856. Paid eight thousand dollars, Guthrie completed the work by May 1858.

Controversy over the site for the fifth ward market continued until August 18, 1856, when Rowan and Miller in the third ward announced they would sell their property for five thousand dollars per lot. On October 13, 1856, a committee recommended purchasing the four lots. The council agreed on October 20, and another committee was appointed to prepare specifications for the third ward, central market, house.

The committee report on February 2, 1857, called for the construction of a temporary market house, realizing that the structure would require rebuilding in several years to meet the needs of the growing community. P. M. Guthrie received the construction contract for his bid of $325. On April 28, 1858, the City Market on Fifth and Locust was abolished. The "Central Market" on Thirteenth Street between Clay and Iowa Streets and the "First Ward Market" on Main and Jones Streets were established. The first city market house was torn down on May 29,1858.

During the 1880s the First Ward market was gradually closed as the Central Market grew. Known as the City Market, the location was first confined to the first floor of the Dubuque City Hall at Thirteenth Street and Central. As the city grew, the market expanded into the blocks down Central and Iowa Streets. Only with the development of supermarkets did the City Market begin to diminish in importance and size.



1. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley, The History of Dubuque County, Iowa, Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1890, p. 73

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid., p. 74

4. Ibid. p. 75

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid. p. 76