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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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RAFFERTY SLOUGH. Early settlers in 1850 dreamed of turning the "western slough" of LAKE PEOSTA into an inner steamboat channel that would run from EAGLE POINT, through Rafferty Slough, past MOORE'S MILL and back into the Mississippi river--a distance of about three miles. This would bring water transportation closer to the city and eliminate the levee at the foot of Jones Street which was only accessible by wooden sidewalks constructed on timbers over the marsh. (1)

Located south of Dubuque along the river, Rafferty Slough defied plans for development for many years. In 1907 famed eastern park developer Charles Munford Robinson suggested the creation of a drive extending to the river and running south along city-owned property to Railroad Avenue where it would turn westward to enter a park to be formed at Rafferty Slough. The drive would cross the lake at the slough to reach Mt. Carmel Avenue. (2)

In 1909 Iowa state senator Arbst F. FRUDDEN proposed a bill which was passed in the Iowa Legislature asking for the deeding of title to Dubuque of thirty-three and a quarter acres of river-bed land. Located south of the city from Rafferty Slough towards MOORE'S MILL, the land was seen as valuable in the future for the construction of manufacturing sites. (3) When conveyed to the city, the land was to be used for a fish hatchery and manufacturing purposes. (4)

As described in an newspaper article in 1911 the area was inhabited by dozens of "knights of the road" who dropped from freight trains. Paths nearly invisible to the untrained eye and used by these men wove into the brush until finally ending in a clearing used for camping. In bad weather trails led to the cliffs where some shelter could be found. (5)

In 1922 many civic leaders and some members of EU-QU-BUD proposed the site as the ideal location for a municipal auditorium. The area was at the time being filled in and the city owned the land. The DUBUQUE ELECTRIC COMPANY favored the site because of the ease in establishing street-car facilities. The tracks were planned to loop around the grounds with spur tracks being available to bank cars to carry those in attendance after the closing of a program. (6)

Those opposed to the site considered it out-of-the-way from the business center of the city. They pointed to many businesses along Iowa and Central that were located to the north. These people believed that city residents as well as those from the rural areas to accustomed to traveling to these areas and not a site south. (7)

EU-QU-BUD pointed to the fact that with automobiles available one or two blocks did not make a difference. Since developers were planning on a basement parking area, there was less reason to be concerned with the location of the building. (8) On December 17, 1922 EU-QU-BUD announced, after a meeting, that it would lead the construction of the auditorium.

1922 poetic commentary. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
In 1922 the city issued $75,000 in bonds for reclaiming and grading for the slough. (9) The intention was using it for park and factory purposes. Covering about 16 acres, the location was described as being convenient to railroads and could be reached fro the city without crossing railroad tracks. The editorial writers of the Telegraph-Herald, however, warned that the public interest must be protected once the area was filled. It was claimed that other sites had been sold on the strength of promises that had not been fulfilled. (10)

In 1926 when weather conditions in January prevented ICE HARVESTING on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, the Mulgrew Company carried out a little on the lake at the slough. (11)

During the GREAT DEPRESSION, the City of Dubuque worked with the federal government to find work for the unemployed. In 1933 among the projects suggested to the Civil Works Administration was grading and filling for playground facilities on reclaimed land at Rafferty Slough. Labor costs were listed at $2,390 and material at $500. (12)

In 1936 the first site proposed for a municipal swimming pool was the southern portion of Rafferty Slough fill. The planning and zoning commission, however, refused to approve it. After several other sites were considered and rejected, proponents of Rafferty Slough came back with the idea of using the northern portion of the fill area. This was also rejected by the planning and zoning commission. (13) Problems were apparently overcome. The city's proposal for the construction of a municipal pool at Rafferty Slough was submitted to the Public Works Administration in 1936. The estimated cost of the project was $60,000. (14) When the approval was announced, however, the site chosen was EAGLE POINT.

More successful in 1936 was the decision to use reclaimed land for a "kids" baseball diamond. (15) Declared finished in May, 1936 the field could be used for hard or softball. A new rule, it was announced would be strictly enforced. No softball team would be permitted to use rocks for the bases. Teams wishing to use the field had be be equipped with cloth bags or squares of wood. (16)

The city council in 1941 announced the sale of 115,730 square feet of reclaimed land in the Rafferty Slough area to MAIZEWOOD INSULATION COMPANY. There was also an three-year option for the company to purchase another 400,000 square feet. The land purchased was adjacent to the property already owned by the company on Railroad Avenue. (17)

The appearance of the reclaimed land south of the JULIEN DUBUQUE BRIDGE was a concern of businesses in 1943. Maizewood Insulation Company announced that it would have a park opened by the summer of 1944. SWIFT AND COMPANY which occupied the old buildings of the PETER J. SEIPPEL LUMBER COMPANY promised the construction of a new building as soon as WORLD WAR II ended. The A.Y.MCDONALD MANUFACTURING COMPANY had demolished one of the old building once owned by JAMES BEACH AND SONS and had begun remodeling the main Beach building. At the end of the war, the company announced its plans to erect an office building and display room on the property. (18)

In 1954 the Dubuque Conservation Conservation Society placed the slough high on its list for development. Plans were announced in August for the state commission to help rebuild the lake, fed by four cold springs, with state and federal funds. Also projected were picnic and recreation areas. The city had plans to use the land for its sewage disposal plant, but this had been shelved in favor of construction further south along CATFISH CREEK. (19)

Plans were underway in 1958 for the relocation of the BASEBALL field. (20) In 1963 Sears moved from its downtown store to a new Sears Shopping Center on the former slough. (21)



1. "Lake Peosta Dredging Due to Start Next July," Telegraph Herald, May 8, 1955, p. 21

2. "Robinson's Plan for Park System," Dubuque Telegraph Herald, November 230, 1907, p. 12

3. "Dubuque Gets Grants to Land," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, April 6, 1909, p. 10

4. "Mayor Receives Deed From State," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 10, 1909, p. 10

5. Unnamed article, "Dubuque Telegraph Herald", July 30, 1911, p. 8

6. "Rafferty's Slough Proposed as Site for Auditorium," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 13, 1922

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. "Mayor Prepares Tables Explaining How City Debts were Reduced," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, April 3, 1927, p. 37

10. "Rafferty Slough," Telegraph-Herald, March 21, 1922, p. 6

11. "Expect to Begin Ice Harvest Soon," Telegraph Herald, January 10, 1926, p. 13

12. "Dubuque Work Projects Go to CWA Director, Telegraph Herald, November 19, 1933, p. 1

13. "Council Will Be Asked to Speed Pool Construction," Telegraph Herald, April 12, 1936, p. 2

14. "Swim Pool Will Soon Be Reality," Telegraph Herald, April 26, 1936, p. 15

15. "Players in Muny Loop Ineligible," Telegraph Herald, May 19, 1936, p. 11

16. "Rafferty Slough Diamond Finished," Telegraph-Herald, May 14, 1936, p. 13

17. "City Property is Purchased by Maizewood," Telegraph Herald, February 16, 1941, p. 2

18. Kennedy, W. A. "New Park in Making," Telegraph-Herald, September 12, 1943, p. 5

19. "Moore's Mill Next," Telegraph Herald, August 1, 1954, p. 15

20. "Engineering Department Performs Tasks for Many Groups," Telegraph Herald, May 11, 1958, p. 28

21. "Sears" (advertisement supplement), Telegraph Herald, April 12, 1970, p. 24