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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

RAGUE, John Francis

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=wroll&id=I7709

RAGUE, John Francis. (Scotch Plains, NJ, Mar. 24, 1799--Dubuque, IA, Sept. 24, 1877). Rague's father was a physician who came to America as the personal physician to French General Lafayette during the American Revolution. (1) The family moved to New York in 1806. It was there that Rague studied architecture as a student of Minard Lafever, publisher of a series of architectural plan books in 1829 and a leading designer of GREEK REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE. (2)

Rague moved to Springfield, Illinois in 1831. He was an organizer of the Second Presbyterian Church, leader of the Second Presbyterian Church choir, vice-president of the Illinois State Musical Association, Springfield Town Trustee, director of the Illinois Mutual Fire Insurance Company, first President of the Springfield Mechanics Union, trustee of Springfield Academy, and the Town Market Master. (3) Rague was serving as a town trustee when interest rose in moving the state capitol from Vandalia to Springfield. He briefly returned to New York perhaps to gain ideas from his mentor, Lafever. Returning to Springfield, Rague won the 1837 competition to design the capitol building. (4) He was appointed the supervising architect of the project at a salary of $1,000 per year. (5)

In 1839 Rague planned Iowa's first capitol which stands today on the campus of the University of Iowa as "Old Capitol." (6) Rague and the building committee soon were in disagreement, however, and he returned to Illinois where he was supervising the capitol's construction. In 1850 he received a commission to design several campus buildings at the University of Wisconsin. The same year his Italianate Phoenix building in Milwaukee was constructed. (7) This marked a change in his preferred style of architecture and a move away from attempts to seek institutional commissions.

Rague journeyed to Dubuque in 1854 when he was fifty-five at the request of Stephen HEMPSTEAD who had just completed his term as the Governor of Iowa. Often considered the most significant architect in Dubuque history, Rague designed the Central Market and DUBUQUE CITY HALL(1857-1859); the First, Third, and Fifth Ward schools; and private homes for Frederick Ezekiel BISSELL and Edward LANGWORTHY. (8) He was also the architect for the GOODRICH-WILSON-RYAN HOUSE. (9) The OLD JAIL modeled after "The Tombs" in New York City is considered his last significant work. (10) This example of EGYPTIAN REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE was constructed at a cost of $40,000 during the financial depression of 1857. (11)

In 1862 Rague began losing his eyesight, a fact that brought Rague's first wife to Dubuque to help his second wife care for him. In his last months, Rague wrote his own epitaph, designated the hymns to be sung for his funeral, and chose the singers and his pallbearers. (12)

Gravestone in Linwood Cemetery

The 1857 Dubuque City Directory listed Rague and Drake at 124 Main.

The 1858-1859 Dubuque City Directory listed his business at Main between 10th and 11th.

The 1859-1860 Dubuque City Directory listed Seminary Bluff.



1. Hoffman, M. M. "John F. Rague, Architect," The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Wisconsin Historical Society, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Sep., 1928), pp. 109-111 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4630749

2. Ibid.

3. "Lincoln's Springfield, http://lincolnsspringfield.blogspot.com/

4. Hudson, David; Bergman, Marvin; Horton, Loren. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008 p. 419 http://uipress.lib.uiowa.edu/bdi/DetailsPage.aspx?id=312

5. Leuchtenburg, William H. American Places: Encounters With History, p. 188 books.google.com/books?isbn=019515245X

6. Hudson, p.419

7. Ibid.

8. Peabody, Arthur, "John F. Rague, Architect," The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Wisconsin Historical Society, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Dec., 1926), pp. 219-221 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4630659

9. Sommer, Lawrence J. The Heritage of Dubuque; An Architectural View, Tel Graphics. East Dubuque, 1975, p. 159

10. Hudson, p. 419

11. Dubuque Iowa-Official Website, "Dubuque County Jail". http://www.cityofdubuque.org/index.aspx?NID=704

12. Barker, Richard. Dubuque's Haunted History. Boulder, Colorado: Trails Books, p. 61