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SAINT LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. Successor to Iowa's first church and the first Protestant church in Iowa. The history of Saint Luke's began on September 6, 1833, at the meeting of the Illinois Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Union Grove, Illinois. Pastor Barton Randall, a thirty-seven-year-old Georgia native, was assigned to Dubuque as a missionary. On November 6, 1833, he crossed the MISSISSIPPI RIVER and delivered his first sermon at the Bell Tavern, located on the present site of the HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE.

The minister lived at the tavern for a period of time and offered sermons there. On April 24, 1833, the first Methodist prayer meeting was held in the home of John Johnson. On May 18 the first regular Methodist class was held.

Randall and twelve fellow Methodists decided to construct a meetinghouse in the spring of 1834. This log structure, costing $255, was 20 by 26 feet and held the honor of being the first church built in Iowa. The building, the site now marked by an engraved boulder on the southeast corner of WASHINGTON PARK, was entirely debt-free when construction was finished. Contributions ranged from twelve and one-half cents to twenty-five dollars.

Years before" ecumenicalism," the Methodists opened their building for the use of all congregations when their own group did not need it. The chapel was also home for the first public school system in Iowa. On March 25, 1837, the building was the meeting place where citizens passed a resolution incorporating Dubuque as Iowa's first town.

In 1839 a second building, called Centenary Church, was constructed on the one-hundredth anniversary of John Wesley's founding of the Methodist Church. This building, located at the northwest comer of Locust and 7th STREETS, was 30 by 60 feet, stood two stories high, and had a belfry. Continued growth of the congregation led to the purchase of a lot for the construction of a larger church between 11th and 12th Streets, facing Main Street. Built of brick, the new church was 50 by 80 feet and saw its dedication on April 14, 1853. This structure was enlarged and remodeled in 1869.

In 1896 the present church, at 1199 Main, was designed by George Kramer. Constructed of Bedford limestone, it remains one of Dubuque's finest examples of ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE. The church's nine Tiffany Favrile memorial windows include one called "The Good Shepherd" which was exhibited by Tiffany in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition. The painted face of the angel in the window known as "The Angel Among the Lilies" is thought to be a perfect likeness of the eighteen-year-old deceased daughter of the people who commissioned the window.

When the church was finished in 1897 it included five large and ninety small Tiffany windows. In 1916 two additional Tiffany windows were added with two more during the 1930s. In 2010 there were a total of one hundred Tiffany windows throughout the church. An expert in Tiffany glass in the early 1990s called St. Luke's 'one of the top-five Tiffany window collections in the world.' During the 1990s the larger windows were removed, cleaned and reinstalled by Bovard Studios, of Fairfield, Iowa.

St. Luke's float in the Sunday School Parade June 23, 1914. Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque

The 15-ton McShane bells, given in memory of Elizabeth Jane Eighmey, were chimed over a period of fifty years by Dr. Walter John BAUMGARTNER. The organ from the factory of Farrand and Votey, renowned organ manufacturers of Detroit, was one the largest musical instruments in the West when it was installed. Two train carloads were needed to transport its parts to Dubuque. The frieze of statuary surrounding the chancel and choir loft duplicates precisely the Luca della Robia's "The Singing Children" found in the Duomo of Florence, Italy. The brass altar railing is a replica of one found in the Cathedral of Ravenna. Among the gifts of Charles H. EIGHMEY to the church were the oak, brass, and Sienna marble pulpit; the quarter-sawed oak ceiling over the nave and chancel; and the carved altar table. The church has a seating capacity of 1,400 people.


The 1987 through 2014 Dubuque City Directory listed 1199 Main.



"175 Years" Vol. II Telegraph Herald, p. 88