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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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SEVEN HILLS. The origin of the comparison between Rome, Italy and Dubuque, leading to one of the city's NICKNAMES, as cities founded on seven hills is not known. One of the most detailed explanations of the description, a fine example of BOOSTERISM, was published in appeared in the Telegraph-Herald, on June 25, 1911.

The article stated that while other cities can boast "of the same distinction, in the case of Dubuque these were "real hill" rising from 300 to 400 feet above the river "surround the city on three sides with a wall of beauty, clad in brilliant green."

As clues as to what the hills references, the article described:

               On top of the hills lies the residence district, and 
               on each hill is situated one of the city's institutions 
               of learning, charity, mercy schools, orphanages and 

As the only examples cited, the article mentioned the site of the Mother House of the Sisters of Charity at the end of Mt. Carmel Avenue and EAGLE POINT PARK. (1)

Sites from which the seven hills could be viewed included CLEVELAND PARK, the top of Fourteenth Street, CENTER GROVE, Flint Hill past WARTBURG THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, EAGLE POINT PARK. (2) The less detailed use of the term could be found in writing as "I Am Dubuque:"

               ...The great Father of Wasters flows by my door, adding
               new beauties to my seven hills, and faithful in utility,
               carries my commerce to the sea... (3)

An often repeated explanation for Dubuque's prosperity and protection from bad weather is the blessing Bishop Mathias LORAS was said to have given to the seven hills. Such an incident could be inferred from the statue of Bishop Loras on the campus of LORAS COLLEGE. Historically, however, the city was struck by three tornadoes between 1939 when the statue was placed and 2008. The storms struck on July 9, 1966; September 9, 1970; and May 8, 1988. (4)




1. "Greatest Little City in America," Telegraph-Herald, June 25, 1911, p. 69

2. "City of Dubuque Has Rare Beauty, Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 24, 1930, p 51

3. "I Am Dubuque!" Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 6, 1933, p. 63

4. "Ask the TH," Telegraph Herald, July 6, 2008, p. 11