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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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




SMOKESTACK (THE)

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The Smokestack (2014)
The Smokestack (2014)
SMOKESTACK (THE). According to The Smokestack website, Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY described the site on which the restaurant of 2015 was built as an "immense" mound, large enough to be seen from a distance. It extended into what became 7th Street. Settlers used the mound as the site for such diverse events as July 4th celebrations and the hanging of Patrick O'CONN0R.

The original land patent to the property was issued to Dr. John FINLEY and his real estate partner James Watson in the 1840s. They sold the property in 1851 to Joseph GEHRIG.

When the City of Dubuque graded 7th Street in 1852, the mound on Gehrig's property extended into the planned roadway. As the mound was leveled and during the excavation for the foundations of a hotel planned by Gehrig, the remains of Patrick O'CONNOR were discovered along with artifacts of Native Americans proving the mound had been used for burial purposes.

Gehrig's hotel, the Adams House, was opened in 1856 and rented. In 1858 or 1859, he resumed operation of the hotel and renamed it the JEFFERSON HOUSE. The Gehrig family's ownership of the property and the Jefferson House lasted more than sixty years until the hotel closed in 1918.

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The land was purchased in 1920 by the SANITARY MILK COMPANY. In 1943, the building next passed to the FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY across White Street, after briefly being held by Joseph Rhomberg, a real estate man who held mortgages on the property and bought the property at the 1943 public auction. At some point, before 1962, while owned by the Farley and Loetscher company - and likely by necessity, the top two stories of the building, including the building's cupola, along with any remaining outbuildings from the hotel, seem to have been removed.

Farley and Loetscher considered demolishing the building for a parking lot, but the cost was not "reasonable." The building was rented.

Between 1948 and 1955, Joseph Kelley operated two companies on the property. Dubuque Clean Aggregate Company sold sand and gravel. He was also president of MICRO MACHINE AND ENGINEERING COMPANY, a general machine shop in the corner building which manufactured plastic kitchen and dinette sets and industrial rubber goods. Later known as Micro-Lite, the company apparently conducted its production within this building and property at the southwest corner of 7th and White. It has been speculated that the plastic kitchen and dinette sets were made of Farlite, a Farley and Loetscher plastic similar to Formica. This could explain Micro Machines later being known as Micro-Lite.

Brochure found in a wall on the first floor.

The Farley and Loetscher Company closed in 1962 and this property was sold to Robert and Eugenia Loetscher. They leased the building with one of their tenants being McCray's Quality Chicks, a hatchery. From 1969 into the 1980s, it was the home of BURKE ALUMATIC COMPANY specializing in aluminum doors and windows.

In 1978, with Burke Alumatic still leasing, Robert and Eugenia Loetscher sold the property to Bill Feye who owned much of the block between White and Central and 6th and 7th Streets. After Burke Alumatic relocated in the 1980s, other tenants included C&T Motorcycles, a motorcycle repair shop. The building lost its appeal to commercial tenants over time, and Feye began using the building for the storage of auto parts left over from his business FEYE BROTHERS AUTO BODY AND PAINT SHOP, which had closed a few years earlier.

Officials from Dubuque County became interested in purchasing the property to tear down the building and build new office space for county employees. They claimed, however, that the building had to be declared non-historic. Viewing the building as simply the remnant of the former Jefferson House, the City of Dubuque's Historic Preservation Commission in 2012 declared the structure was not historic enough for preservation and granted a demolition permit. Before the county resumed its interest in the property, the building was purchased by Susan Price and Scott Cornwell.

In 2015 the plan for the property was to continue the renovation by addressing the 2nd floor and creating rooftop terraces and green roofs and expand The Smokestack into those spaces creating a multi-level flexible urban venue that is unique in this region. Ironically, The Smokestack's architect, Andrew McCready of Selser-Schaefer Architects, in trying to make best use of the space, came unknowingly to nearly the exact layout that was original to the building when it was the Jefferson House. Thanks to Andrew McCready, the first floor's kitchen, wash- and rest-rooms, bar and dining room are almost entirely situated as Joseph Gehrig designed for his hotel building.

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Source:

The Smokestack Website: http://www.smokestackdbq.com/#!history/c24ml