"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search
Ice skating at Allison-Henderson Park circa 1950. Photo courtesy: Rob Klauer

ALLISON-HENDERSON PARK. Bounded by Loras Boulevard, University Avenue, Nowata Street and Grandview Avenue, the park honors William Boyd ALLISON and David B. HENDERSON, two of Dubuque's most illustrious citizens. The story behind the location involved the city for many years.

Both Allison and Henderson were important political leaders of their day and a source of great pride to the community. Some residents expressed their opinion that a statue was sufficient. Others believed a park was a better idea. An organized effort to honor these men began in 1908 with an association formed to collect funds to purchase land along the river for a park. The subscription goal was $10,000. A large thermometer was erected on 8th and Main to record the donations made. (1) Records of the contributions kept by the Association's treasurer showed that much of the money came from outside of Dubuque. By 1913 the goal of $10,000 was reached.

The Memorial Association formed a committee to investigate possible sites for a park. This committee soon reported favorably on a parcel of land owned by M. H. McCarthy that was once occupied by the STANDARD LUMBER COMPANY. The site lay on the river front north of the Illinois Central bridge. Newspaper articles at the time stated the assurance that once the property was purchased the United States War Department was ready to dredge the 7th Street slough to the north of the property. Sand dredged up could be used for fill in the park and the slough would become a rival in quality with the ICE HARBOR. The dredging had been proposed earlier by the Lake Peosta Motor Boat Club. The project, however, had been stopped when it was discovered that Mr. McCarthy owned the slough which had once been dry land and part of the subdivision of the DUBUQUE HARBOR IMPROVEMENT COMPANY. The Association upon receipt of the report offered to pay an initial $8,000 for the property. (2)

What was originally considered a long-over-due honor for the two politicians became a bitter local campaign issue. Mayor Saul was elected in a campaign which was dominated by the issue of how to proceed on the park issue. Those opposed to the river site called it "The Sand Pile" because it was filled in with sand residue dumped there by the lumber company. Both sides of the debate agreed that if the city took over the site, the location would need substantial improvement including the trucking in of soil to support plants. Saul was elected by those opposed to the river front park. Saul twice vetoed the council's acceptance of memorial proposals.

One of the last propositions was that the Association purchase the property for $9,000 encumbered by a mortgage and some back taxes, and then deed it to the city. The council proposed that the City should devote the property to the development of a park to honor the congressmen. However, the city should have the right to divert the use of the property to other than park purposes. If this course of action was taken, the property should be appraised and four-fifths of the appraised value should be used for a memorial, preferably a park, if the riverfront property was sold for commercial purposes. On October 7, 1915 the city council accepted the proposal and the Association proceeded to buy the property from the McCarthy estate. On October 20th, however, Mayor Saul, exercised his veto leaving the Association with the land.

The memorial association transferred the deed to land surrounding the SHOT TOWER to the city on August 26, 1916. (3) The city solicitor, however, ruled that the deed was invalid because the city had not accepted the the arrangement. The issue remained a dead issue for five years. (4)

In 1920 the city changed to the city manager form of government. On March 15, 1921 the council instructed the city solicitor to write a contract that would be acceptable to the city. The corrected warranty deed was filed. Under its terms, the city assumed the mortgage of $2,500. This was released by the McCarthy estate and filed on August 7, 1921. (5) This left the city with the property.

The city had considered other uses of the land. Around 1927 consideration was given for establishing a coal terminal on the site. An appraisal required by the deed was made and the city council proposed a bond issue for the cost of the terminal. Opposition from the public and the State Director of Budget as well as the beginning of the GREAT DEPRESSION caused the idea to be dropped. City Manager Ossian E. CARR had thought of using the SHOT TOWER as a training center for firemen. (6) Consideration had also been given to turn the structure into a "light tower" that would be attractive to travelers on passing boats.

In 1940 the city exercised its option on the riverfront site which comprises two whole city blocks and half of two more blocks. Four-fifths of the value of the land was used to purchase the Bush property where Allison-Henderson Park is now located.

Under the direction of the Dubuque County Guidance Association an organized campaign to collect $75,000 to improve the city's recreation facilities was made in early May, 1947. The primary objective of the drive was development of the Allison-Henderson playground, the only sizable recreational area in the Hill district. Facilities planned included lights for the softball field, playground equipment, shelter house, HORSESHOE PITCHING courts, and TENNIS COURTS. (7)



1. "Revival of Allison-Henderson Memorial Park Issue Due," Telegraph-Herald, August 8, 1937, p. 12

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. "Campaign for Funds to Last for One Week," Telegraph-Herald, April 13, 1947, p. 17

Bormann, Anne. "Revival of Allison-Henderson Memorial," Telegraph Herald. August 8, 1937

"Erect Memorial This Coming Year," Telegraph Herald, November 24, 1912

"Memorial Park Big Acquisition for Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, Undated Article, 1915

Proposed Allison-Henderson Memorial Park on River Front," Telegraph Herald, Nov. 3, 1915

Photo courtesy:dubuque-tour.tripod.com