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


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Photo courtesy: John Knepper
Theater History. Courtesy: Telegraph Herald

BARTELL'S DRAMATIC AND VAUDEVILLE THEATRE. Bartell's Theatre at Fourth and Main was located in the building formerly called the MAIN STREET OPERA HOUSE. Charles Bartell opened for business on September 1, 1896 after remodeling the theater to "feature vaudeville." (1) Three matinees were offered each week. Since Mr. Bartell operated two theaters in Chicago, it was expected the Dubuque operation would have many first-class attractions. (2)

On January 11, 1898 the theater was scheduled to host the Carnival of Art and Commerce directed by St. Luke's Methodist Church (later ST. LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH. Entertainment consisted of comedy sketches, musical numbers, and acrobatics. The main attraction was a parade. Nearly one hundred leading businessmen were each represented by a young lady chosen by him and dressed in a costume appropriate to his business. Unique costumes included that worn by the representative of the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD refrigerator service. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad's representative wore a Spanish costume to highlight the Mexico excursion. STAR ELECTRIC COMPANY was represented by a young lady illuminated with many lights. (3)

When Bartell's Theatre closed, the building remained empty until 1904 when it became the COATES OPERA HOUSE.



1. "Way Back When," The Telegraph-Herald, June 26, 1963, p. 8

2. "New Theatre to Open," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 25, 1896, p. 8

3. "Parade of Beauty," Dubuque Herald, January 9, 1898, p. 8