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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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DUBUQUE ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDENS. The Gardens, an all-volunteer, all donation-sponsored, non-profit organization, are located in Marshall Park named for Jackson MARSHALL who gave his fifty-five acre farm to the City of Dubuque in 1975.

In 1980 members of the Tri-State Men's Garden Club, encouraged by the Dubuque Park Department and the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, formed the Dubuque Arboretum Association, a non-profit group, and took a ten-year lease on 16.5 acres of the park. This section, including Marshall's farmhouse and barn, was intended as an arboretum and botanical garden. In 1986 work began on the Red McAleece Home Gardeners Learning Center featuring a greenhouse, potting room, shed and room specially lit to propagate seeds. The Arboretum Association that year had an estimated 280 members and 70 regular volunteers. (1)

In 1990 the Dubuque Arboretum Association celebrated its tenth anniversary of work at Marshall Park. Since 1980 over four hundred members and two hundred sixty volunteers have developed the site into one of the Midwest's most outstanding attractions of its kind. Many of the volunteers are part of the Adopt-A-Garden program that made individuals or groups responsible for the maintenance of a particular display. Offering a collection of more than eight hundred garden roses, the Association won the national All-America Rose Selection award in 1987, 1988, and 1989.

In 1992 planning was underway for establishing a Japanese garden. A specialist from Oregon designed the 2.5 acre site spearheaded locally by Dr. Jim Grady. (2)

10th anniversary pen. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

A visitors’ center and gift shop, operated by unpaid staff members, is open seven days a week. Beginning in 1989 the gardens have been open year-round. In 2004 the gardens had 75,000 guests from 37 of the 50 states and visitors from Europe, Africa and South America. In the same year, the gardens had 375 volunteers reporting more than 14,500 hours of work. Volunteers spent over 11,000 hours planning and planting the gardens for 2005.

During June, July and August the popular MUSIC IN THE GARDENS program contributed to the arts of Dubuque. The DUBUQUE ARTS COUNCIL scheduled seven concerts on Sunday evenings at 6:00 p.m. The NORTHEAST IOWA SCHOOL OF MUSIC scheduled four or five Sunday concerts at the same hour. The remaining evenings were scheduled by the Arboretum Coordinator of Music. Sunday afternoon and weekday concerts were held for special events.

In 2009 an estimated 70,000 visitors from 45 states and 10 foreign countries visited the site.

Hours of work went into the renovation of the organization's offices and gift shop during the winter of 2015. These improvements including the replacement of all walls, construction of wooden shelving for merchandise, a new beverage bar, and addition of a space for a dressing room during weddings were unveiled to the public in the spring of 2016. This was the third renovation of the old barn since the building and a few acres were gifted to the city in 1980. (3)





1. Blocker, Sue. "Arboretum Opens in May," Telegraph Herald, April 9, 1986, p. 35

2. Bragg, Mary Rae. "Dentist Roots for Arboretum," Telegraph Herald, April 13, 1998, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19980413&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. Jacobson, Ben. "Arboretum Renovations 'Bring Outdoors In," Telegraph Herald, September 3, 2016, p. 5A

"2010 Season of the Arts," Julien's Journal, October 2010, p. 52