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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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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTiCU31PVy4 A Walk Through Eagle Point

Eagle Point Park. Photo courtesy: City of Dubuque
The entrance to Eagle Point Park.Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium-Captain William D. Bowell, Sr. River Library-James Wall-Wild, Registrar
Rock gardens/fish ponds at Eagle Point.

EAGLE POINT PARK. In 1907 Charles M. Robinson, a noted park specialist, visited Dubuque. After touring scenic locations, he remarked, "I have never seen a place where the Almighty has done more and mankind less, than Dubuque." (1) Judge Oliver Perry SHIRAS, one of Dubuque's leading citizens, took the remark as a challenge. In April 1908, he organized a citizens' commission to study the possibility of creating a park.

On June 12, 1908, the beginning of Eagle Point Park was created from land purchased from Alphons L. RHOMBERG for $20,000 with aid from the Civic Division of the DUBUQUE WOMEN'S CLUB. (2) According to Rita Pfohl, his granddaughter, Rhomberg left 95 acres to his wife and said she should only sell it if its use was to be a public park. In 1908, 87 acres were sold from the estate and her uncle Alphonse J. RHOMBERG sold another eight acres for one dollar. (3) Charles Robinson was hired by the citizens' committee as the landscape architect. Charles Lowrie was retained as the park planner, and Thomas Jess, a surveyor, prepared the plans. Since the original purchase, seventeen parcels have been purchased or donated, which brings the park to its present size. (4)

Eagle Point Park rests on the bluffs above the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy: John Knepper

Improvements to the land in 1908 totaled $10,000. A fence was installed along the bluff for the protection of visitors. Ravine Road, the entrance to the park, was constructed in the valley south and west of the park using teams of horses and manual labor. Inexpensive labor was also used to erect hitching posts, rest rooms, tables, and benches.


In February 1910 the Dubuque city council, at the suggestion of Judge Shiras, adopted an ordinance providing for the election of three park commissioners. (5) In the April election, Shiras won along with Herbert Adams and Frank J. PIEKENBROCK to make up Dubuque's first park board. This gave Shiras the opportunity to go beyond private donations for the park's development. Maintenance and improvement funds, originally raised by private contributions, were later provided through taxes.

When Eagle Point Park was opened to the public in June 1910 there were two ways to reach the park. The Shiras Avenue entrance remained the same for years. The other approach was for walkers. A steep and winding pathway beginning at the north end of Rhomberg Avenue led up the hill into the park. (6)

Park rules were published in the newspaper. Among the fifteen rules was prohibition of driving automobiles faster than five miles per hour or hitching horses to the trees. The use of vulgar language was forbidden as was the use of firearms or alcohol. Violators of any of the rules could be removed from the park or face fines up to $100 and or imprisonment for up to thirty days. (7)

Within two months of the park's opening, the Dubuque Park Commission approved improving the pathway. (8) After trading one-half acre of land with the EAGLE POINT LIME WORKS, a set of stairs was constructed allowing people to reach the park from Rhomberg Avenue. Cement steps of 7-inch tread, five feet wide made for a much easier climb. (9) Breath-taking views of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER were available from landings located along the staircase that crept up the bluff.

In 1910 a water system was installed within the park. Contractors Keller and Luchterhand constructed a 250 barrel reservoir for water that was obtained from a well drilled in 1909. (10) Plans were made in 1910 to pipe the water to other locations in the park. The right to sell refreshments in the park was awarded by the Park Commission to Frank J. Pfiffner. (11)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Eagle Point Park, then 133 acres, was dedicated on June 17, 1910. (12) Shiras refused the honor of having the park named in his honor by requesting that the park be named remembering the legend of EAGLE POINT. He was willing, however, to make a speech dedicating the park to the people of Dubuque. The NATHANIEL GREEN CADETS were also featured. (13)

Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium-Captain William D. Bowell, Sr. River Library-James Wall-Wild, Registrar

The construction of a proposed street car entrance to the park was blocked by the Ham estate at the base of the bluff. Negotiations were completed with Sarah Ham on May 1, 1911, when a price of $8,500 was agreed upon for the necessary land. Ham's refusal to then sign the bill of sale held up the construction for another year until May 1912. (14)

Work began almost immediately. UNION ELECTRIC COMPANY laid track and constructed a turnaround and waiting station. (15) The spur line, gradually climbing the 6 percent grade into the park, was opened on September 28, 1912. The first car, carrying company officials, left Eighth and Main and stopped at the DUBUQUE CITY HALL for city officials, before proceeding to the park. A crowd estimated at five thousand heard the opening day speeches.

The development of the forestry stage of Eagle Point Park has been credited to P. L. Phelps, a forestry expert from Rockford, Illinois, and former supervisor of national forests in the Pacific Northwest. Under his direction dead timber, trees stunting the growth of other trees, and trees blocking road construction were removed. The park is noted for its diverse native trees. These include red oak, black oak, white oak, burr oak, white birch, black cherry, pin cherry, choak cherry, hawthorne crab apple, cotton wood, gray popular, linden, white elms, red elms, juneberry, aspen, willow, plum and sycamore. Trees planted in the park include pines, spruce, juniper and sugar maples. Native shrubbery includes gray dogwood, red dogwood, red sumac, staghorn sumac, bittersweet, sheepberry, and roses. (16)

In 1912 Walter H. Cullen of the grocery firm of CULLEN AND NICKS donated a large bald eagle he had captured to the board of park commissioners. A large cage was constructed in which it was displayed. (17)

The Hawkeye Conference Tennis Tournament was held in 1917 on the TENNIS COURTS at Eagle Point located in the park thanks to the generosity of Judge Shiras who had the first one constructed. Nine colleges participating in the doubles competition. (18) During the same year, the DUBUQUE TRAVELING AND BUSINESS MEN'S ASSOCIATION began fundraising to build the Shiras Memorial shelter in memory of the judge, who had died in 1916. Located on Gun Point, the building was dedicated to Shiras on May 29, 1921. (19)

In May, 1927 there were seven courts available and two additional courts would be opened during the summer. Maintenance of the courts on Dodge Street and Booth as well as other courts in the city had been discontinued. Along with other cities, Dubuque offered TOURIST CAMPS. A tourist camping ground maintained in the park was to be discontinued as soon as the one east of Rockdale Road was opened. (20)

The Eagle Point Restaurant was opened for business in May, 1917. (21) Arrangements for luncheons with the privilege to use the room for card parties or meetingSs could be made by calling Mrs. Strum, the concessionaire at the park phone number 3471. (22) Announcements of the restaurant being used for luncheons were made as late as 1967. The building was listed as a shelter area in case of nuclear attack in 1971. (23)

Construction of fish ponds during the 1930s promised one of many attractions at Eagle Point Park. Photo courtesy: Center for Dubuque History, Loras College
Fish pond under construction. Photo courtesy:Rob Klauer

During the GREAT DEPRESSION, the park board decided to construct a stone shelter to provide employment that would be created with federal funds. (24) To receive the money from the Civil Works Administration (later Works Project Administration (WPA)), however, the park had to have a plan and someone who would accept a supervisory role. At the same time, Alfred CALDWELL had decided to begin a career of his own. Caldwell came to Dubuque highly recommended by renowned landscape architect Jen Jensen. (25) Caldwell was hired as the project supervisor in March, 1934.

Caldwell directed the construction of the shelter area which he called, "The City in a Garden." (26) He was quoted as saying, "The gods were constructed out of form, wherefore beautiful built things become temples." (27) Although not a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect's influence with PRAIRIE ARCHITECTURE is easily seen in the emphasis on horizontal features; large, board overhands, use of natural materials and the careful effort to make structures blend with their surroundings. The buildings in the rock shelter area appear to have come from the area rather than having been constructed. (28) Caldwell was forced out of the project in the spring of 1936 before the dedication of the shelter area in 1937. In its decision to discharge Caldwell, the park board charged him with making unauthorized and unpopular park policy decisions. (29) One such decision led to the cutting down of ten Lombardy popular trees near the park's north exit to improve the view.

Wendelin RETTENBERGER, one of Caldwell's three assistants and the person who finished Caldwell's work, remembered that money was tight. Most of the $200,000 the project received went to the four hundred workers. There was only about $18,000 a year to spend including gasoline and all utilities. (30) Fish ponds, rock walls, and Indian council rings in the park were created. In 2004, the park shelters designed by Caldwell were recognized by the American Institute of Architects as among the most influential structures in Iowa from the decade. (31)

In 1933 as part of Dubuque's centennial celebration, the Neuman LOG CABIN was moved from Second and Locust STREETS to the park. Believed to be the oldest cabin in Iowa, the building was the scene of the first Mass celebrated in Dubuque. (32)

In 1936 local artist Jo Dillon prepared three panel murals for the rock shelter house. (33) President Franklin Roosevelt made a campaign stop in Dubuque on October 9, 1936, and made a point of touring the WPA work at Eagle Point. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her “My Day” diary entry for Oct. 10,

                The park which is on Eagle Rock Point commands 
                a glorious view of the Mississippi River and is 
                being much improved by WPA work. One little item 
                which the commissioner of parks mentioned 
                particularly interested me. They have used native 
                stone for the buildings in the park, and though 
                many of the workers have never done any similar 
                work before, he said they were not building themselves 
                houses of this stone.”

New Deal critics had called the WPA a poor use of tax dollars, but when he saw the WPA work at Eagle Point, President Roosevelt is reported to have said, “This is my idea of a worthwhile boondoggle.” (34)

Improvements to the park in 1938 included providing accommodations for the serving of large groups of people at the park restaurant. A large number of combination bench-tables were constructed and placed on the promenade bridge across the entrance road between the reservoir and the restaurant, in the dining rooms, and on the open air flagstone terraces of the restaurant. An estimated eighty people could be seated at the tables in the promenade and the same number in the the private dining rooms. Additional tables were placed on the outside courts opening off the restaurant building. (35)

Other important improvements in 1938 was the extension of the city's sanitary sewage system into the park and the construction of new tennis courts as WPA projects.

In 1938 the DUBUQUE TRADES AND LABOR CONGRESS recommended to the city council that a band shell by constructed. While supporting the project, the council and city manager explained that the Park Board was a separate taxing unit and that the council would have no authority. All council members, however, approved the project and made a recommendation to the park board that the band shell should be constructed. (36)

In 1950 a proposal was first made to convert the former streetcar right-of-way into a bobsled or toboggan run. (37)

In 1957 park commissioners darkened all the electrical sockets for the first time since they had been installed. Steel plates were put over some sockets, and the power was turned off to others. The problem was that people were abusing the system. Park visitors were plugging in ovens, frying pans, electric coffee pots and toasters. Some women were even taking their laundry to the park for ironing. The climax came when several fuses were blown during a party for the park commissioners. (38)

In 1962 dramatic activities for children and adults were again being offered by the Eagle Point Summer Theater under the sponsorship of the Dubuque Recreation Department. Four one-act plays and a full length three-act play were planned. Directing the plays were John Clifford and Anzo Manoni of the LORAS COLLEGE speech department. (39)

In 1965 the Dubuque Park Board and Fritz Ackerman argued over the extent to which Ackerman could advertise his concessions stand in the southern portion of the park and operate push carts around the property. Ackerman, who had sign a five-year lease with the board for $1,500 per year, had dispersed carts through the park on several Sundays and had erected signs at several locations advertising his business. Ackerman had also suggested placing vending machines in the park and paying a portion of the profits to the park board. He later rescinded this idea because he claimed to not making as much money as he had planned. In a compromise, Ackerman was given permission to station ice cream vending carts at different locations, but they were not to be moved. He was also given permission to place a sign at the Y-junction near the tennis courts. (40)

In 1983 Eagle Point Park became the first city park to have an entrance fee. At the time of its passage, the fee was estimated to generate $43,000 to offset park maintenance and reduce misbehavior in the park. (41) In the decade since the fee was first charged, the city received more than $300,000 that was used for improvements including upkeep on the roads and playground equipment. The fee was originally met with protest. It was assessed at a time when alcohol consumption and rowdy behavior of some patrons was becoming a problem. The one dollar fee seemed to move the problems elsewhere. (42)

A partial return to "glory day" for the reflecting pool entered the planning stage in 1983. Somewhere between the construction in the 1930s and the early 1980s, the pools had goldfish added to them. Vandalism, however, led to the water being polluted with garbage. The goldfish died. The park department decided the pool was such a mess it would be better to drain it.

In 1983 the operators of "Riverfest" decided to use some of their proceeds to refurbish the pond. The city cleaned the site and, after filling it with water, found only a few cracks that could be fixed. (43) Don Lochner and a group of volunteers completed the renovation by stocking it with more than 400 goldfish, calico carp, and black moors as well as a variety of lilies and various water plants. Steve Morris, a local plumber, installed a new water pump to recycle the water and electrician Tom Spiegelhalter wired the installation. (44)

In 2003 the proposed development of a 64-unit condominium below Eagle Point Park by Royal Oaks Development led to lit candles and protest songs on November 3rd by those opposed to the project. (45) Work on the site other than the removal of the TOLLBRIDGE INN (THE) and some of the cliff had not progressed in 2020.

In 2017 the city council approved the nomination of the Eagle Point Park to the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES. (46) In October the City of Dubuque received a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant of $200,000 for work to be done at the park. Work, mainly out of sight for the typical park user, involved removing invasive species and ensuring rain waters did not cause erosion. In its grant application, the city stated:

             Implementation will improve sustainability by 
             restoring and enhancing native plant communities 
             and soil quality to provide new nature-based 
             recreation opportunities for visitors, create 
             habitat for wildlife, and foster sustainability.

This was the second REAP grant the city received for the project; the other was received in 2015. City officials were also hoping for $175,732 from the National Parks Service. In addition to the estimated $70,000 the city would contribute, the project could exceed $600,000. (47)

Plans for environmental restoration of Eagle Point Park with costs estimated at $1 million were further explained in October, 2018. The work would focus on restoring native plants, enhancing ecological functions including water purification, and reducing storm water runoff into the BEE BRANCH and MISSISSIPPI RIVER. Emmons & Oliver Resources, Inc. were hired as consultants. (48)

City officials announced in December, 2018 that Dubuque native Jeffrey Davis, then living in Colorado and Florida, had offered to donate to the city 11.7 acres of mostly wooden land adjacent to Eagle Point Park between the homes on Eagle Point Drive and Shiras Avenue. The only requirement was that the city recognize and memorialize the land "in some conspicuous and public manner to the memory/name of my late father-in-law Wayne W. Anthony, a lifelong resident of Dubuque." The city voted to accept the gift and the size of the park included to 175 acres. Wayne, a private first class during WORLD WAR II, received the Silver Star for gallantry. Anthony and two other soldiers evacuated wounded men while under intense fire. They then contacted friendly forces and established a forward observation post which they maintained through the day while it remained under bombardment. (49)

In June, 2020 the first native prairie plants planted in the fall of 2019 were emerging from the soil in the park. The project was made possible through a $200,000 grant from the Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP) was designed to restore the areas to historic oak savanna which would save soil from erosion, absorb water and provide crucial habitat for native species. (50)


Eagle Point Pagoda. Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Completed fishponds at Eagle Point.
Eagle Point Park draws visitors from around the United States.
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
An early drive through the park. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium-Captain William D. Bowell, Sr. River Library-James Wall-Wild, Registrar
Flowers at Eagle Point.
Path up from the High Bridge. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
A rare photo of the steps to Eagle Point Park being constructed. Photo courtesy: Rob Klauer
The same steps that were being constructed after they were finished Photo courtesy: Rob Klauer
One of the capstones pictured that was saved when the steps were being demolished.Photo courtesy: Rob Klauer
Shiras Memorial and High Bridge.Photo courtesy:John Knepper
Photo courtesy:John Knepper
Photo courtesy:John Knepper
Early stages of popular pavilion overlooking the Mississippi
Shiras Memorial Shelter.




1. "Eagle Point Park History," Dubuque, Iowa Official Website, Online: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/index.aspx?NID=1149

2. Ibid.

3. "Dubuque Woman Publishes Memoir," Telegraph Herald, November 9, 2008, p. 44

4. "Eagle Point History..."

5. "Shiras Memorial Dedicated Sunday," Telegraph Herald, May 30, 1921, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=F4RiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iHcNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1165,5053959&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

6. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History, Loras College, 2000, p. 68

7. "Park Rules Are Given to the Public," Telegraph Herald, May 1, 1910, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xm5CAAAAIBAJ&sjid=86oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6080,1754952&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

8. Kruse, Len, p. 68

9. Ibid., p. 69

10. "Eagle Point Park Plans," Telegraph Herald, May 15, 1910, p. 16. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=1G5CAAAAIBAJ&sjid=86oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2805,3277634&dq=eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

11. Ibid.

12. "Eagle Point Park is Dedicated," Telegraph Herald, June 17, 1910, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9W5CAAAAIBAJ&sjid=86oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2885,6666337&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

13. "Eagle Point Park To Formally Open," Telegraph Herald, June 6, 1910, p. 4

14. "Ham House Near Eagle Point Sold," Telegraph Herald, May 20, 1912, p. 7. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=s-BBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BqoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2869,2233462&dq=eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

15. "Eagle Point Park History."

16. "Many Trees in Dubuque Centuries Old; Some of Them are Older Than City," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, September 16, 1934, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=CdZBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4qkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2121,3357794&dq=eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

17. "Eagle for Beautiful Park," Telegraph Herald, April 24, 1912, p. 11

18. Langton, Diane. "Time Machine: Eagle Point Park Dubuque Distiller Set Aside Land; Depression-era Workers Enhanced It," Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 10, 2016. Online: http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/archive/time-machine/time-machine-eagle-point-park-dubuque-distiller-set-aside-land-depression-era-workers-enhanced-it-20161010

19. "Shiras Memorial Dedicated Sunday,"

20. "Tennis Courts at Park Ready," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 6, 1927, p. 8

21. "Eagle Point Restaurant," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 18, 1917, p. 12

22. "Eagle Point Restaurant," Telegraph-Herald, August 1, 1924, p. 2

23. "Dubuque County Shelter Plan," Telegraph-Herald, February 8, 1971, p. 10

24. Chandler, Curt, "Eagle Point History," Telegraph Herald, May 21, 1978, p. 35. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ncJBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B6oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5971,3132466&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

25. Ibid.

26. Fyten, David. "40 Years Take Their Toll on Eagle Point Pavilions," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 1974, p. 25. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Bf5QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DL8MAAAAIBAJ&pg=5307,2619661&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid

30. Chandler, Curt.

31. Szeszycki, Emily, "Local Bridge, Park Shelters Honored for Architecture," Telegraph Herald, October 16, 2004, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Pp1dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0VwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2444,3334905&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

32. Thompson, Dave. "Park Board Cool to Log Cabin Plan," Telegraph Herald, March 11, 1963, p. 32. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=bhJRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=I8sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5880,1380607&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

33. "Young Artist Scores at Eagle Point Park," Telegraph Herald, June 7, 1936, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=yNBBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-KkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3049,3039355&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

34. Langton

35. "Tennis Courts Not Completed," Telegraph-Herald, May 15, 1938, p. 22

36. "Band Shell is Asked in Point Park," Telegraph-Herald, May 22, 1938, p. 10

37. "Winter Sports Plans Delayed," Telegraph Herald, January 6, 1950, p. 6. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19500106&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

38. "Great Electrical Abuse; Park Shuts Off Juice," Telegraph Herald, July 14, 1957, p. 4

39. "Eagle Point Plays Planned," Telegraph Herald, May 20, 1962, p. 11

40. Thompson, Dave, "Concession 'Promotion' Allowed at Point Park," Telegraph-Herald, July 15, 1965, p. 1

41. Kraske, Steve, "Council OKs Eagle Point Fees as Part of Budget, Telegraph Herald, March 13, 1983, p 5

42. Japsen, Bruce. "Eagle Point Park Fee Supported," Telegraph Herald, October 5, 1992, p. 1

43. Hammill, Roxie, "An Old Dream May Still be Too Far From Reality," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 1983, p.18

44. Breyfogle, Bill, "Volunteers Stock Pond with Fish," Telegraph Herald, July 20, 1984, p. 2

45. "Eagle Point Park History"

46. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2004, p. 52

47. Barton, Thomas J. "City Eyes Prize for Eagle Point," Telegraph Herald, May 6, 2017, p. 1A

48. Hanson, Brad. "Dubuque Receives More Funding for Eagle Point Park Project," KWWL.com, October 20, 2017, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/36641895/2017/10/20/dubuque-receives-more-funding-for-eagle-point-park-project

49. "City Accepts Land Donation to Increase Size of Eagle Point Park," Telegraph Herald, December 23, 2018, p. 17A

50. Fisher, Benjamin, "Backers Sow REAP Extension Idea to Lawmakers," Telegraph Herald, June 11, 2020, p. 3A