"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
Photo courtesy: Sue and Scott Price

JEFFERSON HOUSE. The original Jefferson House was constructed in July, 1837 at Main and O'Connell STREETS. The business was operated by T. Fanning and Company.

In 1852, during the excavation for a new building to be owned by Joseph GEHRIG, the body of Patrick O'CONNOR was discovered along with artifacts of Native Americans proving the mound on the property was once a burial site. (1) The construction of the hotel was completed in 1854 and rented to a Mr. Adams who named the hotel the ADAMS HOUSE. He catered to a wealthy trade with rates from $3.50 to $5.00 daily. Gehrig resumed management of the hotel in 1858 or 1859 when he renamed it the Jefferson House honoring the founder of the political party of which Gehrig was a member. (2)

To encourage business, Gehrig lowered the rates to $1.00 per day with a twenty-five cent charge for meals. These were not ordinary meals--in quantity or service. Tables seating 50 to 60 people were bought and food was served on huge platters and large bowls. Given the times, the horses that accompanied travelers also had to be provided shelter. Stables for the Jefferson were located on the eastern side of White Street at 7th. (3)


The Jefferson House on the corner of White and 7th Streets was known as one of the finest hotels in Dubuque and considered the area's "lighthouse" for German and Swiss-German immigrants as it was located in the heart of that ethnic group in historic Dubuque. The successful business venture was taken over by Henry GEHRIG, one of Joseph's four sons.

The Gehrig family, despite having sold the property in 1911 as part of the final disposition of the estate of Joseph Gehrig, continued operating the hotel until at least 1916. The 1918 Dubuque City Directory listed John P. Ludowisy as the proprietor of the Jefferson House on White and 7th, but the hotel soon closed. (4) The property was sold in 1921 to the SANITARY MILK COMPANY and used as a creamery until 1943. (5)

The 1899-1900 through 1918 Dubuque City Directory gave the address of this business as 695 White. The 1911-12 directory listed the business as the Jefferson Hotel.

By 1962 the structure had been reduced to two stories.

In 2011 property owner William Feyen approached the county about selling the building. On January 19th the Dubuque Historic Preservation Commission granted a demolition permit. A review of the site by the State Historical Society had found the building had been changed so dramatically it had no historical significance.




1. "Inns of Yesterday," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, March 12, 1933, p. 4

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

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

5. "Inns"

Dubuque City Directories

Mandel, Eric. "County Eyeing Historic Property." Telegraph Herald, January 20, 2012

Pocket mirror.