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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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KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS. The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, the organization is named in honor of Christopher Columbus. Councils have been chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Guam, Spain, Japan, Cuba, and most recently in Poland. There are more than 1.8 million members in 15,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to "practical Catholic" men aged 18 or older.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The Knights of Columbus organization in Dubuque was chartered on April 29, 1900 making it the first council in Iowa. Four individuals instrumental in founding the council were Charles H. GREGOIRE; James M. McFadden; Matthew C. MATTHEWS, the first Grand Knight of the local council; and Thomas J. FITZPATRICK. (1)

The organization's first lodge was a suite on Fifth Street over KENNA PRINTING COMPANY. Later they moved next to the Elks between 9th and 10th on Main Street. (2) The organization's membership at that time was six hundred members. (3)

On February 22, 1906 the fourth degree was conferred on thirteen members of the Dubuque council. The ceremonies held in Des Moines were witnessed by 250 members of the order. This was the first time the degree had been bestowed in the State of Iowa and was the first of its kind in the jurisdiction which included Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas. (4)

On May 1, 1911 the organization paid $12,000 to the RIDER-WALLIS DRY GOODS COMPANY for their building on Locust. After refurbishing the store house at a cost of $60,000, it was expected to be open in October. The first floor was to be used for a council chamber and "dancing apartments." The second floor was to be designed for lounging and ladies' rooms and card rooms. The basement was planned for a bowling alley and baths. (5)

In April 1920 the local council of Knights of Columbus had a double initiation--the largest class in the history of Iowa to that date. (6)

From 1937 to 2022 the Knights building was located at 781 Locust.

In June of 2022 the Joliet Building Corporation comprised of members of the Knights of Columbus Council 510 announced that it had started discussions on the sale of the building, named the Joliet Event Center. In May, members of the corporation had voted 33-4 to accept an offer of $850,000 from an unnamed group pending approval of the Joliet Building Corporation board. Officials suggested that the organization might shift its focus to working with Dubuque parishes. (7)

In November of 2022 the city council voted unanimously to remove a city block including the Joliet Event Center from a historic conservation district. This allowed for the demolition of the building and the construction of a child care center for employees of COTTINGHAM AND BUTLER, INC. The council's action came after a unanimous vote in August by the Dubuque Historic Preservation Commission to deny the request to demolish the building. (8)



1. "Local Council Just 20 Years Old This Month," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald April 18, 1920 p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "For First Tine in State of Iowa," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 25, 1906, p. 4

5. "Local Knights Buy Fine Property," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 2, 1911, p. 5

6. "Largest Class of Candidates in Iowa History," Telegraph Herald, April 18, 1920 p. 1

7. Reese, Kayli, "Knights of Columbus Members Accept Tentative Offer to Sell Dubuque Event Center," Telegraph Herald, June 19, 2022, p. 2A

8. Kruse, John, "City Council Acts to Allow Demolition of Building," Telegraph Herald, November 22, 2022, p. 1A