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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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Corner posts have been said to resemble Union general and later President U.S. Grant.

RYAN HOUSE. This elegant Italian Villa style house was built by William Andrew and later finished by John THOMPSON, mayor of Dubuque and leather merchant. The architect was Van Osdel, the famous designer of the Palmer House in Chicago.

William A. RYAN purchased the home for his second wife, Catherine, and their six children. He often used the home for entertaining. The posts for the fence are said to contain the likeness of U.S. Grant, leader of Union forces during the CIVIL WAR, who purchased pork from his Dubuque friend who had the nickname, "Hog" Ryan.

To separate his second family from his first, Ryan erected a wooden fence between this home and his original home on the corner of Locust and Loras. This failed to accomplish its task. He then had the three storied home containing thirty rooms moved thirteen feet south to separate his second family from the children of his first family. Evidence of this relocation can be found in the basement. The newer foundation can be seen along with stone from the original foundation attached to the home and rocks used for filling the gaps located between.

When Thompson purchased the property, he hired M. D. Flavin of the Chicago Manufacturing Company to provide marble fixtures for the home. The marble mantel was furnished for $650 while one for the library featuring an image of Thompson's daughter cost $350. The dining room mantel of dark brown mottled Vermont marble cost $100. (1)

Souvenir matches from the Ryan House.

In 1980 announcements were made of a planned $130,000 expansion to the 160-seat restaurant. A ten car parking lot would replace an old garage. A one-story addition to the rear of the house would provide a new kitchen. The previous kitchen would be converted into a bake shop. Plans for a waiting room and lounge, announced in 1979, would be temporarily halted. (2) Through 1989, the home was known as one of the finest restaurants in Dubuque. It become a property of the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY and in 2009 was sold to once again become a private residence.



1. "Some Fancy Marbles," Dubuque Herald, May 28, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740528&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "Ryan House Plans $130,000 Expansion," Telegraph Herald, January 9, 1980, p. 5