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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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Sacred Heart Church

SACRED HEART CHURCH. Sacred Heart had the largest Catholic school population in the Midwest during the 1950s and 1960s. Industrial development in northern Dubuque beginning in 1875 attracted many young families with children to the area. Most of the people were Catholics from German-speaking regions of Europe.

In an article in the Dubuque Herald in August 1880, the construction of a new church "was very suggestive of the rapid increase in the German Catholic portion of our community." (1) The article went on to state that previously the German Catholics had worshiped in a little unassuming stone building on the corner of 8th and White STREETS. The building was to be 45x90 feet and would cost $8,000. Thirteen lots had been purchased for ornamental grounds and future improvements. (2)

In 1879 territory was taken from ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH parish by Bishop John HENNESSY to form a new parish in the northern part of Dubuque. The present site of Sacred Heart Church, on the corner of what was then Eagle Point Avenue, was purchased by Reverend Pape. (3) Work began in August 1880 on a two-story combination church and school. One story was designated for the church. The other was used as the school.

The cornerstone was laid on August 15, 1880. The DUBUQUE CATHOLIC BENEVOLENT SOCIETY headed by the GERMANIA BAND together with the Pius and St. Alphonsus societies marched to the church grounds. They were met by a large crowd of Catholic and non-Catholic well-wishers and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for the festivities. A collection was made totaling about $400.00. (4)

Construction was completed on December 12. To minimize costs, much of the work was furnished by parishioners. (5) The school was not opened on this date because the rooms were not finished. Worship was held on the second floor, while school was held on the main floor. The basement and one of the rooms on the first floor were used as a convent. A house was rented south of the church as a rectory.

Semi-annual pew rental was an important source of income. In January, 1885 the total income was approximately $1,126.00 which was $100 more than was received in July, 1884. (6)

An economic boom occurred on the north end of Dubuque with the construction of the MILWAUKEE RAILROAD SHOPS. Soon the church was filled to capacity. The cornerstone for a new church was laid in 1887 on Palm Sunday. The church, with a seating capacity of 1,100, was dedicated on July 7, 1888, and the first church building was remodeled for classrooms. (7) Additional buildings included a parish rectory and Sisters' convent. The altar arrived in time to be used at Easter in 1891. Manufactured in Milwaukee, it cost $3,000. (8)

The members of the parish continued to feel a great need for more schoolrooms and a place to hold meetings. On Thanksgiving Day 1891, Marquette Hall was formally opened. This served the need for social and school space until the new school was opened in 1915. The continued growth of Sacred Heart led the Most Rev. Archbishop Hennessy in 1896 to create a new parish out of the territory of Sacred Heart. Within a few years, however, the creation of the new Holy Ghost parish was barely noticed by the continued rapid population growth of Sacred Heart. (9) In 1910 the continued growth of Sacred Heart led to the creation of another parish, Holy Trinity. (10)

In January 1893, the church announced that pew rental for six months had generated income of $2,200 which was an increase of $400 over the preceding six months. (11)

The church installed a Wangerin-Werchardt organ and twenty-one stained glass windows in 1922. In 1950 a total of twenty-one new stained glass windows, designed by Msgr. I. J. Semper of LORAS COLLEGE and crafted by Conrad Pickel, were installed. (12) A convent built to house twenty-two nuns was constructed on Queen Street in 1966. It was sold in when the [[SISTERS OF ST. FRANCIS] were no longer able to staff the school.

Enrollment of the school peaked in 1956 with an enrollment of 1,020 students. The parishes of HOLY TRINITY CATHOLIC CHURCH and Sacred Heart merged their schools on the Sacred Heart campus in the late 1980s. By 2020 they were part of the HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC SCHOOLS on the Holy Ghost campus. (13)

Button. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The church, located at 2215 Windsor, is recognized for its two distinctive spires. The taller, into which clocks were installed in 1982, rises two hundred feet. The shorter tower has a height of 135 feet.



1. "An Imposing Ceremony," Dubuque Herald, August 17, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18800817&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "New German Catholic Church," Dubuque Herald, August 8, 1880, p. 4

3. "An Imposing Ceremony..."

4. Ibid.

5. Riehl, Christian (Director of Publication), Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa 1837-2012, France, Éditions du Signe, 2011, p. 167

6. "Pew Rental," Dubuque Herald, January 6, 1885, p. 4

7. Riehl

8. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 25, 1891, p. 4

9. "Lay Corner Stone of Trinity Church," Telegraph Herald, May 22, 1910, p. 8

10. Riehl

11. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 4, 1893, p. 4

12. Riehl

13. Riehl