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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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The Saengerbund Auditorium stood at the southwest corner of 22nd and Central. Photo courtesy: James E. Jacobsen

SAEGERBUND AUDITORIUM. It was announced on August 17, 1890 that the German Saengerbund Society had raised pledges of $7,800 toward the construction of a hall. (1) On March 31, 1896 the contract to build the Saengerbund Auditorium was awarded to H. Holzinger. The price was $3,200. The cost of seating and lights was estimated to bring the total cost of $4,000. (2)

For its size, the Saengerbund auditorium was a short-lived structure in Dubuque. Located on a piece of land approximately 80' x 200,' the structure erected in 1896 and made entirely of wood lasted less than five years. (3) In May 1896, Dubuque County Democrats urged that it be offered as a state for the state convention the next year instead of the GRAND OPERA HOUSE. (4) A benefit for HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH was held in May, 1897 with booths sponsored by Holy Ghost, ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, and SACRED HEART CHURCH. (5) On May 7, 1898 a pie-eating contest for young boys drew a large crowd. The City Band was scheduled for the following night with several songs performed by the Saengerbund Society. (6)

One of the popular events for which the building was used were the pure food shows at which producers handed out free samples to advertise themselves. Ironically it was the paper wrappers for the food which littered the floor that finally resulted in the decision to demolish the building. (7)

A rock wall on the corner of Heeb and 22nd STREETS provided "cheap seats" for youngsters wanting to see inside. On evenings when prize fights were scheduled, this location was especially prized. Windows at the top of the wall provided a prime view of the padded ring. One of the most remembered times occurred from August 29-31, 1899 during the carnival held in conjunction with a racing meet at the DUBUQUE DRIVING PARK. The fights were organized by the DUBUQUE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. Among the fighters were Jack Root and George Byers who fought for the middleweight championship of the United States. Tommy White and Eddie Santry competed for the lightweight championship of the world. Tommy Ryan and Jack Moffatt fought for the welterweight championship while George Kerwin and James Sellers competed for the lightweight championship of Iowa. Railroads offered half-fare tickets to Dubuque to encourage attendance resulting in crowded depots. (8)

Additional seating provided for the 1899 events increased the capacity of the auditorium from its usual 5,000 to 6,000 spectators. General admission tickets ranged from $1.00 to $5.00 on the main floor. Seats costing $3.00 were located behind the more expensive seats with balcony seating costing $2.00. (9)

The auditorium featured a stakeless ring padded with felt located in the center of the building and high enough to be seen. This was covered with tightly pulled canvas which made the floor surface elastic. Special lighting allowed the operator to range the illumination from soft to "extraordinary brilliancy." (10) COCK FIGHTING was witnessed by a crowd estimated at 300 in February, 1900. (11)

Although the DUBUQUE SAENGERBUND used the building for social gathering and singing events, by the end of 1903 nearly all traces of the building had been removed. (12)

Financing the huge building led the Germania Stock Company in 1902 to ask that the taxes on the property be lowered. This request had some affect because the assessment was lowered from $13,000 to 12,000 (13) By the time it had been demolished, fundraising for a new hall had been long underway. This was constructed at 22nd and White STREETS (14)


1. "Local News in Brief," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 17, 1890, p. 4

2. "The Big Auditorium," Dubuque Sunday Herald, March 31, 1896, p. 5

3. "Old Saengerbund Hall, Site and Scene of Many a Prize Fight and Songfest, Lingers in Memory of Many a Dubuquer," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, March 19, 1933, p. 5

4. "A Sure Thing," The Dubuque Herald, May 13, 1896, p. 8

5. "Fair Next Week," The Herald, May 13, 1897, p. 4

6. "Crowd at the Fair," The Dubuque Herald, May 8, 1898, p. 8

7. "Old Saengerbund Hall..."

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. "Cocking Main," The Dubuque Herald, February 23, 1900, p. 8

12. "Old Saengerbund Hall..."

13. "City Briefs," The Dubuque Herald, June 15 1900, p. 5

14. "Dubuque Saegerbund in Social Evening," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 30, 1924, p. 8