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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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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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One of the first tenants of Steeple Square was Northeast Iowa Community College which in March 2016 had just begun a restoration academy offering certification in construction with an emphasis on historic renovation. A culinary arts certification program was planned using the kitchen in the former church. (1)

In early June, 2016 the Jeffris Family Foundation awarded the Steeple Square project $600,000, with a catch. To receive the money, the project leaders had to raise double that amount on their own. Tom Jeffris, president of the foundation, said the church's restoration was one of the best he had seen. The grant would be used specifically for the steeple which would be completely rebuilt. It was estimated that approximately $15 million would be needed for the complete restoration for the church which was placed on the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES in 2015. (2)

In 2017 Steeple Square was the recipient of the 2017 "Community Vision" 365INK Impact Award. The former church was in the process of a capital campaign to achieve its renovation as a unique event center with the ground floor utilized for outreach and educational programs. The school was remodeled into permanent supportive an market-rate housing. The remaining campus was to house non-profit organizations and community gathering space. (3)

Stained glass windows placed in the church in 1916 as part of the renovation begun in 1912 were the subject of painstaking revitalization in 2017. Work on cleaning and restoring the windows was a $200,000 project led by Heritage Works of Dubuque. Each window was removed from its frame, soaked, cleaned, repaired and polished. The original frames were scheduled for repainting although their condition was very good. (4)

Officials of Heritage Works, which had responsibility for aiding restoration efforts, announced in May, 2018 that the bells of the former church might soon be held again. The bells were in good condition, however the clock and the old bell system along with installing new ladder system had to be replaced. In addition, the steeple roof had to be replaced. Once the bells and clock were restored, the bells would be programmed to periodically ring throughout the day. (5)

In August, 2018 the Steeple Square project achieved an important milestone. Two years after receiving a capital campaign grant of $600,000 from the Jeffris Family Foundation, the project had raised the two-for-one match requirement of $1.2 million for the project. (6)

The announcement was made in April, 2019 that the Marita Theisen Childcare Center would open August 26th in the former St. Mary's rectory and serve as many as seventy-two children. Under the direction of Judy WOLF an estimated 15-17 full- and part-time staff members would be hired. The center would include a gross motor skills/indoor playground for infants and toddlers and a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) room for 4-year olds. (7)

In May, 2019 the upper level of the former church was named Honkamp Hall in memory of Arnold N. HONKAMP who had been instrumental in establishing the vision for the renovation. (8)

In January, 2021 Steeple Square received the "Best of Weddings" honor from The Knot, a popular website and app used by soon-t-be married couples and wedding vendors. The award was determined by reviews from couples, their families and wedding guests. The introduction of wedding-related services was part of the broader plan of restoration of the St. Mary's campus. (9)

The announcement was made in November, 2021 that the final phase of construction was finished. The open house and ribbon-cutting for the project was scheduled for November 30th although the new spaces had been open for a month. The lower-level phase began in the spring and cost approximately $1.2 million, although it was part of an on-going $15 million project funded through grants, donations and state and historic tax credits. Twelve affordable-housing units were completed in 2017. This was followed in 2018 by the refurbishing of the steeple. In 2019 the child care center was opened. In 2021 the Steeple Square Community Event Center and Honkamp Hall opened on the floor above the newly completed center and culinary kitchen.

A partnership between Northeast Iowa Community College and FOUR MOUNDS allowed the kitchen to be used for culinary arts classes. Students registered through NICC for the classes but did not have to be current students. While classes were occurring, the students received free tuition and free child care at the Marita Theisen center. The kitchen was named for Sister Helen HUEWE, a founding Steeple Square board member.

As individuals could earn a culinary arts certificate, others could earn a child care certificate at Steeple Square. Future certification programs being considered in 2021 included hospitality, customer service, and carpentry. (10)

The 1987 Dubuque City Directory listed 1584 White.



1. Ibid.

2. Gehling, Maddie. "Steeple Square Project Receives $600,000 Grant," Telegraph Herald, June 11, 2016, p. 3A

3. "Steeple Square," 365ink Magazine, February 23-March 8, 2017 Issue #285, p. 17

4. Kruse, John. "Restoring the Glory of the Glass," Telegraph Herald, November 25, 2017, p. 1A

5. Kruse, John. "Bingggg! Bells of St. Mary Could Soon Ring Again," Telegraph Herald, May 14, 2018, p. 1A

6. "Steeple Square Restoration Project Hits Another Milestone," Telegraph Herald, August 3, 2018, p. 5A

7. Jacobson, Ben, "Child Care Center to Open in Steeple Square," Telegraph Herald, April 17, 2019, p. 1

8. "Steeple Square Names Hall After Founding Board Member, 'Visionary'" Telegraph Herald, May 23, 2019, p. 3A

9. "Wedding Venue Earns Acclaim," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 2021, p. 3A

10. Reese, Kayli, "Steeple Square's 'Incredible Journey' Completed," Telegraph Herald, November 25, 2021, p 2A