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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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Winners of the mixed doubles competition of the first Dubuque City Tennis Tournament. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

TENNIS COURTS. The earliest example of the private ownership of a tennis court relates to the daughter of one of Dubuque premier industrialists. Mary Ellen Cooper, the daughter of Augustin A. COOPER, married John Robert WALLER on January 24, 1878. As a wedding gift, A. A. Cooper offered the couple one of the prime lots in a block he owned south of WASHINGTON PARK. (1) The Wallers constructed the home they called YORK (THE) as an English estate complete with tennis courts, fishpond, orchard and conservatory. The residence was a popular site for teas and parties hosted for the English families of Dubuque. (2) With the death of her husband, Mary Ellen sold the property to move closer to her sister in Maryland. Russell Mulgrew sold "The York" to Joseph J. NAGLE who sold the estate to the United States Treasury as the site for the new post office. (3)

In 1887 of the three tennis courts in some stage of completion, only one was fully laid out in the city. It was located in the upper end of the baseball park with a wire fence constructed to keep cattle from intruding. There was enough interest in the city to form a tennis club. (4)

Tennis was also among the improvements brought to residents of SHAWONDASEE. In 1895 in addition to renovations to the cottages owned by such well-known Dubuque residents as Poole, Orrick, and Deming and the construction of a new water system, two fine tennis courts were constructed. (5)

As plans were being completed for the club house at the new "golf club" within the City of Dubuque, a committee in 1900 was already surveying the grounds for ways of making the site better. In addition to the "links," the placement of tennis courts was discussed. (6) A report noted in May, 1900 that "the membership includes the prominent people of the city and the money to make all the necessary improvements has already been secured. (7)

Officials of the Y. M. C. A. Athletic Park announced the rapid completion of work at the site and a quick opening in May, 1900. Along with a running track; remodeled club house with the installation of lockers, dressers, and shower; new tennis courts were being constructed. It was expected that the many "tennis fiends" in the community would give the courts their full attention. "The ladies of the city will probably be admitted free to the park to play tennis." (8)

Perhaps the first mention of tennis with a academic institution (1906). Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Weeds in tennis courts or on walks or drives posed problems for those in charge of such pests in 1903. The remedy was:

              About the best method that has been devised is to kill 
              them with some effective solution having either an arsenic, 
              sulphuric acid, carbolic acid or sal-soda base. Any one of 
              these is effective, though the arsenic mixtures, some of 
              which are offered as commercial proprietary solutions, are 
              the most persistent it their effects. (9)
(1906) Lawn tennis marker. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Playing lawn tennis involved, among other details, marking boundaries clearly. Tapes, which were often used, proved a nuisance, and could not compare with lines marked with lime applied directly upon the grass. An invention which proved popular was a box made of light metal mounted on wheels with a hinged lid. Filled with powdered lime, the machine was carried to the site of the proposed line and then pushed along a string. As the wheel rotated, corrugations drew out the powder. (10)

By 1914 the popularity of tennis in Dubuque was well established. In that year through the generosity of Judge Oliver Perry SHIRAS a public tennis court was constructed at EAGLE POINT PARK. This drew such attention, at one time thirty-two people were waiting to play, that a second court was built and a plan was placed before the park board for two more. The acceptance of the plans led to the announcement that all would be ready in 1915. This seemed insufficient to many observers. The City of Spokane, Washington it was found had twenty-three courts. With three times the population of Dubuque, the comparison was made that Dubuque should have at least eight. (11)

The only other tennis courts were three at the DUBUQUE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB. Although membership at the club was described as expensive, members had to pay an additional $5.00 annually (adjusted for inflation equal to $125.62 in 2019) to use them. If funds could be found, four places downtown were suggested: the foot of Hodgdon Avenue located on West Locust west of JACKSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, on city-owned ground on the corner of Dodge and Booth, along Hill Street near Caledonia, and along Julien Avenue. (12) In 1915 the establishment of CLEVELAND PARK, a three-acre tract from Cleveland Avenue to within one hundred feet of Dodge Street, came with the announcement that the land would be used in part for the construction of one and possibly two tennis courts. (13)

The pressure to add additional courts to the city was increased by the organization of the Dubuque Tennis Association in June, 1916. Officers included Franc K. ALTMAN, president; Charles Edward FITZPATRICK, vice-president; and Harold Molo, treasurer. Organized to bring amateur players of the city together, the first city tennis tournament sponsored by the association was held in July. First place winners received silver loving cups while those finishing second received rackets and other tennis supplies donated by area businessmen. The plan was to make the city tournament an annual event growing larger each year from the 105 entries in the first tournament. (14)

The creation and success of the city tournament probably played a role in the announcement on August 10, 1916 that tennis courts would be installed around the water works reservoir on Third Street and a large fence would be erected. Due to the time of year, work was not to start until the spring of 1917. (15) Work on the courts, however, was postponed until August, 1925 when the city agreed to place three courts on the cement top which was 185 feet in diameter. (16) Ironically this was the same type of location chosen for tennis courts in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1938.

New tennis courts were announced in May, 1921. These were located on Alta Vista Street and at Eagle Point. (17)

On May 6, 1927 the tennis courts at EAGLE POINT PARK became the only public courts in the city. (18) The superintendent of city parks found it was needed to discontinue maintenance of the older courts in the city. Seven courts at Eagle Point Park were open and at least two were to be provided by the end of the season. The two new courts were to come from an area originally used as a tourist park. The camp at the park would be used for the rest of that season, but was to be closed in the fall as a camping park at Grandview and east of Rockdale Road was opened. (18)

As part of its intra-mural athletic program which had recently been inaugurated the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE officials announced work had started on construction of outdoor tennis courts for the 1925-26 academic year. In the interest of having at least one court for the beginning of the school year, a location was found along the McCormick Street side of the campus. The other courts were to be built on the southwest corner of the campus near the gymnasium. Until the courts were completed, the old indoor court in the gymnasium would be used. (19)

UNION PARK officials announced in 1928 its tennis courts and HORSESHOE PITCHING fields. (20)

Continued improvement of the Third Street tennis courts continued in 1933. The site was improved with grading, planting of shrubbery, and the construction of a sidewalk to the tennis courts. (21)

In 1938 six new tennis courts were constructed at Eagle Point Park just west of the former courts and at a level about 12 feet below the old courts. A gradual sloping terrace was constructed along the east side of the new courts to provide a vantage point for watching matches. Parking space for an estimated 250 cars was provided on the site of the old courts. (22)

In 1945 the director of the Dubuque Recreation Department described the Dubuque tennis facilities as sub-standard. The commission decided that cement tennis courts should be constructed at the north end of COMISKEY PARK and at GRANDVIEW PARK to replace the deteriorating clay courts. (23)

Under the direction of the Dubuque County Guidance Association an organized campaign to collect $75,000 to improve the city's recreation facilities was made in early May, 1947. The primary objective of the drive was development of the ALLISON-HENDERSON PARK playground, the only sizable recreational area in the hill district. Facilities planned included lights for the softball field, playground equipment, shelter house, HORSESHOE PITCHING courts, and tennis courts. Lighting for the tennis and horseshoe pitching courts was also planned for COMISKEY PARK. (24) Lack of funds prevented marking lines and plans to pave tennis courts at GRANDVIEW PARK in 1947 and work was postponed until 1948. (25)

Progress reports on plans for WASHINGTON JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL in 1949 included the construction of a gridiron, softball diamonds and tennis courts. (26) Tennis courts were constructed at FLORA PARK in 1956. (27)

In 2005 WAHLERT CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL opened the Bernie O'Connor Tennis Center honoring Bernard O'CONNOR who coached tennis at the school for nearly forty years. Dubuque Senior High School named their tennis facilities the Johnny Meyer Courts in honor of John L. MEYER. The tennis courts at STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL were named in honor of long-time coach, Phil Roos. (28)

In 2020 the following tennis facilities existed in Dubuque: (29)

1. Tucker Tennis Courts--LORAS COLLEGE--five courts

2. Frank Farber Tennis Courts--University of Dubuque McCormick Street



5. Eagle Point Park--six courts

6. FLORA PARK--five courts (lighted)

7. MURPHY PARK--three courts (lighted)

8. VETERANS' MEMORIAL PARK--four courts (lighted)

9. Alpine Tennis & Fitness Center--three courts

10. Stephen Hempstead High School--six courts

11. CLARKE COLLEGE--two courts



1. Friedman, Larry and Fischer, Katherine. A. A. Cooper: Reinvesting the Wheel, River City Press, 2016, p. 91

2. Ibid., p. 92

3. Ibid. p. 93

4. "The Tennis Courts, "The Herald," July 24, 1887, p. 8

5. "In Society," The Dubuque Herald, April 7, 1895, p. 2

6. "The Golf Club House," The Dubuque Herald, March 4, 1900 p. 9

7. "In the Realm of Sport," The Dubuque Herald, May 6, 1900, p. 6

8. "Y. M. C. A. Athletics," The Dubuque Herald, May 5, 1900, p. 5

9. "The Destruction of Weeds," Telegraph-Herald, August 6, 1903, p. 4

10. "Lawn Tennis Marker," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Mar. 14, 1906, p 10

11. "Tennis Becomes a Popular Game," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, October 30, 1914, p. 9

12. Ibid.

13. "Name is "Cleveland Park," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, October 15, 1915, p. 31

14. "City Tournament Brings the Best Amateur Tennis Players of the City Into a Struggle for Honors on the Public Courts," The Telegraph-Herald, July 23 1916, p. 11

15. "Dubuque to Have More Tennis Courts," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 10, 1916, p. 5

16. "Net Players to Have New Courts," Telegraph-Herald, August 2, 1925, p. 16

17. "New Tennis Courts Near Completion," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 2, 1921, p. 11

18. "Tennis Courts at Park Ready," Dubuque Telegraph and Times Journal, May 6, 1927, p. 8

19. "New Tennis Courts at Dubuque "U," Telegraph-Herald, August 30, 1925, p. 8

20. "Union Park to Open Wednesday," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 27, 1928, p. 21

21. "Reservoir Grounds Improved by Grading," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 12, 1933, p. 11

22. "Tennis Courts Not Completed," Telegraph-Herald, May 15, 1938, p. 22

23. "Plan to Build Tennis Courts," Telegraph-Herald, May 4, 1945, p. 6

24. "Campaign for Funds to Last for One Week," Telegraph-Herald, April 13, 1947, p. 17

25. "Tennis Court Work is Put Off to 1948," Telegraph-Herald, August 17, 1947, p. 28

26. "Progress Told on Playground," Telegraph Herald, February 17, 1949, p. 2

27. Freund, Bob, "Plans Laid for Every Cent of Building Bonanza," Telegraph Herald, June 21, 1977, p. 5

28. Speltz, Bill, "Rock-Solid Roos Honored," Telegraph Herald, May 11, 2005, p. 11

29. "TennisRound.com Online: https://tennisround.com/us/tennis-courts/ia/dubuque/52002 and school websites