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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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CITY HOTEL. Famed Dubuque landmark on the northwest corner of Fourth and Main STREETS, the building was erected in 1833 as a store on first floor and a theater called the ATHENAEUM on the second. (1) In 1846 the building was renovated, enlarged, and called the City Hotel by Richard Plumbe. In 1856 the proprietor was C. C. Hewitt. (2)

In 1859, the City Hotel was redecorated and renamed the Peosta House. (3) The name was changed twice within the next three years - Peosta Hall and Our New Hall. William G. STEWART purchased the building and began converting the Hall into Dubuque's fifth major theater in 1863. (4)

In 1864 the Athenaeum Theater was reopened. In its heyday, the theater hosted some of America's finest legitimate theater talent. It, however, ceased to attract star performers when the GRAND OPERA HOUSE was built. (5)

Charles H. EIGHMEY and John Robert WALLER, Sr. purchased, refurbished, and reopened the Athenaeum as the DUNCAN-WALLER OPERA HOUSE in late 1877. An appeal was made to the public for its support leading to $5,000 in tickets being sold for the first performance. (6) The interior was lighted by fifty gas jets and an equal number under a calcium reflector in the dome. There was seating for 1,200. (7) In 1891 the building was the scene of a boxing match. (8) The Opera House was a thriving operation until 1893, when it again changed names and became the MAIN STREET OPERA HOUSE. (9)

In 1896 Charles Bartell leased the building and renamed it BARTELL'S DRAMATIC AND VAUDEVILLE THEATRE. Bartell's closed and the building remained vacant until 1903 when the COATES OPERA HOUSE was opened. (10)

The name "City Hotel" went on to be used at other sites in the community:

The 1873-74 Dubuque City Directory listed the north side of 1st 3 west of Main.

The 1874-1875 Dubuque City Directory stated that this business was located on Clay between 5th and 6th.

The 1880 through 1886-87 Dubuque City Directory listed 553 White.



1. "Memories of the Fourth St. Theatre," Telegraph Herald, April 10, 1910, p. 6

2. "Inns of Yesteryear," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, April 30, 1933, p. 5

3. "Dubuque Before 1880," Telegraph Herald, November 2, 1933. p. 7. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=BABCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=U6oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1340,4189885&dq=lumber+yard+fires+dubuque&hl=en

4. "Theater At Fourth and Main: A Rich and Vivid Tradition," Online: http://fiveflagscenter.com/AboutUs/History.aspx

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 11, 1891, p. 4

9. "Theater at Fourth..."

10. Ibid.