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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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In 1933 the Dubuque City Council purchased 162 wild and woody acres of CITY ISLAND for $10,000. Unemployed men, recruited by the Civil Works Administration during the Great Depression, leveled trees, ripped out stumps and slashed away underbrush. After extensive grading, two runways, each 2,600 feet long and 100 feet wide, were constructed of MACADAM and cinder surface. The new airport was reached by a road linking the site to the foot of East 16th Street.

Operations at the City Island airport began in June 1934, when two Dubuque Airways planes were flown to the site from Nutwood Park. With no hangars or gas tanks, planes had to be tied down at night. Nutwood Park's metal hangar was later dismantled and rebuilt at the new site; a new hangar with an office was constructed within one year. Electricity was supplied by a portable gas-powered generator. There were "His" and "Her" outhouses.

Business at the City Island airport was not brisk. Lewis Boxleiter, Collins' successor as airport manager, applied for a low-flying permit and inspected high transmission lines when foul weather prevented linemen from driving over snow-drifted roads. Each spring because of floods the planes had to be flown to high ground in Waterloo, Iowa, or Galena, Illinois. In 1938 sixty-four days of business at the City Island airport were lost due to flooding. The airport flooded from March 31 until April 17 in 1939. It was submerged again on April 28.

Flying instruction began in earnest in January 1940, with the start of the Civilian Pilots Training Program. After the start of WORLD WAR II, a new hangar was constructed. The navy's objection to the city's inadequate airport led the Chamber of Commerce to conduct a survey as a first step in establishing a first-class airport for the city.

On March 24,1980, the Dubuque City Council renamed City Island in memory of Chaplain Aloysius SCHMITT. The name, Schmitt Island, had been lobbied for by fifty-four civic leaders. Lobbying by the Chaplain Schmitt Park Committee began soon after the announcement that the city planned a softball-baseball complex on the island where a memorial to Schmitt stood.

In 2010 the land is the site of the DUBUQUE GREYHOUND PARK AND CASINO, Gerald "Red" McAleece Park & Recreation Complex, VETERANS MEMORIAL PLAZA, and Petrakis Field.