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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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Dubuque Senior High School

DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Dubuque High School was opened in 1858 on the third floor of a building on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and 12th Street. The school enrolled one hundred ten students and had a staff of two teachers and one principal. The institution was moved to a building at 17th and Iowa STREETS in 1859 and then closed until 1866. Reasons given included the start of the CIVIL WAR, an economic depression, and a feeling among the residents of Dubuque that an elementary education was sufficient.

In 1866 the high school was reopened, and the classes that had been conducted in the ward schools were transferred to Turner Hall. The stage curtain and scenery present in the building were donated to the City. The District's administrative office was moved to the high school in 1872.

A complete high school course in the early years was three years in length. Each academic year included three terms. The first graduating class in 1870 had only two students, Sarah M. Belden and Mary A. Dorgan. Only twenty-five students graduated from the program between 1870 and 1876. The original teaching staff included the principal and up to three teachers.

By 1877 most courses were extended to four years. Four-year Latin, scientific and classical programs, and a two-year business course were offered. From 1877 to 1885 the number of graduates soared to 219. After 1885 the classical course was discontinued while the other two programs were continued with little change. When the board of education realized by 1895 that most students were choosing the two-year business program, it was discontinued, and high school became strictly a four-year program.

In 1893 the proposal to issue bonds in the amount of $75,000 to purchase a site and erect a new high school was approved by Dubuque voters by a margin of 956 to 235. CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL was dedicated on January 17, 1895.

In August 1920 the board of education purchased fifteen acres of farm land from MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH COLLEGE for $45,335. J. W. Royer was chosen as the architect with the general contractor being English Brothers from Champaign, Illinois. Hollow bricks for the interior walls were purchased from Heim and Sons of Dubuque while the stone work on the exterior was done by BYRNE BROTHERS. A special ventilating system changed the air in the twenty-six classrooms and auditorium every six and one-half minutes. Stairways were enclosed in fireproof walls and the corridor floors were constructed of cement and marble aggregate. The auditorium seated 1,166 and was designed with an old English style oak-beamed ceiling. This was remodeled in 2006-2007. The school's cafeteria was equipped to serve three hundred students at a time with two shifts of forty-five minutes each. (1)

Built at a cost of $766,179, Dubuque Senior High School was formally dedicated on February 9, 1923. An overflow crowd of four thousand caused many to be seated in the auditorium with others moved to the gymnasium. Speakers for the program spoke in one location and then moved to the other to allow everyone to hear. Enrollment the first year reached 733 students.

"Open House" played an early role in acquainting parents with the work of the school. On May 15, 1925 classes began at 2:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. and continued until 8:50 p.m. This was done to make it possible for parents who worked to attend. Every class was conducted, examples of work were displayed, and the cafeteria was open from 5:35 to 7:35 p.m. (2)

Band recognition in 1938. Photo courtesy: Edith Norman and Bob Reding
Cacheted cover from 1944

With the help of WPA funding, a girl's gymnasium, lockers, dressing rooms, shower rooms, football practice field, and band room were added to the school between 1923 and 1940. A new technical building and a gymnasium were dedicated on November 12, 1954. Additional classrooms and a library were added in 1965-1966 due to increasing enrollment. In 1990 a $5.3 million building addition to Senior added departmental learning centers, a new cafeteria/ commons area, a new library, computer labs, and additional classrooms.

Dalzell Field, serving Senior and Hempstead, was the scene of a $10.5 million renovation in 2012-2013. The completed complex featured artificial turf, Musco sports lighting, a regulation eight-lane track, a 3,125 home bleacher section with an additional 1,500 visitor seats, an 11 x 20 feet digital display section on the scoreboard, new locker rooms, new concession stands, tickets booths and an $86,500 private donation-funded bronze statue of Jay BERWANGER. (3)

In February 2015, it was announced that a $25 million project involving renovations at Dubuque Senior were moving into the conceptual design phase. Architects' feed and renovations would be funded by the 1-cent sales tax. (4)

Article in Telegraph Herald-Nov. 13, 1935. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris

Among its many claims to fame, the school is the home to MURALS created by Cyril FERRING.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Soft metal tray embossed with the likeness of Dubuque Senior High School. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Postcard of Dubuque Senior High School clearly showing the dome that existed on the building until sometime after 1956.
1938 diploma. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Suede diploma case used in 1938. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Image courtesy: Kendall C. Day Family Collection
1938 class ring
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Renovation of Dalzell Field. Photo in 2012.


Mr. D.M. Case, 1858

Dr. C.W. Catlin, 1858 - 1859

Mr. A.J. Townsend, 1858 - 1859

Mr. J.M. Brainard, 1859 - 1866

Mr. W.H. Beach, 1866 - 1867

Mr. Wells, 1867 - 1875

Mr. Peet, 1875 - 1877

Mr. Parker, 1877 - 1885

Mr. Compton, 1885 - 1889

Mr. Walker, 1889 - 1894

Mr. Smart, 1894 -

Mr. Gochanauer, 1895 - 1899

Mr. Smart, 1899 - 1901

Mr. Anderson, 1901 - 1903

Mr. Ehrlman, 1903 - 1914

Mr. Stevenson, 1914 - 1924

Ms. Hallmann, 1924 - 1925

Mr. Johnson, 1925 - 1944

Mr. Jackson, 1944 - 1947

Mr. Lee, 1947 - 1964

Dr. Kampschroer, 1964 - 1966

Mr. Darsee, 1966 - 1970

Mr. Don Kolsrud, 1970 - 1987

Mr. Larry Mitchell, 1987 - 2005

Ms. Kim Swift, 2005 - 2011

Mr. Rick Colpitts, 2011-

Mr. Dan Johnson,



Board minutes

1. Gibson, Michael. "Yesterday and Today," The Golden View, February 2014.

2. "Open House Day at Senior High," Telegraph Herald, May 10,, 1925, p. 7

3) Gibson

4) Becker, Stacey. "Principal: Renovations Sorely Needed at Senior." Telegraph Herald, February 12, 2015, p. 1