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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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FIRES. Dubuque has been the scene of many disastrous fires. In December, 1840 in order to prevent fires, an examination was made of all stove pipes and chimneys in the city was made. (1) It has been claimed that belvederes, glass observatories on the roof of homes built in ITALIAN VILLA ARCHITECTURE, were used to observe the city for fires to allow the rest of the community to prepare.

On July 25, 1874 the Dubuque Herald ran an editorial entitled "What Shall We Do?" While recognizing the city had suffered less from fires than other cities and crediting the water works and fire department, a suggestions was made to form a committee to identify the "tuttering old rookeries" in the community.

              Let us disturb the ancient and solitary reign of the 
              rats, bats and crickets..." The right of the council 
              to condemn and summarily remove these fire feeders is 
              clear. (2)
Julien Hotel 1913 fire. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
1911 lumberyard fire

Lumber Companies

May 20, 1866— Booth & Shine’s sawmill (3)

November 17, 1868—Dickinson’s Planing Mill and Hamlin & Wagner’s Cabinet Factory (4)

April 29, 1870--Moore's Mill (5)

August 18, 1870--Weston, Burch and Company (6)

August 23, 1870—Key City Planing Mills and Clark & Scott’s Planing Mill (7)

January 11, 1871—-Dickinson’s Planing Mill and Dubuque Cabinet Makers Association, three-story frame factory on the other side of the street. Adjoining the factories and lumberyards were four or five frame tenement houses, these were all burned. (8)

October 29, 1872--Moore's Mill (9)

November 18, 1875--Iowa Lumber Company and Saw Mill (10)

July 22, 1876--Dubuque Lumber Company (11)

June 18, 1878—shingle mill of L. P. Hough & Co. (12)

August 8, 1878— Lembeck’s Planing Mill (13)

March 28, 1880--C. W. Robinson Lumber Yards (14)

June 9, 1894--Lesure Lumber Company (the largest fire in Dubuque history) (15)

April 8, 1895-—Moore's mill yards (16)

April 4, 1899-—Standard Lumber Company and the Farley & Loetscher Company. (17)

December 30, 1899—Moore’s Mill burned to the ground (18)

May 30, 1901--Dubuque Woodenware and Lumber Company (19)

January 9, 1910-—The Meuser Lumber Company’s old planing mill, a building used principally as a store house for a number of years, was destroyed by fire (20)

May 26, 1911--Standard Lumber Company, Key City Furniture Company; Carr, Ryder and Adams (21)

May 27, 1911--Standard Lumber Company; (22)

July 30, 1911—-Kretschmer Manufacturing Company, the Spahn-Rose Lumber Company, the Wieneke-Hoer Pickling Company, and the barns and hardwood lumber shed of the Farley & Loetscher Company. (23)

April 26, 1915—Five blocks of lumberyards owned by the Carr, Ryder & Adams Company (24)

April 5, 1923-—Fire Thursday night threatened the destruction of the entire Carr, Ryder & Adams Company plant. (25)

April 25, 1924— A fire originating from a bolt of lightning struck the Peter J. Seippel Lumber Company buildings at Locust and Dodge. (26)

December 23, 1938—-Farley & Loetscher Company, sash & door plant experienced an explosion and fire that caused some $100,000 damage. (27)

January 1963--Bly Lumber Company (28)

Nov. 6, 1979--Dubuque Chips Company (29)


January 1858--St. Cloud Hotel (30)


August 8, 1884— The Key City Furniture Company’s lumberyard and warehouse burned to the ground including the office, stable and furniture. (32)

July 16, 1886--Dubuque Oat Meal Mill (33)

February 4, 1891--Bishop's Block (34)

July 10, 1891—-The planing mill of the Diamond Jo Company (35)

August 18, 1891--Farley & Loetscher Manufacturing Company’s factory damaged to the extent of $30,000. (36)

May 8, 1902--Iowa Iron Works at 9th and Washington. The worst loss of life of Dubuque firefighters occurred when a wall collapsed killing a captain and two pipemen with three others seriously injured. (37)

1913--fire destroyed the 5-story Julien Inn which was rebuilt and stands as the HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE (38)

June 12, 1942--Iowa Eggs Products Company at Jones and Main is destroyed in a $330,000 blaze (39)

January 8, 1943--Rhomberg/Morris Flour Mill on Sageville Road (40)

June 9, 1946--fire at the CANFIELD HOTEL led to the deaths of nineteen people, the largest loss of life in a Dubuque fire. (41)

July 22, 1961--Eagle Food Store and Iowa Liquor Store in the 600 block of Locust were destroyed (through 1966 the second most expensive five)

January 1963--Dubuque Twine Company warehouse and Bly Lumber Company each sustained $300,000 damages in separate fires. (42)

1965--a fire resulted in $325,000 in damage to the 1000 block of Main burning the STATE THEATRE, HIGLEY-MEYER ELECTRIC COMPANY, KIES & BUTLER JEWELRY, Oky Doky Foods and the DUBUQUE DISTRIBUTING COMPANY The same year a fire causing $835,000 in damage occurred at the Standard Brands Frozen Egg Division. The building was surrounded by flood waters causing firemen to battle the flames from boats using river water from a Coast Guard pump on a sandbag dike. A hydrant 100 feet from the plant was used for additional water after firefighters dove under the flood waters to attach their hose. (43)

1965-a record $835,000 damage was done to Standard Brands, Inc. and Fisher, Inc. businesses in the industrial complex on the East Sixth Street Extension. (44)

May 1967--Brammer's Food Store destroyed at a loss of $250,000. (45)

February 1969--Rainbo Oil Company sustains $250,000 in damage (46)

December 1969--Eagles Discount Supermarket receives $300,000 in damage (47)

1973--arson at the Hodge Warehouse destroyed 40,000 square feet and 10,000 appliances leading to a $1.2 million loss (the most expensive fire to that date). (48)

August 2, 1980--fire destroys the Strand Theater with an estimated loss of $250,000 (49)

December 26, 1983--the former city garage at 14th and Elm and 20 truck tractors parked inside are lost with more than $1 million in damages (50)

May 17, 1984--Clarke College fire destroyed three of the buildings causing a $10 million loss. (51)

1988--a fire in a trailer next to the nearly completed Menard's Lumber Building caught on fire. With the building's sprinkler system not ready, the entire building was destroyed at a loss listed as $2.5 million. (52)

1996--Fires at Morrison Brothers and the Chicago-Dubuque Foundry led to the destruction of millions of dollars worth of molds and left many employees jobless. (53)

August 9, 2003--St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church (54)



1. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley. History of Dubuque County, Iowa, Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1890, p. 69

2. "What Shall We Do?" Dubuque Herald, July 25, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740725&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

4. Ibid.

5. Hellert, Susan. "Dubuque Pitched In On A Couple of 1871 Disasters," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 21, 2004, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Yp1dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zlwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6651,4577052&dq=standard+lumber+company+dubuque&hl=en

6. Ibid.

7. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

8. Ibid.

9. Hellert, Susan.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

13. Ibid.

14. Hellert, Susan

15. McCormick, John. "How Big Was the 1894 Fire? It Was So Big That..." Telegraph Herald, Nov. 14, 1979, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=nOhFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Uv4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=6738,2018011&dq=standard+lumber+company+dubuque&hl=en

16. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. "Swept by Flames," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, May 30, 1901, p. 3. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xTdBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=y6gMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4973,6730013&dq=lumber+yard+fires+dubuque&hl=en

20. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

21. Hellert, Susan.

22. Ibid.

23. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. "Dubuque Fire Toll Boosted," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 13, 1963, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ZI9FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5bwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6986,4537659&dq=fires+dubuque&hl=en

29. Ibid.

30. "Some Notable Tri-State Fires," Telegraph Herald, January 22, 2008, p. 1. Online: http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=DQ&p_theme=dq&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=11E5AF695BB37228&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM

31. "Disappeared in Smoke," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 17, 1886, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=p1BRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=89MMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1950,3645954&dq=lumber+yard+fires+dubuque&hl=en

32. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

33. "Some Notable Tri-State Fires."

34. "Disastrous Blaze at Dubuque, Iowa." Chicago Tribune, Feb. 4, 1891, p. 5. Online: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/chicagotribune/doc/174491601.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Feb%204,%201891&author=&pub=Chicago%20Tribune&edition=&startpage=&desc=DISASTROUS%20BLAZE%20AT%20DUBUQUE,%20IA.

35. William K. (Bill) Hammel---http://www.dfdhistory.com

36. Ibid.

37. Stewart, Terry and McMahon, Mike. "Nearly 160 Years of Organized Fire Protection Services in Dubuque," Julien's Journal, July 1996, p. 39

38. Ibid., p. 40

39. "Dubuque's Worst Fires," Telegraph Herald, November 30, 1988, p. 3A

40. "Dubuque Landmark Destroyed by Fire," Telegraph Herald, January 10, 1943, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=5mBFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LLwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3264,6624831&dq=fires+dubuque&hl=en

41. Schneider, Sheila. "The Great Canfield Fire," Julien's Journal, July 1996, p. 43

42. "Dubuque Fire Toll Boosted."

43. Stewart, et al, p. 40

44. "Damage in Riverfront Fire Put at $835,000," Telegraph-Herald, June 10, 1965, p. 1

45. "Dubuque's Worst Fires,"

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Stewart

50. "Dubuque's Worst Fires,"

51. "Fire Burns a Whole in Dubuque History," Telegraph Herald, May 18, 1984, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=JTtFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pLsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4558,2022446&dq=fires+dubuque&hl=en

52. Nevans-Pederson, Mary. "Fire!" Telegraph Herald Commemorative Edition: Memorable Moments, March 26, 2012, p. 20c

53. Stewart, et al.

54. "Fires Set at Dubuque Catholic Church," Cedar Rapids Gazette, Aug. 12, 2003. Online: http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=CR&z=CRGB&p_theme=cr&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0FCE4C47B7D1CE28&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM

Spahn and Rose 1911 lumberyard fire
Spahn and Rose 1911 lumberyard fire
Standard Lumber Company 1911 lumberyard fire
Standard Lumber Company 1911 lumberyard fire