"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search
Moving the cabin in 1965. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Moving the cabin in 1965 to its concrete base. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Log cabin on the grounds of the Ham House Museum

LOG CABIN. (Louis Arrandeaux/Wlliam Newman Log House) Now located at the HAM HOUSE Museum, the cabin is believed to be the oldest building in Iowa. Constructed in 1827, the cabin stood at what became Second and Locust STREETS. (1)

The cabin was built, according to best records, by Louis Arrandeaux, a trapper believed married to a daughter of Chief Blackhawk. When the trapper died, his Native American wife sold the cabin. A barber, Samuel Ellmer, later lived in the cabin and used his mastery of ventriloquism to convince Native Americans in the area that he had magical powers. The building, therefore, became a place of shelter for whites who knew they were safe from attack. (2) It was also a place of worship. On the first Sunday of every month, Father Samuel MAZZUCHELLI said Mass from the south room. He also lived there on occasion. (3)

The cabin was constructed in a form called "dogtrot." The style developed in Sweden, Germany, Finland and Russia centuries before it appeared in Dubuque. In most, the kitchen, dining room and living room existed in one portion. The other portion served as a bedroom. Each part had its own fireplace. Theories exist that the breezeway between the two parts was to provide good airflow. (4) Given the cold regions in which it was developed, however, it may just as well have given inhabitants an opportunity to escape cooking odors.

In 1834 William Newman purchased the cabin and lived in it with his guardian, Mary Smith, after her parents died of CHOLERA. Years later, he offered Augustin A. COOPER, his apprentice, the opportunity of living in the half of the cabin containing the kitchen. At the age of twenty-two, Cooper married Mary Smith on the threshold of the cabin with Bishop Mathias LORAS officiating. (4)

Postcard of the cabin in Eagle Point Park.

Clapboards painted white were eventually nailed to the cabin and disguised it until 1915 when it was discovered by Frederick Ezekiel BISSELL.

The building was moved to EAGLE POINT PARK. In 1949-50 the Park Board voted to remodel the cabin replacing rotted logs, windows and doors. A new shingle roof was added and the wood was treated with a preservative. (5) The total cost was $5,000. In 1957 it was recognized by the Dubuque Chapter of the DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION who marked it with a bronze plaque in 1958. (6)

In 1962 despite requests to convert the cabin for museum purposes, the Dubuque Park Board chose to continue using the cabin for picnickers. It was one of only three buildings on the river side of the park. Located above the lock and dam, the cabin provided room for forty-eight people with 24 in each of the two rooms. (7)

In 1963 a proposal was made to renovate the cabin and put it off limits as a pavilion. The exterior would be restored to its 1820s appearance and the interior would be provided with pioneer furnishings. The doorway would be covered with glass so that the interior could be viewed. Security would be provided by spotlights positioned outside. (8) This was never done.

The building was moved to the grounds of the Ham House in June, 1965 with the entire relocation process taking four hours. Restoration of the cabin became a project of the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY and was expected to cost $8,000. (9)

In October, Alegre Builders were hired for restoration work on Iowa's oldest building. Included in the work which was to be completed by October 18th was a new roof. (10)



1. Larry FRIEDMAN and Katherine FISCHER, A. A. Cooper: Reinvesting the Wheel, River City Press, 2016, p. 42

2. "Mark Oldest House in Iowa," Telegraph Herald, April 25, 1958, p. 12

3. "This Log Cabin Built in Dubuque 90 Years Ago by French Trapper," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, April 29, 1917, p. 8

4. Friedman

5. Ibid., p. 57

6. "Mark Oldest..."

7. "Old Log Cabin to Remain Park Shelter," Telegraph-Herald, April 19, 1962, p. 11

8. Thompson, Dave. "Park Board Cool to Log Cabin Plan," Telegraph Herald, March 11, 1963, p. 32. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=bhJRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=I8sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5880,1380607&dq=history+of+eagle+point+park+dubuque&hl=en

9. "Log Cabin Gets a Ride," Telegraph Herald, June 4, 1965, p. 17

10. "Historical Facelift," Telegraph Herald, October 17, 2020, p. 1A