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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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Corner posts have been said to resemble Union general and later President U.S. Grant.

RYAN HOUSE. This elegant SECOND EMPIRE ARCHITECTURE style house was built by William Andrew and later finished by John THOMPSON, mayor of Dubuque and a leather merchant. The architect was Fridolin HEER.

William A. RYAN purchased the home for his second wife, Catherine, and their six children. He often used the home for entertaining. The posts for the fence are said to contain the likeness of U.S. Grant, leader of Union forces during the CIVIL WAR, who purchased pork from his Dubuque friend who had the nickname, "Hog" Ryan.

To separate his second family from his first, Ryan erected a wooden fence between this home and his original home on the corner of Locust and Loras. This failed to accomplish its task of separating his two families. He then had the three-story home containing thirty rooms moved thirteen feet south to separate his second family from the children of his first family. Evidence of this relocation can be found in the basement. The newer foundation can be seen along with stone from the original foundation attached to the home and rocks used for filling the gaps located between.

When Thompson purchased the property, he hired M. D. Flavin of the Chicago Manufacturing Company to provide marble fixtures for the home. The marble mantel was furnished for $650 while one for the library featuring an image of Thompson's daughter cost $350. The dining room mantel of dark brown mottled Vermont marble cost $100. (1) The late Robert A Sullivan had the home restored and later sold it to the RYAN HOUSE BUILDING COMPANY. (2)

Souvenir matches from the Ryan House.

The Ryan House was operated as a restaurant beginning in 1971. The Caterers, Inc. leased it beginning in 1993. In 1980 announcements were made for a planned $130,000 expansion into a 160-seat restaurant. (3) A ten-car parking lot would replace an old garage. A one-story addition to the rear of the house would provide a new kitchen. The previous kitchen would be converted into a bake shop. Plans for a waiting room and lounge, announced in 1979, were temporarily halted.

The home was known as one of the finest restaurants in Dubuque serving lunch and dinner. It was also used in dinner theater productions featuring local talent. With plans to attract bus tours and local organizations, the programs were offered for $32 per person with a champagne and wine reception and a four-course gourmet meal. (4)

In 1995 the announcement was made that the Ryan House would become a property of the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY as a gift. At the time the building was owned by the Ryan House Building Company which estimated the home and its contents including furniture, portraits, and other furnishing having an estimated value in excess of $300,000. (5) It was used along with the HAM HOUSE and the REDSTONE (THE) for progressive dinners at holiday times.

In 1997 the Ryan House was one of five historic homes in Dubuque which were the local focus of "National Preservation Week." Each home was opened to visitors to see the preservation work being undertaken. This seemed especially appropriate in Dubuque which had over 700 homes within its five historic districts. The fair included free hour-long workshops on eight preservation topics. (6)

The home was sold in 2009 to Alfred Kopcyk who was obligated to make certain improvements on the house as well as not remove anything. The first two years he reported working on the interior replacing gas and electrical systems. The third year was to be focused on exterior work.



1. "Some Fancy Marbles," Dubuque Herald, May 28, 1874, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?

2. Bergstrom, Kathy, "Owners Donate Ryan House to the Historical Society," Telegraph Herald, Dec. 27, 1995, p. 3

3. "Ryan House Plans $130,000 Expansion," Telegraph Herald, January 9, 1980, p. 5

4. Blocker, Sue, "It's Killing," Telegraph Herald, February 7, 1988, p. 24

5. Bergstrom

6. Glindinning, Mary, "Home Work," Telegraph Herald, May 9, 1997, p. 14