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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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

STANDARD LUMBER COMPANY. Considered the largest lumber mill on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. The Standard Lumber Company was established around 1880 as the successor to several firms including Ingram, Kennedy and Day, founded in 1871, which had succeeded Rob and Day. Operated by Major William Harrison DAY, Sr., the company required enormous amounts of timber, drawing logs from as far away as the Canadian border. During its peak production, the mill stored as much as forty million feet of lumber. With the employment of four hundred men in Dubuque and another five hundred cutting timber, the annual payroll reached $250,000.

On Friday, May 26, 1911, the first of two disastrous fires started in the company's huge lumberyards. Nearby manufacturing shops sounded their whistles to warn people to leave for safety. Among the tragedies of that fire was the fire damage done to the historic SHOT TOWER. The fire, whipped by the wind around the tower, burned the interior wooden framework from the top of the tower downward, leaving a hollow shell. Investigation of the fire, which caused an estimated $300,000 in damage, uncovered oil-soaked rags that had been shoved between boards in several piles of white pine lumber throughout the lumberyard. Between five and seven blocks of finished lumber were destroyed.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

A second fire struck the company late in the afternoon on Sunday, May 28th. Sounds of the whistles and alarms brought huge crowds of curious people, including people from miles away who were drawn by the towering flames shooting into the sky. Bucket brigades were formed to save neighboring properties.

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The second blaze caused an additional $350,000 in damage. The lumberyard went out of business from the losses involved with the fire and the declining amount of timber available after 1910 from Wisconsin forests. In addition, the Conlin and Kearns ICE House was destroyed along with the ice house belonging to the DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY.

Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque

A reward of five thousand dollars, never collected, was offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible. The little lumber left after the fires was sold to H. H. McCarthy who used it to form a chain of retail yards known as the CENTRAL LUMBER AND COAL COMPANY. In 1920 this company was purchased by the Pyramid Lumber Company that was later purchased by MIDWEST LUMBER COMPANY.