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13th and Locust

WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Westminster celebrated its 150th birthday in 2000. Quoting from "Some outstanding particulars of the first hundred years" written for the centennial celebration for Westminster in 1950 a church historian stated: "Two streams of church history converged into the history of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Dubuque. The first began as a trickle on July 14, 1850, when twenty pioneers - six men and fourteen women - were organized into the FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. The other, a small spring, started to flow on August 26, 1855 when seventeen persons - seven men and ten women - were formed into a SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. The two streams became one on December 31, 1903."

First Church met in a public hall and court house, and in 1852 erected a small building at 12th and Main. Second Church held service for almost a year in the Methodist and Congregational buildings. A brick building was erected at 13th and Locust and dedicated in 1859, shortly before the CIVIL WAR. Only the first floor was finished. The sanctuary was completed in 1869.

In the fall of 1903 negotiations for the merger of the two churches began. The merger was completed by December 31, 1903. Westminster's Presbyterian Church began with a prayer meeting on New Year's morning, 1904, at 8:00 a.m. in the building of the former Second Presbyterian Church at 13th and Locust.

During the next fifty-five years, through two World Wars and a depression, Westminster had its ups and downs. The "Park Hill Mission," now Third Presbyterian Church in north Dubuque was established. The GREAT DEPRESSION made financial operation increasingly difficult. The history states that in 1943 Dr. Carriel resigned ending the church's longest pastorate of 15 years. Since that time Gaylord M. COUCHMAN served 10 years, Dick Heydinger 15 years, Ken Hindman 24 years, and Jeff Goldsmith 8 years. Tom Young became the senor pastor in 2005.

13th and Locust

By the early 1950s the congregation had outgrown the building at 13th and Locust and needed to decide whether to expand at a downtown location or to move to a new location. After a study conducted by a national church consultant it was determined to move to the hill. The consultant stressed that a "downtown" church in moving should locate, if possible, at the intersection to two main streets. It was also hoped that a location near the University of Dubuque could be found.

The fates or predestination intervened and at that moment the Dubuque Community School Board moved Irving School, and the old school site became available. The committee was authorized to bid on the vacated site and was the successful bidder. The church then bought the store on the corner (a University student "hang out" called "The Goats") and an old frame apartment building next door. Later the next house on Loras was purchased and given to the church for additional parking area. Property cost totaled almost $90,000, considered rather astronomical at the time since buildings located on the site had to be demolished and a new church built.


Similar to the Second Presbyterian Church 1859 project down at 13th and Locust which involved building the first floor and then 10 years later the sanctuary, Westminster on the hill involved building the church school and fellowship hall first (dedicated in September, 1958) with the congregation holding worship services in the fellowship hall for six years until the sanctuary was completed and dedicated on September 13, 1964.

The old building at 13th and Locust stood abandoned and became a popular place for youth to use as a "hideout." Many times they climbed to the steeple and rang the bell. The building was destroyed by fire in June, 1966. (1)

The 1987 Dubuque City Directory listed 2155 University.



1. Davis, Mary Rae, "Vacant Church That Burned Called 'Youngster Hangout," Telegraph-Herald, June 21, 1966, p. 1

(Information was received from a compilation of history by Wayne A. Norman)