Let’s Walk — Downtown Dubuque

Dan FisherAround Town, Dubuque Bed + Breakfasts, Guest Homes, Inns, Explore, Family Fun, Heritage, Heritage + History, Summer, Tours, Uncategorized


Dubuque has seen many changes through the years, so let’s stroll Main Street and Bluff Street for a daytime walking tour.  A walking tour of Dubuque isn’t complete without a visit to Hotel Julien Dubuque, so let’s start there.  Next, go out the east side of the hotel where you’re viewing the Ice Harbor.  Here you’ll see the William M. Black steam dredge boat, used on the Missouri River during WWII.

From this perspective, proceed onto First Street and go west to Main. For the photographer in the group, there is a camera shop right there at the corner of First and Main.  For the shopper, there is a myriad of different shoe stores with diverse selection, such as moccasins, clogs and boots. Many of the shops on Main Street will hold items not found in traditional department stores. 

A must stop is at 137 Main St., a very historic building with a front window display to explain the history of the building.  This building was recognized for their historic rehabilitation by Downtown Dubuque, the city’s Main Street Program.

Enjoy the myriad of older buildings and their architectural styles. Dubuque is known to have 20 different architectural styles, starting from the stone buildings that the lead miners built, up to the more modern.  This is a great example of how each group that moved into Dubuque through the centuries changed the look of today’s Historic Dubuque. One of the styles is Steamboat Architecture, widely popular in New Orleans with homes that have front porches on both the first and second floors.

Continue up Main, all the way to Town Clock Plaza.  Many times of the year they will have concerts underneath the Clock Tower so maybe, just maybe you’ll come across live music during your stroll.

Notice the different styles of architecture and the ornate carvings atop most of the buildings, as you enjoy your walk down Main St Dubuque.

From Town Clock Plaza, go directly east on Seventh Street till you reach the Dubuque County Courthouse.  If it’s open, you should take in this working piece of history.  After the courthouse, head back up to Main and go north to the American Trust and Savings Bank building, another impressive display of the architecture of Dubuque

The tour follows all the way up to Eleven St, where we take a left and head up to Bluff Street.  At the corner of 11th and Bluff Streets we see the Carnegie-Stout Library, one of the 99 Carnegie Libraries in Iowa. Built in 1901, a peek inside might be worth it but let’s not get buried in a book today.

Once up to Eighth Street, look for the Telegraph Herald Building at 801 Bluff Street.  Step inside and you will get the feel of what it might’ve been like at a newspaper in decades gone by.  Next, our tour heads south on Bluff Street as we see more styles of architecture and many homes transformed into small shops.

As we come to Sixth Street, we see the historic Federal Building.  Its significance on our tour are the murals painted on the interior walls, so it might be best to try the front door.

Our walk from Eleventh to Fifth is peppered with different types of buildings, along with the historic Redstone Inn bed-and-breakfast.  Editor’s Note: For a listing of Dubuque’s Historic Properties and Districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, click HERE.

Fifth Street also has a walk up to the bluff, for those that are more ambitious on today’s walk. The walk south of Sixth Street on Bluff Street turns into many gift shops and galleries that all have an eclectic feel to them.  Might be time for a break to peruse the area’s shops.

Taking a right at Fourth Street brings us to the jewel of today’s walk, the Fenelon Place Elevator (aka Fourth Street Elevator) that diagonally traverses up the bluff side.  For three dollars you’re able to take the ride up the bluff and also learn the history of the why the elevator came to be.

We definitely recommend a ride up and down the Fenelon Place Elevator.  Time to get out the camera, as you will have views of downtown Dubuque, the Julien Dubuque Bridge, the gold leafs atop the County Courthouse, along with the riverfront and the Ice Harbor.

Coming back down the elevator we are greeted to an ice cream shop and different shops as we head back to Bluff Street.  Don’t be fooled by their location, as the Elevator attracts many visitors each year. Treasures to be found here.

Continue on Broad Street down to the Cathedral San Raphael at Second and Bluff. If you’re reading this in the year 2016 or 2041, the cathedral is opened up to the public once every 25 years, from 12 to 3 weekdays. It is well worth the stop and you may enter on the northwest corner of the building.  A visiting Deacon will be happy to answer any questions.

Continue down to Second Street, stopping for a photo op with the iconic Miracle Car Wash sign as your backdrop.  Head east, and we are back where we started, Hotel Julien Dubuque.  NOTE:  You will find much of the downtown Dubuque to be a Wi-Fi area, making referencing items on your phone convenient through the whole tour. 


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