ICPC’s 2nd Preservation Destination (September 16 & 17, 2012, in Dubuque) is now history but much was learned and seen.
We had 25 interested persons this year which reached this year’s cap. However, conflicts of various kinds prevented some from coming. I encourage all members to consider attending although we may have to set an upper limit (for this year it was 25). Be sure to sign up early once the next one is posted!
Since Dubuque could be a longer drive for those from the western part of Iowa, a pre-tour experience was planned on Sunday night, Sept 16. Many chose to board at the Hotel Julien Dubuque within walking distance of many historic buildings, the river, and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. This historic hotel has undergone a $30 million interior and exterior renovation and compliments the extensive restoration of the town and our mission as an organization.
We had 12 members partake of 2 great experiences. From 5-6:30 was a tour of the Stout House, a private home of significant historical value. It is still in the restoration state so we saw some things in mid-stride (roof being replaced, for example). The current owners have invested over 15 years to restoring a red sandstone half-block structure with detailed and varied woodworking (the original builder owned a lumber company). Great pains have been taken to use the original when possible and period pieces when not. This includes the furniture and accessories inside as well. Its stained glass windows were beautiful.
Some of us ate that evening at the Star Brewery Restaurant in the old Star Brewery building. Part of the 1st floor houses displays of how the business worked and the tools of the trade. Beside this building is the Shot Tower which is the only shot tower west of the Mississippi River. It also has a unique restoration story recorded on signage at its base.
Then on Monday during the real Preservation Destination our full group arrived! From 9-10 we were given a tour by Michael Gibson, Director of the Center for Dubuque History, of his treasures. He has maintained and filed records that are very valuable to researchers and has a passion to get our youth involved in history. It is housed in the Loras College Library.
From 10-11 we were hosted by Heidi Pettitt at the Loras College Rare Book Room who graciously had samples of different century pieces for us to see and answered many questions. Seeing the storage and care of all these materials was very helpful to others who are looking for ideas of how to display and store their collections.
From 11-12 we saw another repurposed historic building. The Roshek building used to be a 9 story department store. The bottom floor has restaurants and shops and splendid display of the history of the Roshek building. It is tastefully blend of modern stores and classy history. The top floors are used for IBM bringing many jobs into the community.
After a lunch at the River’s Edge Café (inside the National Mississippi River Museum lobby), we were given a behind the scenes and on site display tour by John Sutter, Marketing Director, and both of the curator staff. Its unique blend of historic artifacts, live animals, and hands-on activities permits it to be accredited by the American Association of Museums — a distinction held by only 9 percent of American museums, as well as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in August 2002. It was also accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums in 2009. We learned of the challenges and advantages of such a large operation which has a significant growth in personnel over their peak attendance seasons. Not only does the curator staff care for the National Mississippi River Museum but also 2 other large museums in Dubuque that we didn’t have time to see in town.
We all came away feeling like we’d only see the tip of the iceberg about Dubuque and its place in our Iowa history. We gratefully thank our hosts who shared their expertise and time to help all of us learn from each other. A common thread from nearly everyone was a desire to come back on our own and discover the other parts we couldn’t cover in just one day.
~Donna Hoeksema, ICPC Board Member
Pictures coming soon!