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St. Mary’s Church stands at the corner of White and 15th Street, where its steeple has towered over Dubuque’s Washington Neighborhood for 150 years. The church was built to serve a prominently German Catholic population and for decades it was the physical, social and cultural center of a compact, working-class neighborhood. Millwork plants, furniture makers, foundries, the Dubuque Pack, and many other factories were within walking distance and jobs, though not always well paid, were at least easy to come by.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, following an economic downturn, most of the old factories along the river either closed or moved. With these closings, many Washington Neighborhood residents moved on as well. The new residents who took their place increasingly had little or no connection to St. Mary’s church or school. As a result, the congregation shrank. In 2002 St. Mary’s school closed and in 2010 the church followed.
What was once a white, predominately German Catholic neighborhood has today evolved into the most diverse neighborhood in Dubuque. As a low-income neighborhood, it has experienced its fair share of crime and absent landlords. This, coupled with lower achieving schools, has left the neighborhood with an image problem, setting it apart from the rest of the city.
This project is an attempt to document the architecture, history and the people connected with this neighborhood in transition. As St. Mary’s itself finds new life as an event center and community gathering space, the neighborhood surrounding it is also evolving, though its future is less certain. Multiple efforts are being made through public private partnerships to revitalize once thriving commercial areas and rehabilitate and restore historic homes that line its streets.
This project is a collaboration between Tim Olson, Steeple Square and Humanities Iowa, with additional support from the City of Dubuque Arts and Culture and Mediacom.
Tim Olson, 2017


Twenty Photographs of St. Mary’s

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Sister Mary Hauber 10/5/2016

Jim Long 10/13/2016

Marguerite Triervieler 10/13/2017

Mary Ann Fabricius 10/11/2016

Keith Bodley 10/19/2016

Phillip Lochner 10/24/2016

George Willging 10/19/2016


Alanda and Matt Gregory 10/29/2016


Father Gene Kutsch 11/3/2016

Allen Scheckel 10/24/2016

Betty Weiland 11/4/2016

Sister Carol Hoverman 10/11/2016

Rich Rossignol and Heidi Zull 11/5/2016

Laura Klavitter and Dominic Velando 11/12/2016

Sharon Williams-Trenholm 11/16/2016

Don Pfohl 11/16/2016

Willie Pledge and Jennifer Jenaman 3/24/2017

Michael Robertson and Natasha Warren 3/29/2017

Danielle Stowell 3/29/2017

Ali Levasseur, Shane Lenane and Jeronimo 3/30/2017

Tony Fernandez and Bear 4/9/2017

Rev. Stan Sampson 4/11/2017

Jean-Michel Choquet 4/10/2017

Easter service rehearsal at the Paradise Assembly of God Church

Marcus and Velinda Washington 4/11/2017

Mel Hendrickson 4/11/17

Carissa Sanchez 4/20/2017

Dave Young 4/21/2017

Keith and Edna Clark 4/24/2017

Max Smith and helper 4/23/2017

Sister Imogene Klein 4/27/2017

Yanni Karavergos and Nico 4/29/2017

Margie Williams and family 4/30/2017

Laura Menke 5/5/2017

Jim and Jill Long 10/13/2016

Bev Miller 5/5/2017


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