During the early to mid-1800s, the Mississippi River and railroads through Dubuque played a significant role in the western expansion of the United States. So it's always been intriguing to learn how the City's architecture ties into the area's dynamic past.

Dubuque's rich and storied past can undoubtedly capture the imagination. Whether it's Native Americans who first settled the area along the upper Mississippi or the earliest European settlers seeking fortunes through lead mining, logging, and manufacturing, this old river town has a colorful cast of characters worth studying.

Dubuque's Architectural Significance

The Langworthy Home also known as the Octagon House. Photo Credit: Keith B.
The Langworthy Home is also known as the Octagon House. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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One doesn't have to dig too deep to uncover the rich history of Iowa's first City and perhaps the most prominent Mississippi River port between St. Louis, MO, and St. Paul, MN.

The Octagon House, located at 1095 West 3rd St., is a prime example of how Dubuque's unique history connects to significant architectural contributions.

Langworthy Home. Photo Credit: Keith B.
Langworthy Home. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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Officially known as the Langworthy House, the impressive eight-sided home was constructed in 1856 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

The Octagon House, Dubuque, Iowa. Photo Credit: Keith B.
The Octagon House, Dubuque, Iowa. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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Edward Langworthy and his three brothers were among the first settlers to Dubuque and made their fortune in lead mining and real estate, and they even owned a steamboat. So, they made a considerable contribution to Iowa's Key City.

Dubuque City Hall. Photo Credit: Keith B.
Dubuque City Hall. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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Another exciting tidbit learned was that the Langworthy home's architect, John F. Rague, relocated from New York City to Springfield, IL. He befriended Abraham Lincoln and began making significant contributions to midwestern architecture. Rague became quite influential in designing several prominent public buildings in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Rague's Architectural Impact on Dubuque

Original County Jail, Dubuque, Iowa. Photo Credit: Keith B.
Original County Jail, Dubuque, Iowa. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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After designing several historic buildings at the University of Wisconsin, Rague moved to Dubuque in 1854. His designs include some of Dubuque's most treasured landmark buildings, including City Hall, the Old County Jail, the Mathias Ham House, and the Langworthy Home.

Additionally, Rague designed the Old Capitol, located at the heart of the University of Iowa campus. Additionally, Rague designed the Old Capitol of Illinois.

The Old Capitol. University of Iowa Campus. Photo Credit: Keith B.
The Old Capitol. University of Iowa Campus. Photo Credit: Keith B.
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About the author: Keith Breitbach is the host of the Good Morning Rodeo from 5 am to 10 am weekdays on 103.3 WJOD - A Townsquare Media Station. Breitbach is a fifth-generation native of Dubuque County. He enjoys exploring river towns and sharing the history and current events of the tri-states, including Eastern Iowa, Southwest Wisconsin, and Northeast Illinois.

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