Iowa’s oldest town once got its start as a tiny fur trading stop in the sparsely populated “wild west” – west of the Mississippi, that is. This beautiful, charming and historic city is one of the best places to visit in the entire Hawkeye state, and it’s the oldest place in Iowa. Plan a trip after you learn a little more about this amazing city.
The town of Dubuque, Iowa was one of the very first settlements west of the Mississippi.
Julien Dubuque was the first European to settle on Iowa soil when he established his fur trading location in 1788. He worked hand in hand with the local Native Americans from the Mesquakie tribe, who had begun to settle in Iowa in the early 1800s, after violent clashes with the French in Canada and Wisconsin. Less than a decade after Dubuque made his home here, he received a land grant from the Governor of Spain. The land nearby was owned by Spain, but now, he had permission to mine and develop the area that is present-day Dubuque.
The 189-square mile area that was granted to Juilen Dubuque was named named the "Mines of Spain," to honor the landowner.
At the time, lead mining was a big part of the local economy, and the Mesquakie tribe assisted Dubuque in establishing a mining operation. Dubuque married Potosa, daughter of the Mesquakie Chief Peosta. Peosta and Dubuque were close friends.
Today, Julien Dubuque is buried by a large tower memorial within the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, and from here, you can see down to the Mississippi River and into the city of Dubuque.
When Julien Dubuque was exhumed, Chief Peosta was found buried with him. His remains were buried ina new grave near the Julien Dubuque memorial, on an overlook of the Mississippi just south of Dubuque.
The town of Dubuque has turned into one of the largest cities in Iowa, but it has kept its small town, historic feel.
Cathedral Square contains nearly 100 historic buildings, including St. Raphael Cathedra, many businesses, retail shops, and historic markers.
In Cable Car Square, you'll find plenty of shopping, as well as a unique ride to a scenic vista.
The shops in the upscale Cable Car Square feature fine jewelry, antiques, and top of the line clothing. Charming bed and breakfasts and art galleries are nearby, as well, to help you get a taste of what Iowan life is really like. The district is named for the 4th Street Elevator, which is the world's shortest and steepest scenic railway.
The other historic districts of town include Jackson Park, Langworthy and Old Main Districts.
Each historic part of Dubuque will make you feel like you've stepped back in time to early Iowan days - with, of course, a modern twist. You'll find both casual and fine dining restaurants, locally owned shops and national stores, boutiques, galleries, and so many more unique finds.
Life in Dubuque centers around the Mississippi River, and it's no surprise that the National Mississippi River museum is located here.
Enjoy their outdoor spring and summer programming along the river, or head inside on a rainy day to learn more about the history of the mighty Mississippi River. You can even take a riverboat tour on a historic boat that helped dredge the river - the William M. Black!
The oldest town in Iowa is one of the best places in the state, and it's so worth planning a spring trip.
You can find out more about Dubuque's historic districts
, so you can plan the best spot to stay on your little Iowa getaway.
Between the history, the restaurants, and the beautiful architecture, I think there’s no better place in the world than Dubuque, Iowa. Do you agree? If not, what’s your favorite Iowa town?
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