About Our City
East Dubuque is a small city located in Jo Daviess County, Illinois situated on the Mississippi River across from Dubuque, Iowa. Population: 1,704 according to the 2010 census and are steadily increasing our area. We’re looking for ways to make this site more useful to our citizens and visitors. The main roads in East Dubuque are US Highway 20(Wall Street) and Sinsinawa Avenue. The Julien Dubuque Bridge serves as our connection to Dubuque.
East Dubuque, peacefully situated between the Mississippi River and the surrounding high bluffs, boasts a fascinating and exciting history.Fascinating because of the prehistoric cultures, the more recent Native Americans, the French explorers, the early settlers, the land speculators, the ferryboat kings, the railroad tycoons, the bridge builders and the slaves. Exciting because of Prohibition, speakeasies, the “Strip,” Al Capone and whiskey stills in the hill, thus, at one time, giving East Dubuque the name “Sin City”.
The French explorer Nicholas Perrot (17th century), Julien Dubuque and Stephen Dubois (1787) were the first known settlers. By 1832, at what is still called Frentress Lake, Eleazer and Diadamia Frentress became the first white couple to farm the prairie. In the same year the Reverends Crummer and James established the first preaching services in a plank schoolhouse on the Frentress property.
Originally named Dunleith after a Scottish village, the little river settlement quickly prospered. The name was changed to East Dubuque in 1877 and the railroad soon brought land speculators, hotelkeepers and ferry operators. Captain Merry built the legendary Merry Building located on Sinsinawa Avenue and became very successful ferrying people and cargo across the Mississippi River. The building also served as a stop on the underground railway for slaves. In 1868 the railroad tunnel and bridge, still in use, ended the lucrative passenger and hotel trade. By 1887 the Old High Street foot and wagon bridge was built parallel to the railroad bridge. Then, in 1943 the beautiful Julien Dubuque Bridge was completed and at 7,392 feet is still one of the longest tied arch and cantilevered spans ever built.
Despite national Prohibition East Dubuque remained “wet” until 1919. Local taletellers say thirsty Iowans bought their liquor here and trundled it across the footbridge in baby buggies, etc. The night that Prohibition became Federal law, and padlocks went up on the taverns, thousands of Tri-staters rioted through the streets. Many local residents hid in basements and cornfields. Soon speakeasies and gambling appeared. Whiskey stills dotted the countryside. Al Capone and other “outstanding” citizens were said to be involved. When most people think of East Dubuque, they think of the downtown “strip,” with its nightclubs and neighborhood bars. But if you don’t look around the residential areas, you’ll miss the true flavor of East Dubuque. From Sinsinawa Avenue, which is the main downtown street, take a right onto Montgomery Avenue and head up the hill. Then wander around the old neighborhoods. You’ll be surprised by how picturesque East Dubuque really is. While you’re roaming around, look up Gramercy Park, East Dubuque’s answer to Dubuque’s Eagle Point Park. Take a left from Montgomery Avenue onto Beecher Street. You can explore and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River. Having served as an Indian burial ground dating back to 200 to 500 A.D., the park is full of history. In 1857 anthropologists unearthed many human bones and artifacts in the many burial mounds located high on the bluff in Gramercy Park. The park itself was constructed during the 1930’s as a Works Progress Administration project.