This photo of Dubuque’s City Hall building from circa 1890-1910 shows just how little it has changed over the years and reminds us that the Farmers’ Market has a very long history here. Shown in the photo is the Iowa Street (west) side of City Hall and appears to have people gathered for the Farmers’ Market, which has been located in the outdoor area surrounding City Hall since 1879. Originally established in the 1840s at Flat Iron Park, Dubuque’s market is the oldest farmers’ market in Iowa.
City Hall was designed to serve as a market on the street level. The first floor of the building was divided into stalls for use by vendors displaying their wares. The tall windows were constructed to allow wagons to back right up to the building for easy unloading. From 1858 to 1878, the farmers’ market was actually inside City Hall.
The current City Hall building in Dubuque was built in 1857-1858, replacing the original City Hall in a small building at the corner of Fifth and Locust Streets. The building was modeled after Faneuil Hall in Boston. Dubuque architect John Francis Rague designed the building and supervised its construction. Rague is also credited with several other notable Dubuque buildings, including the old jail, three schools, and several private homes.
The basement of City Hall was once used as a jail, was home to several saloons, and a storage location for city records. The second floor contained offices and meeting rooms, while originally the third floor was left mostly open. The third-floor space was used for everything from dances to an archery range to a bowling alley.