Commercial & Industrial Buildings, Bishop's Block, 90 Main Street, Dubuque, Dubuque County, IA
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Significance: Born August 1825 in Limerick County, Ireland, John Hennessey came to the United States at the age of 22. He entered a Catholic seminary at Carndelet, near St. Louis and was ordained there in 1850. His first parish assignment was at New Madrid, Missouri, but because of poor health he returned to St. Louis after only four months. Hennessey was reassigned to the Carondelet Seminary as a professor of dogmatic theology and ecclesiastical history. After ascending to the presidency of the college, he served in the Vatican, St. Louis and St. Joseph, Missouri, before being consecrated as Dubuque's third bishop in 1866. Hennessey immediately began expanding the church's already strong influence in Iowa, building new schools, churches and convents in the larger cities and more than doubling the number of priests in the state. Additionally, he established Mercy Hospital (1868) in Davenport, created a classical school and re-established the Diocesan Seminary (1873), idle since 1855. Strong-willed, aggressive and oratorically gifted, Hennessey was named Dubuque's first Archbishop in 1893. In addition to his ecclesiastical role in the community, Hennessey was an astute businessman, entering into a variety of speculative real estate and business ventures. He was "a good orator, a man of zeal and firm judgment," one local newspaper stated, "and deservedly holds a high reputation for managing both spiritual and temporal affairs." By the time of his death in March 1900, Hennessey had bought or built dozens of structures around Dubuque. He listed numerous properties in the city among his estimated $1 million worth of assets, including: the Bishop's Block, four brick buildings on Bluff Street, a brick tenement on Locust Street, the Board of Trade Building, a 222-acre farm near Epworth and numerous undeveloped lots, plus stock holdings in the Julien House Hotel, the Dubuque High Bridge, First National, Second National, Dubuque National and German banks. As the largest of these, the Bishop's Block is thus historically significant in its association with this influential Dubuque religious leader and as the place of business for three of the city's important early wholesale grocers. It is architecturally significant as a high-style example of the commercial architecture of the market district on Dubuque's lower Main Street - a prominent visual landmark in the city.
Survey number: HABS IA-160-BA
Building/structure dates: 1887 Initial Construction