Origins of Dubuque Senior High School

Dubuque Senior Yearbook Archives
An early view of Dubuque Senior High School

What makes Dubuque Senior High School what it is today? What was life like in Dubuque initially?  From the beginning, Dubuque was being carved into what we now call our home. Let’s dig into some history of Dubuque and its historical landmarks!

Dubuque Senior High School

Opening in 1858, Dubuque Senior is the oldest secondary school in Dubuque.  In the rise of the high school’s beginning years, classes took place on the third floor of a building on Central Avenue with 110 students enrolled to the high school. Though due to the Civil War and Economic depression, Senior High School closed its doors from 1859-1865.

Senior reopened their doors in 1866, offering a 3-year course to complete their high school careers. By 1877 the existing 3-year course changed to what is now four glorious years of high school.

In 1893 a proposal was presented for a new site on which to build a high school. Costing $75,000 for the site and construction of the new building. The then called Central High School had their doors open by 1895. This building was located at 15th and Locust streets and was Dubuque’s alternative school until Behr Funeral Home purchased it in 1983. In 1992 the building was demolished due to deterioration.

By 1920, a newer building was construction due to larger enrollment. By 1923 the new Dubuque Senior High School was ready for business.  The first-year enrollment hit 733 students.

Since the opening of Dubuque Senior high school back in 1923, there have been renovations to keep Senior undated and looking nice:

  • A technical room and gymnasium were added in
  • Additional classrooms and a library in 1965, and with increasing enrollment a three-story addition was added which created the enclosed courtyard.
  • In 1988 a new gymnasium was built and dedicated to James J. Nora to recognize his year as a teacher, coach, community leader and a role model to the students of the community.
  • 1990, A new cafeteria and library were built to replace the outdated one
  • Also added in 1990 were additional classrooms, a departmental learning center, and some computer labs.
  • In 2006, renovations began on the Lamb-Hedeman Auditorium adding a new lighting system, new seating, the balcony, a new stage floor, a new sound system, and the replenishment of the house.
  • In 2013 the renovation of Dalzell field was completed. The Project included and new turf field, new home and visitor bleachers and a new eight- lane track.
  • 2018, the newest renovations were complete presenting Dubuque Senior High School with a new entrance, commons area and office area, another new gymnasium, a completely new cafeteria, a new parking lot entrance, a new entrance near the band area, another elevator, and a Ram statue for the front of the school.

Even with all of these changes, the original 1923 building is still part of Dubuque Senior High School. Renovations have been done in such a way to preserve much of the original structure while meeting the needs of the roughly 1600 students who are currently enrolled.