Forgotten 11th Street Elevator
In Iowa, United States
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Many people are familiar with Dubuque’s famous 4th street Fenelon Place elevator, but few know that a similar one also existed on 11th street. The walk to this cache will take you through a limestone tunnel and pop you into the middle of a historical neighborhood with several Victorian mansions and an important piece of Dubuque’s history. You will be rewarded with a scenic view as well. See below for other details of the cache and the location.
Parking is available at N 42°30.156' W 090° 40.224’ (corner 11th st. and Bluff st.) in the public metered lot next to the steps and across from the library. The cache is located on public property. This is a small 3x6x1 inch container with a logbook and a couple of FTF dollars. Please make sure the container is securely placed back in its location.
The 11th street elevator was actually a funicular cable car system used to navigate the steep hillside along Bluff Street. (See below for a description of a funicular system.) It operated at Eleventh Street from 1887 to 1929. This elevator was very similar in design to the 4th Street Elevator that is open to the public and is still in operation today. However, the 11st elevator was never as popular or as successful as the one at 4th Street. As the automobile gained in popularity, the elevator became much less of a daily necessity for the neighborhood, and it was eventually dismantled.
The primary structure remaining of the elevator is a massive limestone wall and tunnel that the elevator cars originally traveled through so horse traffic could cross the tracks on the street above. Today, the rails have been replaced with stairs. There is a small “park“ near the top that has been newly landscaped and includes a small monument with a brief history lesson. Awaiting you at the park is a bench to sit on and rest from your climb up the steps while enjoying a panoramic view of the city. I have placed a picture taken in 1899 of a view from the top of the elevator in the lid of the container. I think you will find it interesting to compare today’s view with that from over 100 years ago.
Please do not take the picture.
Note: See the photo links below this description to see how the elevator and wall/tunnel have changed throughout its lifetime.
Description of funicular street elevator system: This type of elevator, like the 11th and 4th street elevators, consists of two rail cars that always start at opposite ends of a hill and pass each other at the mid-point as they travel up and down the hill. The cars in the cable-driven railway are powered by an electric motor and winch in the station house at the top of the hill. The motor only needs to overcome friction, inertia, and compensate for the varying weight of the passengers in the cars. Because the cars counterbalance each other, the weight of the car going down the hill does much of the work and helps to pull the other car at the bottom up to the top.
- 1887 photo of original raised elevatorThe elevator originally rode on a raised track so horse traffic could pass under the rails.
- 1890s photo of wall/tunnel buildingIn the 1890s the tracks were lowered to ground level and a tunnel was constructed for the elevator so horse traffic could pass over the rails. In the background of this photo, you can see the wall and tunnel in mid-construction.
- 1915 photo of elevator with tunnel
- Postcard of elevator
Last Updated: on 3/31/2015 7:18:04 PM Pacific Daylight Time (2:18 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum