The UU Fellowship of Dubuque is a small, primarily lay-led congregation with a 35-year history of actively working to create a more just, equitable, compassionate world. Our church is the only one in Dubuque, Iowa in the Carpenter Gothic style, distinguished by its pointed arch windows, steep-pitched roofs, and decorative wood millwork – familiar architectural features in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting.
Recently, our building caught the eye of historic preservationists, including one who saw an old photo of the belfry and offered to help pay for its restoration. With the help of the wider community – we can bring this charming building back to its original spirit and beauty.
The church exterior will be restored – including replication of the belfry, which was removed about 70 years ago. The limestone block foundation and basement walls will be reinforced, exterior masonry will be cleaned, repaired and repointed.
Entrance doors and entryway transoms will be repaired and restored. Exterior wood surfaces will be repaired and repainted. Wood shingles on the walls and the current roof will be replaced. A drop ceiling will be removed to uncover the vaulted ceiling and pointed arch windows.
In addition, we currently do not have an elevator to access the lower level of the building, and the existing staircase is narrow and uneven – so the lower level is unusable for most events. We look forward to installing a lift, which will double our usable space.
Investing in Our Community
We are not only restoring the bricks and mortar of this building, we’re renewing our commitment to serve as a resource to Dubuque – opening our doors even wider for community events and conversations. We invite speakers from area nonprofits, businesses, organizations and other religious traditions – Hope House, Temple Beth El, Path of Hope Immigration Services, Resources Unite, Tri-State Islamic Center, Dubuque Rescue Mission, Presentation Lantern Center, and Catholic Charities Jail & Prison Ministry – to present at services.
We host the Historic District Coffeehouse, giving local musicians, poets and storytellers from Dubuque and Tri-State region a platform for sharing their talents with an appreciative audience. People from the neighborhood join us as performers and audience members.
We make our parsonage available to Families First, a state-sponsored organization that provides a home-like setting for supervised visits uniting parents and children separated by the courts – helping restore family unity. Many families are from the Jackson Park neighborhood.
The total estimated cost for the restoration project is $1.5 million: $465,000 to replicate the belfry; $410,000 to restore the exterior; $625,000 to renovate the interior. We have generous donors who will match $2 for every $1 we raise – and for every firm pledge we receive – through December 31. This triples the impact of donations! Our application for $300,000 in historic tax credits is under review. With over $60,000 in pledges already in-hand – we need to raise $140,000. We aim to raise $3,500 through Faithify, which with the 2:1 match will equate to $10,500!
Our goals for this project are to increase our visibility to our community, to rededicate and invigorate our membership’s commitment to neighborhood service, and to increase the functionality of our building to enable us to live our mission: to provide a welcoming community that inspires growth by encouraging individuals and families to examine their religious and spiritual beliefs, to explore new ideas, and to respect and enjoy each other’s differences.