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Loras College Campus aerial view of Keane Hall in the fall

Loras Campus Officially Registered as National Historic Place

Robert Waterbury

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The Loras College Historic District has been listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

“The designation as a National Historic Place is fitting for Iowa’s first college which happens to be located in Iowa’s key city” Loras College President Jim Collins (’84) said. “The College’s national prominence continues to grow. As much as we value such designations, we are especially proud of the alumni outcomes we continue to produce.”

Established in downtown Dubuque by Bishop Mathias Loras in 1839 as St. Raphael Seminary, Loras College moved to its current location at West 14th Street (now Loras Boulevard) and Henion Street in 1873. Loras College is the oldest college in Iowa, the sixth-oldest Catholic college or university in the United States and the oldest Catholic diocesan college in the United States as well as the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River.

The Loras College Historic District is located on approximately 60 acres of property northwest of the central business district of Dubuque. It encompasses all of the contiguous portions of the Loras College campus. The District is roughly divided between an upper campus (along Alta Vista Street and Loras Boulevard) and a lower campus (along Loras Boulevard between Walnut Street and Henion Street). The highest point of the District is at the southwest corner of the District at the corner of Loras Boulevard and Alta Vista Street. The District’s lowest point is at the southeast corner of the District at the intersection of Loras Boulevard and Henion Street.

The Loras College Historic District was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 12, 2020, after a multi-year effort to make it a reality. Michael Gibson (MA ’91), retired director of the Loras College Center for Dubuque History, and Kristin Anderson-Bricker, Ph.D., professor of history, guided the effort, with Loras students assisting in research that contributed to the application. Hannah Bernhard (’19) undertook an internship spending a year creating a timeline/information packet for every building.

Valorie Woerdehoff (’82), then director of foundation and government support, wrote a successful grant application in 2017 to the State Historical Society of Iowa that provided the resources to allow Loras to work with Heritage Works, Inc., of Dubuque, to craft the application.

“A listing on the National Register of Historic Places of the National Park Services publicly celebrates our rich history as one of the oldest colleges west of the Mississippi River as well as contributions to Catholic higher education in America,” Dr. Anderson-Bricker said.

While other colleges have sections of their campus registered as historical places, Loras joins Cornell College as only the second in Iowa to have the entire campus on the list.

“The Loras College Historic District is significant for its historical association with the development of higher education in Iowa and the Upper Midwest, as well as for comprising a significant collection of historic academic buildings with architectural styles that were popular over several eras of history,” Gibson explained.

The National Register of Historic Places is a list maintained by the National Park Service, which includes historical or archaeological properties including buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts, that are considered worthy of preservation because of their local, statewide and national significance. For more information about the National Register of Historic Places program administered by the National Park Service, visit nps.gov/nr.

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