Dubuque’s Cable Car Climb is a Fun Time
For Dubuquers, one sure sign of spring is the opening of the Fenelon Place Elevator on April 1. Also locally known locally as the Fourth Street Elevator, the cable cars moving up and down Dubuque's steep bluff signal the summer season is coming soon.
The historic landmark has been carrying the public up and down Dubuque's bluff since 1893. Legend has it an earlier version was built by local banker and former state senator J.K. Graves, who sought a faster way to get up the hill to enjoy his lunch and nap before returning to work in the bustling downtown.
By 1893 new technology introduced the counterbalancing cable car technology to open the elevator to the public for rides up the 296-foot climb to the top of the bluff. The steel cables support 10K lbs and get replaced every 15 years.
Prices today are a bit higher than in the good old days, but these increases have typically occurred just once a decade or so and remain an inexpensive price to experience a piece of history.
One of four full-time funicular operators, Mary Beck, was excited to share that ridership is already picking up. Before the pandemic, weekends would have hundreds of riders enjoying this short climb to one of the best views of the Tri-States.
Visitors from around the US and the world love the treasured Dubuque landmark. This family was visiting from Thailand and needed some reassurance that most Dubuquers have more modern forms of transportation.
The Fenelon Place Elevator opened on April 1 and will operate seven days per week through the summer and fall.
The views at the top are always spectacular even on cloudy spring days.
WIth several renovated buildings, Dubuque's downtown revival is looking as good as ever with the Ice Harbor developments also creating a vibrant destination riverfront.
Dubuque's Iconic Julien Dubuque Bridge, and landmark Cathedral steeple maintain a strong presence in the city where Iowa started.
If you've not ridden the elevator lately or ever, be sure to visit soon. Especially when the weather turns warmer and brings green leaves on the trees and boats to the river. We'll be returning for updates and more colorful pictures in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Official Address: 512 Fenelon Pl. Dubuque, IA 52001. Additional access is at W. 4th and Bluff St. at Cable Car Square.