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Dubuque, Iowa

Union Park

The remains of a bustling turn-of-the-century park built to showcase the wonders of electricity.  

At the turn of the 20th century, a grand park was built in Dubuque, Iowa, and used as a way to show off electricity to the common man. Union Park was the hub of the area’s social life in the early 1900s, with pools, fountains, dance halls, band pavilions, a cave, and a wooden roller coaster, all illuminated by this modern invention.

The park changed owners a few times in the late 1800s, eventually falling into the hands of General Electric. The company spent the next 10 years turning the park into a beloved attraction showcasing the wonders of electric light. It built the roller coaster, added electric lights to the cave, and added the Mammoth Theater and pools. The park flourished.

In 1919, a storm and flood hit the area, killing several people and destroying much of the park’s infrastructure. It opened back up soon after, but its popularity diminished. A dance pavilion was built using the floor of the Mammoth Theater, and an Olympic-sized pool was added in 1923, but attendance never picked back up. Union Park limped on until finally closing in 1934.

Now only traces of its former glory are still visible: The overgrown remains of the theater walls, some paths and stairs, and the swimming pool foundation. The area is now a zip-line course owned and operated by the YMCA.

Know Before You Go

You can get a good view of the remnants from the zip-line installed in 2011. Tours are available.