Posted by Ric Garrido

Hotel Julien Dubuque is a four-star hotel with an old history on the corner of Second and Main near the Mississippi River in Iowa’s oldest city. I had the opportunity to dine at Hotel Julien and photograph the Al Capone suite as part of a sponsored group tour for Dig In! Iowa, a three-night, four-day tour with an agricultural focus. By sponsored tour, I mean my meal was free and so was my hotel, however, I slept at the Holiday Inn two blocks from Hotel Julien Dubuque.

From my one hour walk around downtown Historic Main Dubuque on a Wednesday April night, the two blocks around Hotel Julien Dubuque were the nightlife hotspots with several restaurants and bars. Much of the old town and most of the bars were sleepy. There were an unusually high number of boutique coffee shops open after 8pm in downtown. Apparently Dubuque has a lot of college students.

Hotel Julien Dubuque has a history going back 175 years when Waples House opened in 1839 and was the first building seen in Dubuque when crossing the Mississippi River for the west. The name Julien House dates back to 1854 when the Waples House was enlarged and doubled in rooms. In following decades, the hotel became known as one of the grandest hotels in the midwest.

Julien House historic

Historic 19th century Julien House wall hanging seen in hotel entry. This hotel structure burned in 1913. The current building dates from 1915. In 2009, following a $30 million interior and exterior renovation, Hotel Julien Dubuque reopened.

Hotel Julien Dubuque

Hotel Julien Dubuque is currently listed as #2 of 28 hotels In Dubuque on TripAdvisor (behind Hampton Inn). In my brief time in Dubuque, the central location of Hotel Julien in historic Main Street/Port of Dubuque makes it the #1 hotel in my opinion. Hampton Inn is located in the newer big box retail and fast food suburban section of town. Hotel Julien Dubuque is a member of Stash Hotel Rewards, a hotel loyalty program for independent hotels.

Hotel Julien

Hotel Julien is named for Julien Dubuque, the first European settler in the area in 1785. Julien Dubuque, born in Quebec, was an early pioneer of the American frontier. Julien befriended the Meskwaki American Indians of the Fox tribe and operated a lead mine for the valuable commercial resource and received permission  for the venture in 1796 from the Spanish government, at a time when Spain was the controlling power of the region.

Bald eagles inhabit these parts and I had the good fortune to sight a bald eagle flying over the Mississippi River, quite close to Hotel Julien Dubuque. On my first day in Iowa there were two bald eaglets born April 2 and a third eaglet appeared yesterday when they emerged from their shells in nests shown on web cams in two different parts of the state near Davenport and Decorah.

Hotel Julien exterior

Hotel Julien Dubuque at dusk.

Julien Dubuque is said to have  married the local tribal leader’s daughter Potosi. Hotel Julien Dubuque houses the Potosi Spa.

The interior lobby of Hotel Julien Dubuque is a comfortable looking space. The bar had live music with a guitar player performing tunes that caught my attention to the extent that I had to check-out the scene.

Hotel Julien lobby-1

Hotel Julien Dubuque lobby.

There are cozy spaces in the lobby.

Lobby computer center

Hotel Julien Dubuque computer area and seating in lobby.

Hotel lobby seating

Fireplace and Main Street Dubuque window seating in hotel lobby.

Al Capone Connection

Dubuque folklore tells of Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone staying in and possibly even owning Hotel Julien. There are tales of Al Capone hiding out in the hotel and taking over the entire eighth floor with his crew. Supposedly there was an underground passageway for a quick getaway to his car in a garage across the street where Al Capone could escape if necessary.

The hotel website provides a history of evidence for the Al Capone Connection. The legend was incorporated into the redesign of the hotel with the second floor Al Capone Suite. (You’d think it would be the 8th floor.)

Capone Suite

The Capone Suite is a two bedroom, 2.5 bath suite with full kitchen, dining room and living room and even a bank safe door to the pantry.

The standard rate is $599 per night, but check rates carefully. The Capone Suite room rate for Sunday, April 6 was posted at $399 on Thursday evening and when I checked this morning, eight hours later, it had risen to $599.

Capone Suite entry-2

Capone Suite entry hall. Half bath is in entry hall.

Capone Suite kitchen

Kitchen with bank vault door to pantry on the left.

Capone Suite bank door

Diebold Safe & Lock Co. door is truly a vault door. I opened and closed the door and it is a workout to move the heavy metal door. The pantry was empty.

Capone Suite Key

An interesting side note to the Capone Suite is the room key is a throwback to older days with an actual key lock door. All other rooms at the hotel are key card locks.

capone living auite

Living room. TV on opposite wall.

Capone suite living room-3

The master bedroom with Mississippi River views has a spa tub in the main room.

Capone spa tub

Spa tub with view to the Julien Dubuque Bridge over the Mississippi River to Illinois.

Capone main bedroom

Capone Suite master bedroom.

Capone Suite bed2-2

Capone Suite second bedroom.

capone suite bed-2

Capone Suite second bedroom bathroom.

While the Capone Suite is a deluxe hotel room that may be beyond your needs, the regular rooms are as low as $80 per night.

The dinner was delicious by the way with salmon, mashed potatoes and asparagus with a berry sauce.

*****

A shout out for Burlington Trailways bus tour service who are transporting this travel group from Chicago around Iowa. There is wifi on the bus and power outlets that allowed me to write this post while on the road from Waterloo to Ames, Iowa.

5 Responses

  1. There are often specials for this hotel that bring the price of a nice suite down to about $99/night including money for breakfast. And they really clean the rooms – they called me when they found my keys in the corner of the closet where they had fallen out of my suitcase. And then they kept them safe for me until I could get back in town.

  2. Iowa folk are kind and honest in my experience this week. Today, I visited Cinnamon Ridge Farms in Iowa where they operate a roadside store on the honor system. There are fresh eggs, cheese, meats, breads and sweets in the store with no employee clerk. Simply stop by, pick up your food and deposit the money in a slot.

    There is a camera for those who take food without honoring the payment. Apparently it is not really a problem since most everyone pays the posted prices.

  3. Al Capone Suite?

    Perhaps this is a Four Scar hotel… :)

  4. “Apparently Dubuque has a lot of college students.”

    LOL, my husband went to college in Dubuque. (He’s from Iowa, I’m not.) I never expected to read about it on a travel blog. :) I’ve actually been to this hotel a couple of times for his college reunion parties.

  5. I would love to come visit your hotel one day. What a beautiful suite. It would be neat to see.

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