Shot Tower (Dubuque)

Coordinates: 42°30′00.3″N 90°39′14.4″W / 42.500083°N 90.654000°W / 42.500083; -90.654000
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George W. Rogers Company Shot Tower
The tower in 2021
Shot Tower (Dubuque) is located in Iowa
Shot Tower (Dubuque)
Shot Tower (Dubuque) is located in the United States
Shot Tower (Dubuque)
LocationCommercial St. and River Front, Dubuque, Iowa
Coordinates42°30′00.3″N 90°39′14.4″W / 42.500083°N 90.654000°W / 42.500083; -90.654000
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectC. H. Rogers & Co.
Architectural styleMid-19th century Exotic Revival
NRHP reference No.76000767[1]
Added to NRHPNovember 07, 1976

The Shot Tower located in Dubuque, Iowa, is one of the last remaining shot towers in the United States. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and remains a recognized symbol of the city. At its location near the Mississippi River, the Tower can be seen from the riverwalk and is currently undergoing extensive renovations. It stands 120 feet 5 inches (36.70 m) tall.


Dubuque in 1865, the shot tower can be seen on the far right edge.
Bridges on the Mississippi, at Dubuque, an 1872 wood engraving showing the tower in the center

The tower was built in 1856 to provide lead shot. The invention of the shot tower enabled economical production of many nearly perfect lead spheres of the right size to fit in a shot gun. To make the shot, molten lead was poured through a grate at the top of the tower. The droplets that fell from the grate were of relatively uniform size, and the fall provided enough time for the liquid-metal droplet to form into a sphere before landing in the water below. The water cooled the lead to its solid state, retaining the spherical shape.[2]

The shot tower struggled almost immediately due to economic downturn from the Panic of 1857. A St. Louis company, Chadbourne & Co., purchased the Dubuque tower, but did not use it. After the war, the Standard Lumber Company used it as a fire watchtower.[3]

The tower was abandoned after a series of fires in 1911 destroyed the local lumber industry and damaged the tower's wooden interior. The fire was determined to be arson, but no one was ever arrested. In 1976, the tower was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Tuckpointing and repairs soon followed, and in 2004, the Shot Tower became part of ongoing riverfront renovations.[4]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Brick, Greg A. (2004). Iowa Underground: A Guide to the State's Subterranean Treasures. Trails Books. p. 112. ISBN 978-1931599399.
  3. ^ State of Wisconsin 1989-1990 Blue Book. Madison, WI: Department of Administration, Document Sales. 1989. p. 234.
  4. ^ "Shot Tower". City of Dubuque. Retrieved 21 January 2010.

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