Eagle Point Park Indian room

Indian Room WPA era Art and Building & Landscape Design
Dick Vorwald (2008)

This article contains references and reflections on the Prairie School inspired architecture of Alfred Caldwell and the Native American Folklore Artwork of Jo Dillon that are associated with the Indian Room. These were WPA sponsored projects completed at Eagle Point Park during the 1930's. This year is significant as the 75th Anniversary of the initiation of the depression-era WPA projects, the 175th Anniversary of the City of Dubuque and the 175th Anniversary of Blackhawk's Autobiography which describes the lives of local natives and their last efforts to retain that lifestyle.

Next May is the 100th Anniversary of the Park's opening. The Indian Room and other features of this beautiful park should be kept in mind for future OHE preservation awareness efforts.The Prairie School is characterized by a close relationship of building and landscape designs to the native landscape. Alfred Caldwell's Eagle Point designs are similar to his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin (ref. Wilkie's 'Dubuque on the Mississippi' pp. 424, 425). These designs could readily be adapted for backyard gardens.

At left is a photo of the painting of Chief Blackhawk that's on one of the panels of the Indian Room. Further information about local native people and white settlers can be found in Wilkie's 'Dubuque on the Mississippi', Chapters 2, 3, and 4.One of the best accounts of the lives and customs of local native people's is Chief Blackhawk's Autobiography.

On reflection, the WPA projects at Eagle Point created a legacy of beauty and usefulness that's been enjoyed for generations. The building and landscape design concept that's based on fitting materials into native surroundings matches well with the native people's concept of sustainability. The park's council rings are based on the council rings of native peoples; a concept Caldwell learned from another of his mentors, the famed landscape architect Jens Jensen.An interesting geographical connection between the park and native peoples:
Caldwell's photo of the Indian Room is in Montreal
Julien Dubuque came from the Montreal area
Blackhawk in his Autobiography mentions that his ancestors came from near Montreal. The Sauk and Mesquakie were part of the Algonquian Nation.
The folklore art mural shows faces from America's past; this artwork challenges us to work toward a deeper understanding of history.

 It's ironic that as the years have passed Chief Blackhawk has gained fame with counties, sports teams, colleges and other things named for him.

Looking at the painting of Chief Blackhawk one can almost hear his prayer for us from the introduction to his Autobiography:

"May the Great Spirit shed light on yours (paths), and that you may never experience the humiliation that the power of the American government has reduced me to, is the wish of him who, in his native forests, was once as proud as you."10th Moon 1833.