Little Known Treasures:
The John Deere Homes
By: Linda HeyerDubuque is well-known for its historical architecture in and around the downtown area. Many of its buildings and neighborhoods have even earned national recognition with the National Register of Historic Places. But as with many historic areas, there are also little-known pieces of Dubuque's historic heritage that have been over-shadowed by the mansions, breweries, and towering landmarks. One of these treasures, nestled within the modern-day triangle of Carter, Asbury, and Hillcrest Roads, is the 1940s Hillcrest Housing Development.
From 1947-1948, the Iowa Improvement Company of Waterloo, IA, jointly with E.B. Matthewson Company Engineers of Chicago, IL, created a unique housing development to accommodate the influx of John Deere workers to the new Dubuque plant, opened in 1946. The development marked the first project city officials allowed to be built outside the city limits.
By September 11, 1947, the Hillcrest Housing Development contained roughly a dozen finished units of the 110 dwellings due by mid-February 1948, including 95 two or three-bedroom houses and 15 one or two-bedroom duplexes. The small but charming single-story homes were built on present-day Morningside, Broadlawn, and Avalon Streets. Each had a similar style, with eight-inch thick cement exterior walls, red brick facades, and metal window casings and frames. All floors consisted of asphalt tile squares over a cement slab.
The homes were occupied as quickly as they were built. Only veteran John Deere workers transferred from the Moline or Waterloo plants and commuting to Dubuque were eligible to purchase and occupy the homes.Most of the homes still remain, but have undergone extensive remodeling and/or additions. Jim Jacobson has recommended an intensive survey of this housing project and its consideration as an historic subdivision.