DUBUQUE, Iowa | Every loose brick in the former Dubuque Brewing & Malting building is a chunk of Dubuque history. The controversy surrounding the iconic structure at 30th and Jackson streets that also has housed H&W Trucking has waned, but the enchantment remains.
Jim Krueger told the Telegraph Herald he is keeping the building alive and, if not exactly well, operational. There is only so much one man can do, he said. The city has asked him to repair five sections of the roof, and he has completed two. He will fix the others in time. City Building Services Manager Rich Russell is confident he will.
"My pockets are only so big, and the city has been working with me," Krueger said. "A half-million bucks doesn't go very far these days. I think in my later years I might donate this to the city. I think the city of Dubuque could really do something with it."
Since Krueger took control of the property in 2005, the historic walls have served as a protective shell for the historic contents he stores inside.
Krueger proudly raises the overhead door and waits for a reaction to the stuff stored wall-to-wall. There's a 1935 Dodge. In another corner is a 1976 red, white and blue bicentennial van. Only 1,500 were made at the Lake Geneva, Wis., plant, he said. Surrounded by stuff, a 1956 Triumph barely attracts notice.
"Nobody has one of those," Krueger said. "If somebody wants it, I've got it, or I know where I can get it."
His philosophy is simple. The minute you get rid of something, somebody is on the phone looking for it.
"Happens every time," Krueger said.
Need a door for a '59 Thunderbird? How many?
Fenders, hoods, transmissions? Lawn mowers, skid loaders, welders, fork lifts? How about a shower stall or a set of barn door hinges? Krueger has it all and more, and claims to know the quantity and location of every part and piece.
"My computer is up here," Krueger said, pointing to his head. "I'm old school."
In 2005, the City Council quickly established a conservation district for the block the building occupies after learning that former investors planned to tear the structure down and sell the brick. The district requires any demolition be cleared by the Historic Preservation Commission. Fridolin Herr built the property. He also built the Ryan House, the Dubuque County Courthouse and the Basilica of St. Francis in Dyersville.
"Besides being a potentially beautiful structure, it also has a tie to a lot of people who have connections to it," City Council member Joyce Connors said. "Certainly we would like to see something done with it, but it's going to take a developer who is dedicated to putting a whole lot of money into restoring it. I'm not sure that's going to happen. In the meantime, we have tried to make sure it doesn't just get knocked down."
Herculean renovations in the Historic Millwork District give Connors hope that a similar undertaking will someday save the building and others in the North End she represents.
"I will never give up hope that will be the end story of the H&W building," Connors said. "It really takes a person of big vision, and if money were no object, boy could we get things done. But of course it always is the object and it seems things are at a standstill at this moment, but you never know where a possible answer might come from."
Connors is encouraged by renewed life at the Copper Kettle restaurant on the opposite corner of 30th and Jackson. She says the former Holy Ghost school and former convent also are available for major overhauls. Former investors backed out of a plan to renovate the school last year.
"Again, those are structures where you either do something with them or they can degrade the whole neighborhood," Connors said. "What they've done in the Millwork District shows us that where there is enough vision and insight and money and help they really can bring life back to those kinds of buildings."
Krueger's nickname is the Old Dinosaur, so he went to the courthouse and officially named his building Dinosaur Place. He hopes it is never relegated to the status of a sketch in an architectural design class.
"We have to preserve this building," he said. "There is a lot of history here."