One of the best loved Dubuque Iowa attractions is the Fenelon Place Elevator (aka the 4th Street Elevator)! In this post I’ll share with you everything you need to know about visiting and the history of how this elevator came about!
Fenelon Place Elevator
Originally built in 1882, the Fenelon Place Elevator is the world’s shortest, steepest funicular railway. It started life as a way for a local man, Mr Graves, to get between his home, on top of the bluff and his place of work at the bottom, cutting out a journey that would usually take him 30 minutes. It was powered using a steam engine which pulled the car up the hill using rope. It first opened for public use in 1884. In 1893, a fire destroyed the elevator and Mr Graves couldn’t afford to rebuild it. 10 neighbours clubbed together to get it back up and running, the steam engine was replaced with a motor engine and steel cable instead of rope.
Visiting the Fourth Street Elevator
The cable car is ran from the top station, the bottom station is un-manned. There is a sign on the side, with the instructions to tell you what you need to do which I thought was really cute! If the little green and white wooden car is in the station, you let yourself in, sit down and pull the cable that signals to the top station that you’re ready to come up.
Part of the Fenelon Place Elevator’s charm, is how small it is. A lot of the other funiculars I’ve been on (such as those in Lisbon, Portugal) will cram the cars to the brim which can be a bit uncomfortable, especially if the weather is hot. The cars aren’t huge, they have 8 seats (4 on each side) but it can be a bit of a squash if there are several adults inside. You can also take a bicycle in the elevator too (for an small fee).
With an initial jolt, you rattle off up the track. Being the shortest funicular, the trip is obviously over pretty fast (but if you’re a geek like me, it’ll have you smiling the whole way up!).
The ride is paid for at the top station. There are some pictures showing the history of the elevator and a little bit of information about the Mississippi River, along with a viewing platform that looks out over Dubuque and the river. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historical Places!
There’s not a lot to do at the top, other than the viewing platform, as it just leads to a residential area. However, at the bottom is the Cable Car Square District which covers 4th Street and a section of Bluff Street. Here you’ll find several shops and cafes such as: Monks (cafe), Sweet Memories (ice cream and sweet shop), Calico Bean Market and Shamrock Imports. There’s also on street parking along 4th St or various parking lots within walking distance.
Vertical elevation: 98ft
Angle: 106 degrees
Cars on track: 2
Price & Opening Times
One Way/Round Trip
Child (5-12): $0.75/$1.50
Open: April 1st – November 30th
8am – 10pm
The Fenelon Place Elevator does shut for the winter season but it’s open every day between April and November. However it is decorated with Christmas lights during December and there is a Christmas event held each year where Santa and Mrs Claus come down the elevator and meet children in Cable Car Square!
Have you ever been on the Fenelon Place Elevator? I have loads of different posts about Dubuque if you are after more things to see and do, you can find them all by clicking on the Dubuque image below!
If you have any questions about Dubuque or the surrounding area, feel free to drop me a comment or send me a message and I’ll be happy to help!
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