Dubuque, Iowa Hosts Rededication Ceremony for Renovated Veterans Memorial Plaza

RDG’s design for the plaza establishes a unified memorial to create a place that honors all veterans.

The City of Dubuque unveiled the renovation of its Veterans Memorial Plaza in a rededication ceremony on May 30, 2021. Funded by the Dubuque Racing Association and designed by RDG Planning & Design, the memorial seeks to honor veterans by unifying and enhancing existing memorials. Located on Chaplain Schmitt Island, it was originally dedicated in 2009 and championed by Dubuque resident, Louis Kartman, a former U.S. Marine; renovation of the plaza began in spring 2020.

RDG’s design for the $3.2 million renovation creates a new memorial mall that is unified through the golden mean, a decorative concrete path that transforms into an elevated boardwalk and extends from the Veterans Memorial Plaza over the pond. As part of the renovation, existing components including donor pavers, memorials and the original helicopter installation were temporarily removed and preserved and then reinstalled in the final design.

A key element of the project includes Skyward, a spiraling sculpture designed and fabricated by the Art Studio at RDG. The 24-foot public art installation honors the late Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt, who died in Pearl Harbor while helping crew members escape the USS Oklahoma as it started to take on water. Visitors can experience Skyward while reading Edward Thomas’s poem “Rain,” which is etched on the inside and serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, the price of war and the many sacrifices of veterans both past and present. In addition, colorful lighting illuminates the piece at night, adding prominence to the memorial. 

Edward Thomas’s poem “Rain” serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, the price of war and the many sacrifices of veterans both past and present. Photo by John Hansen.

“Creating this art piece has been a truly humbling experience. Throughout the process, we had the privilege of meeting with local veterans’ groups, listening to their stories and experiences and gaining a deep understanding that helped ensure the sculpture was what it should be, a meaningful, contemplative space of solace and respect. We feel grateful for the chance to work with service members, as well as the City of Dubuque and our project partners to add to the experience of this tremendous memorial,” said RDG Partner Doug Adamson, PLA, ASLA.  

Working for the Dubuque Racing Association and its Island Task Force, RDG developed a placemaking and implementation plan designed to improve the overall riverfront on the island, enhance the overall experience, increase foot traffic and create a sense of place that celebrates the values of the community and honors veterans of the U.S. Armed Services. The RDG design team, which consisted of landscape architects, lighting designers, professional artists and graphic designers, led a four-month planning process that reviewed the existing master plan, received feedback from the task force, developed site-specific concepts, coordinated with the regulating authorities and developed an overall promotional document for the improvements.

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For all media inquiries please contact Erin Van Zee, RDG Communications Director at evanzee@rdgusa.com or call (402) 449-0898.

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