A Project by Tim Olson
Continuing through 2015
The factories in Dubuque’s Millwork District were once the largest producers of windows, doors, blinds, and millwork in the nation. But by the 1960s, the millwork industry in Dubuque had begun a slow decline. Farley & Loetscher, a company that had once employed over 1,200 people and had a complex of buildings covering five city blocks, closed down in 1962. Caradco (known as Carr, Adams & Collier before 1958) had grown up along side Farley & Loetscher and continued to thrive until it was sold in 1968. The factory was finally closed and moved from Dubuque in 1976. A few other millwork companies occupied the buildings left behind by Farley & Loetscher and Caradco; but now they are gone as well. Jeld-Wen, the last millwork company in the district, closed its Dubuque plant in 2014.
In 2014, Tim Olson photographed and interviewed over forty men and women who once worked at Caradco, Farley & Loetscher, Jeld-Wen, and a few other businesses in the Millwork District. The photographs were taken with an 8 x 10 Ansco studio camera from the 1930s. This camera can be a cumbersome contraption to operate, with its squeaking cranks and levers, and older lens that require long exposure times. But, for Tim, the resulting photographs have a formal and objective look that places the subjects in a somewhat indefinable, “past and present,” time frame. The interviews, for the most part, were recorded during the photo sessions, and then later edited for space and clarity.
Support for this project was provided by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support came from Gronen Restoration/Properties and the Center for Dubuque History at Loras College. All of the archival material used in the book and exhibit, unless otherwise noted, comes from the collections at the Center for Dubuque History.
Tim Olson was born in Marathon, Iowa in 1962. He studied photography and painting at Bemidji State University 1980-82, the University of Iowa 1982-84, and Loras College 2002-03. For many years he worked as a printer and technician in Chicago photography studios. In 2012 he completed the City at Work photography project and in 2013 he created a 110 foot panoramic group portrait of 600 people in Dubuque, Iowa. He has exhibited his work throughout the United States. He lives in Dubuque with his wife and two children.