With the completion of the new bridge, the Keokuk side of the old bridge was transformed into an
Bridge Observation Deck
The deck provides a wonderful view of the Mississippi River, Lock & Dam #19, the George M. Verity Museum and Victory Park.
This statue of Chief Kiyo' kaga, (one who moves about alert) 1788-1848, later known as Chief Keokuck, or Chief Keokuk stands in Rand Park, the front yard of the city named after him.
It is unclear why the city was named after a man who barely spent any of his life in the town named after him but one thing is clear, the town was christened with whiskey. The official naming of the town took place in 1834 in John Gaines' saloon. A decanter of whiskey was set on the bar and at Gaines' suggestion, all those present who wanted to name the settlement "Keokuk" were to step up to the bar and have a drink. The vote carried eight to one. The town when named contained one frame house and ten log cabins.
Kiyo' kaga was not a full blooded Indian, and was not in line to be the Chief that he later was acknowledged to be. His father was one-half French and one-half Indian. His mother was a full blooded Indian. If surnames were used as they are today, his last name would have been LaMott(e). According to the records, he was more of a politician than a brave leader.
The Keokuk National Cemetery located at 1701 J. Street is one of twelve original national cemeteries designated by the U.S. Congress. It is currently the final resting place for the remains of over 4,000 American soldiers. In 1997 the Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
During the Civil War, the presence of the College of Physicians and Surgeons caused the federal government to locate a military hospital in Estes House (formerly at 500 Main Street), and four other sites in Keokuk. The sick and wounded were transported to Keokuk hospitals by riverboats on the Mississippi River. Many soldiers, from the North and South, died and were buried in what became Iowa’s only National Cemetery.
The Veterans' Memorial dedicated on July 4, 2005 is a tribute to the men and and women who served with honor in the United States Armed Forces. This beautiful monument sets at the entrance of Oakland Cemetery, 18th and Carroll Streets in Keokuk.
Keokuk is home to the second largest water tower in the United States. It holds 4 million gallons of water and stands over 150 feet tall. The water tower is important for its industrial customers, aids the city in fire protection and is beneficial during power outages and disasters. The tower was installed 2011 at a cost of $7.2 million dollars.
Construction on U.S. Lock and Dam #19 began in 1910, and when completed in 1913, it was the largest electricity generating plant in the world. Photographer Herman Anschutz captured this historic endeavor on film. His photos are on exhibit at 429 Main St., Keokuk.
The locks are 1200 feet long and 110 feet wide, with a lift of over 38 feet and large enough to handle a full-length fleet of barges. Major commodities moved include grain, aggregate, petroleum, coal and chemicals. The present lock was put into operation in 1957 at a cost of $13.5 million dollars. It is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Power House and spillways (shown above) are owned and operated by AmerenUE, a privately owned utility company.
Samuel F. Miller House and Museum is located at 318 North 5th Street in Keokuk and is owned and operated by the Lee County Historical Society. The home was built by Samuel Freeman Miller in 1859 at a cost of $13,000. Miller was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and served until his death in 1890.
The museum is open Memorial Day through Labor Day 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday. Admission is $2.00.
The Grand Theatre was designed by Merle F. Baker and was constructed on the foundation of the Keokuk Opera House (Circa 1880) which burned in 1923. It was patterned after theaters in Chicago and was praised as one of the finest theaters in the country at the time.
Presently, The Grand Theatre is owned by the city of Keokuk and is used as a performing arts center. It is independently operated by the Grand Theatre Commission and used by various organizations.
The George M. Verity River Museum is located in Victory Park on the riverfront. The paddle boat was built in Dubuque, Iowa by the U.S. Government in 1927 to revive river transportation and move barges from St Louis to St. Paul. It was then known as the S.S. Thorpe. Armco Steel Corporation bought the boat in 1940 and put it into service on the Ohio River, renaming it after the founder of their company, George M. Verity. The George M. Verity was donated to the City of Keokuk in 1961 after being retired from service.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Memorial Day through Labor Day and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends only from April 1 to Memorial Day and Labor Day to October 31. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children ages 8-18, children 7 & under free.