History of the Facility
Convivium is located on North Jackson Street in Dubuque, Iowa. The facility is actually an old greenhouse complex. It was originally built in the late 1920s by the Muntz family and was known as Muntz Greenhouses until 1952. But the Muntz family had run a greenhouse on the property since 1909. There is evidence of the Muntz’s presence – the smokestack in the backlot of Convivium has the Muntz name embossed on the side.
In 1952 the Eimer family bought the greenhouses and built/lived in the house next door to the greenhouse, to the north. The house, which is not part of Conivivum today, was a Sears Catalog house, one of only a handful in Dubuque. Urban legend has it there that is a tunnel between the house and the greenhouse and perhaps even a buried treasure. We have found the tunnel, not the treasure. But one can hope!
Eimer’s ran the greenhouses until 1974, when the Hopper family took over. Many of our customers have stopped in to say they remember Hopper’s Greenhouse — they used to get their Easter lilies or poinsettias, or prom corsages here. After a hail storm caused major damage to the greenhouse in the 1990s, the Hopper family decided to close up shop.
“If you look on the smokestack in the backlot, you’ll see the Muntz name embossed on the side.”
The greenhouses then served for a while as River Valley Nursery, but after the death of the owner, the property fell into disrepair. It was sold at auction to a developer who had plans to build low income housing apartments on the property. Luckily for us, funding for the project never materialized and Mike and Leslie bought the property in October 2013 and starting putting together their plans.
That plan started by hiring an architect. It was going to take a special firm to take on a non-traditional project like this. Our ideas did not fit into any preconceived formula or traditional type of project. Mike and Leslie found their partner in Nick Carnahan, a principal at Gailbraith Carnahan Associates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carnahan had ties to the area and understood the ethos of the city, the neighborhood as well as Mike and Leslie’s passions and goals. After many meetings and a scouting field trip to Milwaukee, Carnahan and his team set about the design process. Check out the architectural renderings above.
“The second greenhouse will be refinished as a greenhouse and be home to a commercial hydroponics operation as well as an indoor permaculture orchard.”
There are two greenhouses on site, situated side-by-side, each about 5,600 square feet, plus an enclosed building of about 2,600 square feet. The idea was to take one of those greenhouses, plus the enclosed building and turn those into distinct areas that would help support our mission to create community around food.
The second greenhouse will be refinished as a greenhouse and be home to a commercial hydroponics operation as well as an indoor permaculture orchard.
The enclosed portion of Convivium is powered by 99 solar panels on the roof and heated and cooled through geo-thermal heat.
The coffee shop is located in the front retail space of the original greenhouse. The river sandstone face and green ceramic tile roof is original. Guests at the restaurant eat in the event space on handmade, communal tables. Mike crafted the tables from wood that he logged and milled many years ago. (He was waiting for the perfect project and this was it!)
The event space is roughly 2,500 square feet and has a capacity of 100. The area has wood burning fireplace and hand painted mural, as well as 14 handcrafted tables. In good weather, guests may also use the outdoor courtyard.
This is where we prepare the food that we serve in the restaurant. Windows allow our guests to see their food being prepared.
The Learning Center is used for all of our hands-on, get dirty type of classes, but is primarily built and a woodworking shop, with a strong emphasis on hand tools and traditional technique.
Convivium Urban Farmstead is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to create community around all aspects of food. Your patronage helps support our non-profit activities.