In 2004, Spencer’s downtown business district was placed
on the National Register of Historic Places, due in part to
the diligent work of Spencer's Historical Preservation
Commission. The Grand Avenue
Historic Commercial District is a five-block stretch of the
main street in Spencer’s central business district between
Third and Seventh Streets. It includes a total of 57 buildings, 39 which are considered
to be key or contributing to the historical significance of
the district. All
are commercial buildings except for The Hotel at the north
end. Fewer than a
dozen have residential units on the second floor.
Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District is locally
significant because it demonstrates the importance of
community planning in the development and rebuilding of the
central business district following a major fire in 1931.
It has statewide significance because the Spencer fire
of 1931 was directly responsible for the passage by the Iowa
Legislature in 1937 of a law banning the sale of fireworks in
the state of Iowa.
district could be used to illustrate a dictionary of the
popular styles of early 20th century commercial
significance is from 1913, the date of the
construction for the first “modern” design building, to
1935, the construction date of the final building directly
influenced by the fire of 1931.
Within days of the Spencer fire, architectural firms
from Iowa and Minnesota, in addition to local architect WC
Barton, prepared drawings using the Art Deco and Mission
Revival styles for the majority of the buildings.
of the collaborative community planning immediately after the
1931 fire, Spencer is second only to Miami, Florida, in having
the largest collection of Art Deco commercial buildings in the
collaborative efforts, the Spencer Alliance for a Creative
Economy (SPACE) was formed and was successful in getting
Spencer designated as one of the first eight Cultural
Districts in the state of Iowa.
The SPACE board continues to meet monthly to support
existing cultural organizations, develop cultural events,
attract cultural workers to live and work in the community,
and promote cultural offerings available in Spencer.
In the fall of 2003, a group of forward-thinking
individuals in the community began a grassroots effort to
support and enhance Spencer’s strength as a cultural center.
They envisioned Spencer as a cultural and creative
community that attracted individuals and families to live,
provided an environment supportive of cultural workers, and
strengthened the economic base of the community through the
arts and creative industries.
Of Time, of Land, of Many Hands"
Designed by Nina Smoot-Cain and John Pitman Weber in 2000,
this outdoor mosaic sculpture was developed and constructed
with the help of 1100 community members. It is located
in East Leach Park along Grand Avenue, Highways 18 and
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