SPENCER CREATES space to live

SPENCER CREATES space to work

SPENCER CREATES space to play


Community Resources Neighborhoods

Culture & History

Downtown Spencer.  Photo courtesy Judy Hemphill.

Historic Downtown Spencer
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.

The 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.

This district could be used to illustrate a dictionary of the popular styles of early 20th century commercial design.  The period of Downtown Spencer.  Photo courtesy Judy Hemphill. 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. 

Because 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 United States.  These street lights were designed especially for Spencer to enhance the Art Deco downtown.  Image courtesy Judy Hemphill.

Spencer’s Cultural District
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.

Through 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.

"The Gathering:  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 71.   Click here for more information on this community project.

"The Gathering:  Of Time, of Land, of Many Hands".  Image courtesy Judy Hemphill. "The Gathering:  Of Time, of Land, of Many Hands".  Image courtesy Judy Hemphill. "The Gathering:  Of Time, of Land, of Many Hands", detail of "Sundays at Grandma's".  Image courtesy Judy Hemphill.

Our Day in the Sun - Image Coming Soon
Sculptor Jane DeDecker, bronze, donated to the City anonymously in 1997.  The sculpture is located in River View Park near the entrance to the Aquatic Center.

Arts on Grand
Arts on Grand is the home of the Spencer Area Arts Council, a non-profit organization founded in 1979. AOG has an impressive display gallery showcasing local, regional and national artists, with exhibits changing every 4-6 weeks.  Events at AOG include artists’ receptions, Jazz in the Gallery, Photography and Writers’ Groups, Mardi Party, and Bachyard Bach and Blues.  Educational workshops and classes are offered to aspiring artists of all ages.  A juried sales gallery provides artisans a location to market their work to the public. The facility has ample studio space that is open to anyone wanting to create, with up-to-date equipment in the pottery studio and photography darkroom. AOG is located at 408 North Grand Avenue.  Hours: M-F 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.   Phone (712) 262-4307 and Fax (712) 264-0430   Website: www.artsongrand.com

Parker Historical Museum
One example of America’s early 20th century Arts and Crafts style of architecture can be found in the Parker House Museum, located at 300 East 3rd Street.  The museum houses and preserves many historical artifacts from Clay County, Iowa.  The Parker Historical Society hosts several memorable events each year, including Living History Day during Flagfest and open houses in October and December.  Phone: (712) 262-3304 Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Website: www.parkermuseum.org

SCT Playhouse
SCT has played a significant role in providing quality theatrical events in the community for a half-century.  SCT puts on four Main Stage productions each year, including musicals, drama, and comedy, as well as a children’s theatrical performance in the summer and other special events.  In addition to a dedicated staff, the theatre relies heavily on volunteer support from the community and surrounding area.  The SCT Costume Shop is housed in the same facility, with an inventory of over 30,000 costumes; revenue from costume rentals is a major financial support of the theatre.  SCT is located at 518 1st Avenue East.  Hours: Monday-Friday 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.  Phone: (712) 262-7336   Website: www.spencercommunitytheatre.com

about SPACE

©2007.  All photos are property of original artists.  All rights reserved. 


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