Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spencer Iowa




Spencer is a city in the state of Iowa, and the county seat of Clay County. It is located at the confluence of the Little Sioux and Ocheyedan Rivers. In 2004, the U.S. federal government placed Spencer's downtown business district on the National Register of Historic Places. Also in 2004, the State Historical Society of Iowa certified the Spencer Downtown Cultural District as one of the initial eight such projects across the state. Spencer's proposal for this designation included remodeling the old Spencer Middle School building into a multi-purpose facility with a senior citizen center, affordable housing units, and a restored facade. Future work on the old Middle School project involves restoration of the historic auditorium. Also part of the State Historical Society designation is the city's renovation of its Grand Avenue bridge to include commissioned stained glass plates in an Art Deco style.


I grew up in Ruthven which is 15 miles east of Spencer. I graduated May 12, 1985, which was Mother's Day that year. My family lives here in Spencer and those that are gone, they're buried in neighboring counties so the drive isn't like traveling from one state to another. Spencer was ranked 10th best place to live in the United States by Relocate-America.com's "America's Top 100 Places to Live for 2007."


In years past I really enjoyed the Clay County Fair, is held every September. It is the largest county fair in the Iowa. It has the second largest agricultural exposition in North America. Bringing in over 310,000 visitors a year, the Clay County Fair is one of the largest county fairs in the United States. 2011 set attendance records of 328,000. Beginning in 1918, the fair has grown considerably over the past near century.




In its first year the Clay County Fair brought in 30,000 guests. In 1936 the fair completed the construction of its second grandstand, able to seat over 7,500 people, which it still uses today. During the 1930s the fair continued construction of agricultural buildings for livestock. The Clay County Fair has firmly planted itself as the largest Midwest county fair.
The fair also hosts a carnival of over 80 rides and attractions. There are also many businesses that have booths all over the fair. It consists of over 35 square city blocks of space, and continues to fill up the space tighter and tighter every year.
Some familiar people/groups who have visited and/or performed at the Clay County Fair are: Former President George W. Bush, Sen. John Kerry, former Vice President Al Gore, Bob Hope, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers, LeeAnn Womack, Martina McBride, REO Speedwagon, The Righteous Brothers, Plus One, Clay Aiken, ZZ Top, LeAnn Rimes, Brad Paisley, Lee Greenwood, Bill Cosby, Red Skelton, Jim Nabors, Lonestar, Grand Funk Railroad, Garth Brooks, Survivor, this is just to name a few. 




One of my favorite places to drive by is the Higgins Mansion. Here's a bit of background on this beautiful house; The Mansion, was built in 1884 by J.Q. Adams, a local farmer, banker, and sometime Mayor. The property was sold in 1900 to Amanda Bender, who soon sold it to Mr. and Mrs. William Higgins, newlyweds who had moved to Spencer from Chicago. They contracted architect J. G. Ralston of Waterloo, Iowa to make the home an architectural landmark, beginning in 1910, by adding massive Neo-classical columns, adding a third floor, iron fence surround, and a kidney-shaped fish pond. The building next to the house was originally built as the children's playhouse for the two children adopted off the Orphan Train when it passed through Spencer. For a short period, the playhouse was used as a classroom for children attending a nearby elementary school undergoing repairs. Mrs. Higgins passed away in 1961, and the property was sold at auction in 1962 to Mathilda Delaney. Mrs. Delaney occupied the home until 1983, when the property was sold to Paul and Paula Brenner, who successfully placed the home on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. 

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